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Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Page: 3136

Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (14:40): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister advise the House how the defence white paper and the Defence Industry Policy Statement will support defence industry jobs in Northern Australia, including in my electorate of Leichhardt?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:41): I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question, and I acknowledge his advocacy on behalf of the 1,300 defence personnel who are based in his electorate. The Australian government has announced the most comprehensive plan for the Australian Defence Force in living memory. We want to build the most capable and agile and powerful fighting force that we are able to establish, that will defend not only our people but also our interests. We are absolutely committed to increasing spending in defence to two per cent of GDP, after it was slashed by Labor to the lowest level as a percentage of GDP since 1938.

We are investing in new-generation technologies. We want to grow a defence industry here in Australia that is able to create jobs while assisting in the defence of our country. Already 25,000 people are employed in defence industries, and about 3,000 small to medium enterprises are involved in our defence industries. It makes sense strategically and economically for us to enhance our home-grown defence industries. Our investment will be about $1.6 billion in boosting our local defence industries—including $730 million for the Next Generation Technologies Fund and $640 million for a defence innovation hub, which is all about commercialising the strategic technological breakthroughs that our innovative, creative people are capable of.

Over the next 10 years this government will be investing $14 billion to enhance and develop Northern Australia, and in the member's electorate of Leichhardt we will be upgrading facilities, we are purchasing 12 offshore patrol vessels to replace the Armidale class, and we are going to be developing HMAS Cairns. This defence base is exceedingly important, and I am told that for every dollar we invest in HMAS Cairns five dollars is generated in the Cairns community. Trent Twomey, who is the chairman of Advance Cairns, has said that the government's investment in HMAS Cairns will be huge for the local economy. We are also upgrading Lavarack barracks in Herbert and the RAAF Curtin and Learmonth bases in Durack, and in the Northern Territory we are investing about $8 billion to increase facilities there. So we are improving our defence capability at the same time as we are building a home-grown defence industry that will generate more jobs and more opportunities for small to medium enterprises, supporting the development of northern Australia. We are committed to ensuring that our Defence Force is capable and agile and protects our interests.