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Monday, 9 September 2019
Page: 2192

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (17:44): Congratulations to the member for Herbert for moving this very important motion, recognising the role that Australian small business has to play in our growing defence industry because of the significant investment from the Morrison Liberal-National government. I recently had the opportunity to witness firsthand the contribution that small- and medium-sized businesses can make in servicing our Defence Force in quite a number of ways during a visit to three companies in Townsville in the northern end of my electorate, which is also home to the country's largest Defence base. It's a city that I share representation of with the member for Herbert.

In the member for Herbert's motion, he highlighted the importance of not only supporting those businesses but seeking more opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses to participate in all aspects of defence procurement and servicing. Defence is a multibillion-dollar industry—it certainly is in the north where there are about 7,000 personnel in the city. It has the maintenance and supply of defence services providing about 11 per cent, or just under $13 billion, of the gross regional product. It shows you the contribution that the Morrison Liberal-National government, through our defence industry policy, is providing to Townsville and the wider North Queensland region.

In mid-July I joined the Minister for Defence Industry and the member for Herbert on various visits. I went to Campbells Kitchen Cabinets, run by Dennis O'Brien and his wife, Michelle. Dennis took us around to have a look at his business there. I think the minister was very impressed by a lot of the kitchen cabinets that he had on display there, which were very professional. The small business got a number of contracts building cabinets with the defence industry to house specific equipment, including equipment that CAE Australia is running—that is, really specialised training systems for aircrew, for land personnel and for maintenance crews in the defence sector. We went along to CAE Australia and had a look at the work that they are doing. It is just phenomenal and state of the art. You sit in one of their training simulators for their flight crews and you actually get a bit motion sick, thinking you're up in the air flying over Afghanistan—it's that realistic. This is stuff that is being done in our region for the Defence Force by the private sector.

We were at the Cubic Defence in Townsville. They are also providing training services to the ADF. We met up with representatives from AON, Nemesis Defence Solutions, Rheinmetall and Thales. The roundtable we had there was important. I want to acknowledge, again, the member for Herbert for his contribution—his firsthand experience as a veteran—and for bringing along other veterans who got to have their input into the whole concept of veteran employment in the defence sector and supporting industries in the defence sector.

Businesses in Townsville are at the forefront of our push, our $200 billion investment, in our defence capabilities. We want to see more veterans involved in the employment in those industries as a result of that major investment. This has all come about through our 2016 Defence white paper. We're investing in new naval vessels, cutting-edge cybertechnology and superior aircraft and, at the same time, maximising the involvement of defence industry businesses and creating extra jobs. It stands in stark contrast to previous governments where, under Labor, they guttered defence spending by about $18 billion. Investment fell to 1.56 per cent of GDP—the lowest level since 1938. In the Defence Force 119 projects were delayed, 43 projects were reduced and eight projects were cancelled. That's the record of the other side of the House. Our record is in investment, in building our defence capabilities, in helping local businesses get a slice of that defence pie and also in ensuring veterans get a part of that as well. We're doing that with so many different things.

Can I mention the Land 400 deal with Rheinmetall to supply combat reconnaissance vehicles for the ADF? That $5 billion project is seeing almost $2 billion spent in Queensland. It's going to be wins for Townsville businesses and for Mackay businesses—for businesses all over the state. That project is going to create about 330 jobs over the life of that project. There is a lot happening in this space and it's principally due to our firm and solid commitment to— (Time expired)