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Libs to promote defence industry co-operation with region

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"A Coalition Government will provide a massive boost for Australian defence industry by negotiating Government to Government agreements on defence industry co-operation with regional countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines."

The Shadow Minister for Defence, Alexander Downer, said today in Adelaide that Australia "should be out in front promoting joint venture manufacturing of equipment types like patrol boats and light armoured transport vehicles with countries in our region."

Speaking today before the Government release of several reports on defence industry, Mr Downer said that it would take more than a few reports to kick-start defence industry.

"Australian defence industry has suffered because of Labor's failure over almost a decade to develop a sound defence industry policy. The reports released today will not change this situation.

"I understand that the Defence bureaucracy has been fighting internally for months about the contents of these reports.

"The result is a collection of anodyne platitudes which do nothing of a practical nature for defence industry", Mr Downer said.

"By contrast a Coalition Government is committed to taking the practical steps necessary to help defence industry become more secure.

"We will negotiate a series of bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on defence industry co-operation with friends and allies in our region.

"A number of these MOUs already exist with countries like Sweden and the UK, but Labor has ignored the countries of Australia's immediate region.

"The MOUs establish necessary government mechanisms for exchange of information between defence and industrial establishments, and promote common objectives for joint research, development and production of defence equipment.

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"As Defence Minister I will make it one of my earliest priorities to negotiate with countries of the region on the need to establish MOUs of this type.

"It is widely accepted in industry circles that such Government to Government agreements are an essential precondition for the development of defence industry joint ventures in our region.

"Closer defence industry co-operation with the region is an integral part of our policy of Co-operative Regional Defence outlined in the Coalition's defence policy A Strong Australia.

"Labor has not even begun at address this aspect of developing closer co-operation with the region", Mr Downer said.

"It is disappointing but not surprising that the defence industry studies to be released today also do not look at this issue.

"This is because Labor is still struggling to come up with even the most basic elements of a defence industry policy. For example the terms of reference for the reports to be released today begin with a requirement to 'define "Defence industry" in Australia' and to 'clarif[y] the Australian Defence Force's strategic requirement for Australian industry'.

"These issues are so fundamental to defence industry policy it is astounding that this sort of basic background work has not been done before."

(ends) 19 November 1992 (61)

More Information: Peter Jennings (06) 277 4145