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Thursday, 6 February 2020
Page: 104


Ms PRICE (DurackMinister for Defence Industry) (13:05): I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many bushfire brigades in my large electorate of Durack, the many hardworking volunteers and also paid fire brigade workers who selflessly give up their time to support their local communities in times of need. The current round of volunteer grants in Durack is specifically dedicated and available to the local fire brigades in Durack. I would like to encourage those eligible to apply urgently, as the applications close this Friday.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the efforts of defence industry in providing outstanding support towards the bushfire effort. During these bushfires we've seen many Australian communities band together to assist with the relief effort. Our nation's response to this emergency has been ably supported by both the Australian Defence Force, which I am immensely proud of, and our collective defence industry, which I'm equally proud of. I'm quite sure that the sight of the Defence personnel, boots on the ground, lending a hand, was such a great relief to those impacted by the bushfires.

The ability for the ADF to respond to this crisis so quickly and assist the states and territories was also made possible by the support of our defence industry. This support has come from our major contractors right through to our local and small businesses. I'd like to take this opportunity to recognise some of those efforts. I first would like to thank the many businesses in our defence industry who have held internal fundraisers and donated much-needed funds to assist in relief efforts for bushfire affected communities. Air Affairs Australia, based in Nowra, have flown missions to provide urgent intelligence on the unfolding bushfires to our firefighting agencies, including the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Victoria's Country Fire Authority and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Since early January Air Affairs have flown over 1,746 hours, covering the equivalent of 50 per cent of the total area of Australia. I thank Air Affairs for their ongoing service and efforts in response to these bushfires.

Summer is an important tourist season for many local communities in Australia. We need to do all we can to attract fellow Australians and overseas visitors to visit those affected communities. I would therefore like to thank our largest defence industry partner, Naval Group, for launching an internal tourism drive amongst its global employees to holiday in Australia in 2020. I encourage all our major defence companies to spread the word to their employees abroad that Australia is open for business and that a holiday down under should indeed be on the cards for 2020.

Our defence industry community extends not only to those companies involved in acquiring and sustaining our capability but also to those businesses that maintain our Defence bases. I'd like to acknowledge and recognise the efforts of those businesses, including Broadspectrum, Spotless and BGIS, which provide invaluable support services to our bases. During the recent bushfire events, these companies ramped up their activities at incredibly short notice and have sustained that level of support needed to allow the ADF to effectively respond to these bushfires. They should also be commended for their efforts in supporting the defence evacuation activities and for providing accommodation to displaced defence families. To them I say: thank you for your outstanding support.

Telstra defence is also playing an important role in assisting the ADF during the bushfire emergency. Telstra defence is installing mobile repeaters at key sites for Operation Bushfire Assist, to enhance phone services, and is providing portable internet devices for ADF personnel and displaced Australians housed at defence sites in addition to a large number of support services. I'd like to thank Telstra defence for their ongoing support.

I would especially like to recognise the efforts of Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group at the Department of Defence. Many of the staff at CASG, as it's called, have supported the operations of the ADF in response to the recent bushfires since Christmas—and I know many of them didn't get a Christmas, didn't get a New Year, didn't get a break, and I sincerely thank them and appreciate their ongoing assistance. To the wider defence industry, who played a role in providing relief and assistance to Australians and affected Australian communities from these bushfires, I say: thank you for your ongoing and continued support.

Finally, to those individuals and communities who have lost loved ones, who have lost their homes, who have lost their animals, and the many who have lost their business or have had their business impacted: please know that our hearts break with yours and that the federal government stands ready to help you to put the pieces of your lives back together again. We've heard it said a lot in the last week, and I think it's worth repeating: regional Australia is not broken. It is resilient. Its people are resilient. And it will endure.