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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8482

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (11:43): Defence and the defence industry sector are incredibly important to the economy of the Northern Territory. Many Territory businesses supply quality products and services to the Australian Defence Force, and NT business groups advise that things have improved a bit in recent times, which I'm glad to hear. There is still room for improvement. That was my message when I recently spoke at a defence industry event. I'm always happy to acknowledge when there is some progress by the government of the day in relation to local companies having a better go at getting defence contracts. However, I also acknowledge that there is still some way to go, and I'm very glad to be part of the process in the opposition of developing policy that is going to go even further in improving access to defence work for companies, particularly in regional areas like the Northern Territory.

As the member for Fisher noted in his motion, many Australian businesses who first supply defence materials to the Australian government go on to export these products overseas. This is a very important issue because, in addition to the immediate economic benefits of defence work to our local communities, longer term it helps to build the capacity of the Northern Territory and other regional economies because there is a flow-on effect to the economy at large. Defence work helps to build skills, knowledge and experience, and catalyses other opportunities across construction, marine engineering and resources.

Last week, I attended the LAND FORCES 2018 conference in Adelaide. It was a great chance to catch up with Territory businessmen like Paul Sharp from ENZED service centre in Darwin and other Territorians, such as Janet Phillips from Territory Surgical Supplies; Anthony Bellottie from Norship; and, of course, Kerryn Smith, our CEO of the Australian Industry Defence Network Northern Territory. Kerryn introduced me to many other Territory businesses and also to Rob Forbes, who is the national president of AIDN-NT, and Paul Johnson, who is the co-chair of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability. It's very important that we use every opportunity available to us to improve the access that Territory businesses have into the defence industry opportunities that abound.

I appreciated speaking to all those Territory businesses about some of the challenges and opportunities they see for accessing defence work, and also about some ideas about how we can better work together to help Territory businesses get more of those defence contracts. I was personally proud, whilst at the LAND FORCES 2018 conference in Adelaide, to make connections between Territory businesses—the primes—and those in the defence industry who are making the decisions on where the work goes.

Recently, I spoke to the AIDN-NT about the importance of doing business with the US military in the NT. Again, I want to thank Kerryn Smith, the CEO of AIDN-NT for her great advocacy work to help Territory businesses get some of that work and succeed in the industry. Jim Eadie from Sunbuild spoke at that event, and it was great to hear from a construction manager who has been successful in getting some of that US government work. Bill Savarino also spoke. He has a long history of helping companies get contracted work with the US government.

We're getting feedback from Territory businesses that we're on the right track in terms of getting more of a go for SMEs, but there's more that we can do. Territory businesses have really appreciated the opportunity to speak with the shadow minister for defence, Richard Marles the member for Corio. Territory businesses ultimately just want a level playing field. They're not asking for special treatment via special tax zones at this stage, but they know they can compete with the best that Australia and the world has to offer. With more of a level playing field, they will go from strength to strength, becoming an important part of our national defence industry network.