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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 776


Ms PRICE (Durack) (15:05): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Defence. Will the minister update the House on the government's decision to acquire eight Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft? How will these new aircraft improve our maritime surveillance capabilities, and are there any benefits for Australian industry?

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (15:05): Let me thank the member for Durack for her question and her ongoing interest in maritime surveillance. Considering she has the largest electorate in the country—the second largest in the world—and over 6,000 kilometres of coastline making up her area, including huge oil and gas assets, the question is most appropriate. As the House would recall, a few days ago the Prime Minister announced that the government will acquire eight P-8 Poseidon aircraft and consider four additional such aircraft, pending the defence white paper process. This is the manned component of the AIR 7000 program that began under the Howard government, continued through numerous governments and will continue with numerous more governments. It will provide essential maritime surveillance capability. Be under no doubt: it is a potent and highly versatile aircraft. As well as patrolling Australia's maritime approaches, it will conduct search and rescue missions, and antisubmarine and maritime strike missions by using torpedoes and indeed harpoon missiles.

Together with our high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, these will replace the current Air Force P3C Orions that have served us so well for over four decades. It is appropriate at this juncture that the House actually thank those who have flown and do fly these aircraft over these 40 years. They have been the most heavily deployed assets from the Air Force that the ADF has used over so many decades for not only Operation Relex in the past through Border Protection Command and Operation Resolute but numerous operations to the Middle East and the Middle East area of operations.

These state-of-the-art aircraft will massively boost our ability to patrol the maritime approaches, something like 2.5 million square kilometres of our maritime jurisdiction, an area which is four per cent of the entire earth's oceans. The first aircraft will arrive in about 2017, with all eight operational by 2021. The project will offer significant opportunity for industry and local job creation. Australian businesses have already won well over $8 million of work associated with our participation in this P-8 program and stand by to enjoy in the order of $1 billion more through construction of facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh as well as other work in maintenance and through-life support right across the country.

We are absolutely committed to ensuring Australian industry benefits, including small business, to the highest degree possible. We are committed to ensuring Australian industry has every opportunity to be involved in this project not only in South Australia, where they will be housed, but right around the country. I would encourage all of Australia's small businesses to get informed and get involved.

Mr Abbott: Madam Speaker, after 25 questions, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.