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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1059

Budget


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (15:08): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Defence. I remind the minister that the electorate of Brisbane holds significant defence industry facilities operated by Boeing, GE and Thales and employing hundreds of local people. Can the minister describe how the government is helping to support Australia's defence industry and reverse the effects of the previous government's budget cuts?


Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (15:08): Let me thank the honourable member for Brisbane, a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence in a former outstanding coalition government and someone who actually stands up for her defence community.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There is too much noise on my left. The member for Wakefield will leave the chamber under standing order 94(a).

The member for Wakefield then left the chamber.

Mr ROBERT: Labor has hit a trifecta. Last week, we heard the defence secretary publicly confirming the truth that we on this side have known for so long—that your $25 billion of cuts have actually impacted significantly. Yesterday, we learnt the former Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, was reported as saying that defence reforms could not be fulfilled because of the axe Labor took to defence. Today, a leading defence industry body, the Defence Teaming Centre, said that the former Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, following the pre-election of Kevin Rudd, transitioned from disinterested to disengaged. It sounds a bit like former Minister Conroy in the previous government. He was so disengaged he only connected 75 premises in all of Western Australia. The Defence Teaming Centre went on further to say that following the announcement of the election by former Prime Minister Gillard, a decision paralysis fell upon the government and the flow of work almost ceased. The white paper came out with a promise of a defence capability plan and a defence industry policy statement but neither of those were delivered. That is the way industry viewed the former Labor government—dismal and a mess. Six thousand jobs were lost because of their cuts to defence, a massive capability deficit and acquisitions pushed out to the never-never.

We know there is a better way. This government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is taking a funding envelope to defence and that funding envelope says that there will be no cuts to the defence budget, as opposed to the $25 billion the former Labor government took out. There will be no cuts to the defence budget. We will take defence spending as a proportion of GDP back to two per cent. Where is it now? It is 1.56 per cent, the lowest level since 1938, and any savings will be reinvested. We will ensure that the ADF is equipped wherever possible by Australian made goods, consistent with getting good value for taxpayers' money. We will make it clear that Australian businesses will be given every opportunity to compete for work because under this government Australia is back in business. Under this government, defence is back to being funded. Under this government, we will get things done.

Mr Abbott: After 23 questions, as I am advised, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.