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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14038


Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (13:08): Defence, as we know, is one of the most important priorities of the federal government. It is expensive, but it is worth investing in. This government is committed to increasing the level of defence spending by up to two per cent of GDP, and it is important that that money that is spent wisely. That is why this legislation is important. As we have heard from my colleagues, this bill will strengthen accountability and improve our decision making, ensuring that those on the front line get what they need to serve and protect our nation.

Other than attending many community events, it would be fair to say that, as the member for Hindmarsh, I have spent most of my time on Defence related matters—more than on any other issue. I know the member for Makin, who is sitting in the chamber today, is well aware of the considerable attention and engagement that I have had with the defence industry across Australia but also in our state of South Australia, regularly talking with the key defence companies and key industry bodies to make sure that we get the best outcome for our nation from the investment that we make in defence. That includes the numerous meetings with defence ministers and prime ministers that I have had, pushing for sustainable shipbuilding based at the facilities at Osborne in South Australia. The announcement earlier this year that the frigates and the offshore patrol vessels would be brought forward, fast-tracking those projects, is great news to all involved in the defence industry in Australia. I know that the member for Makin is very supportive of the announcement and of the jobs that it will bring our state, South Australia—around 2,500 on the Future Frigate program. I look forward to the member for Makin's positive contribution to this debate and acknowledgement of that important announcement and the fast-tracking of those projects, as time goes on. I also look forward to the contributions of many other members of parliament from both sides, and also from the industry, including bodies like the Defence Teaming Centre, on how important the Future Frigate program is to our state, as well as other Defence projects. Obviously the Future Submarines program is another massive project. I have spent countless hours meeting with the submarine builders and meeting with the various stakeholders on the importance of that project to our country and the maximisation of Australian industry involvement, importantly.

The air warfare destroyers and the future frigates will be significant projects. We all know that they are on the right track with what they are doing with the air warfare destroyers. I was down there a few weeks ago, and the improvements that they have made in the productivity and performance of their work are commendable. I want to congratulate all the workers at ASC and those involved in the project for the improvements that they have made, especially in boat 2 and boat 3. It is often the case that the first one is the most challenging, but, as time goes on, things have become better in terms of the construction of those important warships. This demonstrates how, if we have the right people involved and the right focus, we can improve in terms of the work that we do.

It is a wonderful facility at Techport. The former United States Secretary of State and current US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, said only three years ago on her visit to Techport in Adelaide that:

Adelaide is, from our perspective, one of the great critical industrial centres in the world and part of Australia's defence manufacturing and a city where American and Australian companies work together in close partnership every day.

I know through the Air Warfare Destroyer program that Raytheon is one of the alliance partners. Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and other companies—whether they be from the US or the United Kingdom like BAE Systems and Babcock—do significant work down there. Highly skilled engineers, software systems programmers and other specialists in the defence sector do some great work down there. I was recently at Pacific Marine Batteries, who make the batteries for the submarines. They are world-class in what they do, and they are doing some interesting work in research and development that could be quite valuable in years to come.

Returning to the Defence Legislation Amendment (First Principles) Bill 2015, the focus of the review was on ensuring that Defence is fit for purpose, is able to respond to future challenges and deliver against its outputs with the minimum resources necessary. The government released the review in April this year and agreed or agreed in principle to 75 of the 76 recommendations in the report. The review found there was a proliferation of structures, processes and systems with unclear accountabilities, which in turn caused: institutionalised waste, delayed decisions, flawed execution, duplication, over-escalation of issues for decision and low engagement levels amongst employees in parts of the organisation. We, as a prudent and responsible government, review government agencies, departments and our operations and try and improve things and get better efficiency and better accountability. The review proposes substantial changes across Defence to ensure it can deliver on the future requirements that will be outlined in the government's forthcoming Defence white paper. A key recommendation of the review was to establish a strong strategic centre to strengthen accountability and top-level decision making in Defence.

I will not go through some of the more administrative elements of the review, because we have heard about those from my colleagues, but, in summary, this is important work of the government. It is important that we continue to look at all ways to improve the productivity of all departments, and I welcome the appointment of a board that will ensure that these improvements are implemented. The board is made up of the authors of the first principles review—David Peever, Robert Hill, Lindsay Tanner, Peter Leahy and Jim McDowell—with the addition of Erica Smyth. I know Robert Hill personally. Being a fellow South Australian and a former defence minister, he brings a lot of expertise not only from the Defence portfolio but from other experience in politics in general. Jim McDowell, from BAE Systems, is a fine man with fine credibility for the role. I support the work that they do and wish them all the best. I commend this bill to the House.