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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11692

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (12:30): Madam Deputy Speaker Griggs, I thank you, as the member for Solomon, for putting this motion on the Notice Paper and, importantly, for your ongoing advocacy and support for the men and women of our Australian Defence Force, who are tasked with protecting Australia's interests here and abroad. They perform a difficult and challenging role. In doing so, they uphold the traditions of courage, professionalism and mateship that have characterised the men and women of our defence forces for more than a hundred years.

However, in order to continue to provide effective defence of our nation, our ADF personnel need to be equipped and resourced to deal with contemporary threats. Those threats are continually evolving. In this year, the centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, we reflect not only on the sacrifice of those men and women 100 years ago but also on how different our defence forces look today. When the world changes, the ADF needs to change with it. Investment in new capabilities is needed. This requires foresight and planning, but, importantly, it also requires appropriate resourcing by government. It is on this particular point that the former government was found wanting.

As the motion notes—and as you point out, Member for Solomon—the former government's cut to defence funding led to 119 projects being delayed, 43 degraded and eight cancelled. In a time of evolving global threats, Labor cut $16 billion from defence, with defence spending as a percentage of GDP falling to its lowest level since 1938. In 2012-13 alone, Labor cut the defence budget by 10.5 per cent. Cuts of this magnitude have profound, long-lasting effects. Due to long lead times in defence project development and procurement, year-to-year funding uncertainty can have severe effects on the wider defence industry. Under Labor, the Australian defence industry were forced to cut more than 10 per cent of their workforce. Much of this was due to budget cuts, deferrals and the lack of opportunity for Australian suppliers.

Defence spending requires patience and a steady hand. Sadly, Labor delivered neither. The new Minister for Defence has inherited some big challenges, and I have every confidence that she can rise to the challenge. As a government, we are taking action to right the resourcing and procurement wrongs of the former government. This year, we are investing $7.2 billion in defence equipment, double the amount Labor spent in 2012-13.

Part of this spending will fund the acquisition of an additional two C17 Globemaster transport aircraft, and I am pleased to note that, by the end of this year, these aircraft will join 36 Squadron's existing fleet of six C7 Globemasters, based at RAAF Base Amberley, in Brisbane. Recently I had the chance to inspect the new base at RAAF Base Amberley on committee business, and I was very impressed by the new facilities there. C17 Globemasters are versatile aircraft and have provided valuable support for our military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as humanitarian missions closer to home.

In a boost to Army capability earlier this year, an open request for tender was released for phase 2 of the Defence project known as LAND 400. This project will not just replace and upgrade Australia's fleet of armoured fighting vehicles but also introduce new levels of protection, firepower and mobility for our soldiers. Once procurement is complete, our military will have a fleet of vehicles that is more modern, better equipped and more flexible in responding to the challenges of modern conflicts.

Earlier this month we saw further investment in ADF capability with the announcement of a $1.3 billion agreement to procure Hawkei protected vehicles. Over 1,100 vehicles and 1,000 trailers will be purchased under the agreement. This decision will directly benefit the men and women at Gallipoli Barracks, in my electorate of Ryan. The Hawkei offer increased protection from the improvised explosive devices that are such a ubiquitous and devastating part of modern warfare. Despite their improved shielding, however, they are light enough to be transported by ADF helicopters. In a boost for Australian manufacturing, the vehicles will be built in Bendigo.

In the words of the Prime Minister: the government has no higher responsibility than the protection of the nation—and it is a responsibility that we take very seriously. I pay tribute to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force and, in particular, to the more than 5,000 living and working in Ryan. They put their lives on the line to keep us safe. In response, we have an obligation to provide them with the resources to do their job. The investments this government is making will ensure they have the equipment and capabilities they need to do just that. I commend the motion to the House.