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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9553

Minister for Defence


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Johnston. I refer to a media release of the Small Business Association of Australia, issued in response to the defence minister's outrageous slur against ASC workers. The association's CEO, Anne Nalder, states:

We have proven that we can match it with the best in the world, and for the senator to make these comments in such a confronting way is a poor signal to the rest of the world that our elected officials show no faith in our proven capabilities.

Minister, is the Small Business Association of Australia correct?


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:51): We are recovering the loss of 5,000 jobs in the defence industry sector because of the inactivity of the previous Labor government. We have set defence spending on a trajectory of two per cent of GDP. The fact is that we have undertaken in just this year so many programs that the defence industry, which I see on a regular basis—indeed, in the last fortnight I have met with three large- to medium-size companies as to understanding how they are going in fulfilling Defence contracts—tell me without fail that the movement in terms of investment by Defence and particularly the DMO in bringing projects forwards is at last welcomed. The fact is that the Labor Party simply looked at small to medium enterprises and said: 'Too bad. We do not care about you.' What this government is doing is rebuilding the portfolio such that Australia has indigenous capability, particularly in small to medium enterprises. And those 5,000 jobs are being recovered on a daily basis.


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, I refer to Professionals Australia, which represents private and public sector defence engineers and scientists, and comments by its director, David Smith:

This is a Minister clearly out of his depth. In the interests of our national security and the future of thousands of jobs across our economy, the Prime Minister must intervene and find a better candidate.

Is Professionals Australia correct?


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:53): No.


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, when the Prime Minister, the Small Business Association of Australia and the defence professional industry have all lost confidence in you, isn't it time to take the only honourable course of action and resign?


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:54): I think I have already answered that question several times today. The answer is clearly no.