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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8478

Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (11:23): As the member for Herbert, I'm extremely proud to represent the largest garrison city in the nation. Last week the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and the shadow minister for veterans' affairs, Amanda Rishworth, visited Herbert to make two significant announcements. Firstly, Labor announced that a Shorten-led Labor government would look to increase the presence of the Royal Australian Navy's amphibious assault ships, known as LHD vessels, at the Port of Townsville. This will create new jobs and further diversify North Queensland's economy.

Townsville is the natural home to expand the nation's capacity in relation to the ADF's amphibious capability. Increased port activity will support real local economic development for Townsville, helping to grow a local defence maintenance industry. That is something that the Townsville business community has been looking to expand further over a number of years. The regular docking of LHD vessels at the Port of Townsville would allow for a continuous program of maintenance work, which is expected to support between 200 and 400 new jobs that will be ongoing for local residents.

This announcement will also facilitate important exercise activities, including, most critically, those related to the joint amphibious capability of the Australian Defence Force. I lobbied strongly for this announcement, as I believe that our city needs to keep developing a local defence industry that creates a sustainable deep maintenance industry. On average, 500 Defence personnel annually transition out of the ADF into my community. This initiative will provide new future employment opportunities for these men and women whilst also creating additional local jobs, including apprenticeships. I want to commend the detailed work undertaken by the Townsville City Council, the Port of Townsville and Townsville Enterprise to secure a greater presence of LHD vessels and their support for a strong defence industry for our region.

With a number of major new naval platforms coming online over the next decade, existing port arrangements are coming under pressure, making our capacity to meet all of our defence posture requirements increasingly unsustainable, as recognised in the government's own 2016Defence white paper. Labor recognises the future need to balance port arrangements through providing complementary options in logical locations to take the pressure off permanent bases such as Garden Island in Sydney. Townsville will be a major beneficiary in meeting these requirements and is a logical location for a contemporary port for the LHDs, given we are home to the Army's multirole and rapid response 3rd Brigade and the amphibious light infantry battalion, 2RAR. Townsville is also uniquely placed to support forward ADF operations in the region, including humanitarian assistance, and bilateral and multilateral activities with our regional partners. This initiative is great news for Townsville and is part of Labor's plan for real jobs in regional Queensland.

But Labor hasn't stopped there in announcing policies that will support our current service and ex-service men and women and veterans. On the same day, Labor announced that a Labor government will sign and establish Australia's first military covenant, a formal agreement that will ensure our nation's Defence Force members are fully supported during and after their service and that will recognise the significant commitment that our armed services make in serving our country. What is most important about this announcement is that Labor will also introduce legislation that will require future governments to report annually to the parliament on how they are meeting their responsibilities in supporting our service and ex-service personnel. The inclusion of accountability ensures that we are measuring outcomes and not just speaking words. The covenant will be similar to the United Kingdom's Armed Forces Covenant, a document of principles promising those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, will be treated fairly. Labor will work with the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and ex-service organisations to draft relevant wording for the military covenant and associated legislation. The covenant will make sure that those in need do not simply fall through the cracks.

I want to acknowledge the strong advocacy work of ex-service organisations, particularly ADSO, and especially local Townsville advocate Ray Martin, whose work and advocacy for the defence covenant over the last nine years must be recognised in this place. Those who put their lives on hold to serve our country deserve to know that we acknowledge the sacrifice they and their families have made in serving our nation and that we are committed to being there for them in their time of need. Signing the covenant builds on Labor's previous commitments to the current and ex-serving Defence community, including our $121 million veterans employment policy and our family engagement and support strategy. I call on this government to make a bipartisan commitment to getting behind Labor's policies. (Time expired)