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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 2519


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (21:25): I take this opportunity to add to previous comments I have made in this House about the defence white paper and the enormous impact it will have on my electorate of Solomon, which takes in the cities of Darwin and Palmerston and has in it a number of key military facilities, including Robertson Barracks. It is an extremely pragmatic document that outlines, in detail, Australia's military and strategic requirements and which recalibrates northern Australia as the epicentre of regional engagement into the future. Throughout its epic sweep, however, it keeps a close eye on ensuring the delivery of value for money for taxpayers, its industry policy statement providing a plan for procurement and delivery that will deliver benefits for the next two decades.

During the MPI last week I itemised some of the spending in the Northern Territory that will follow on the back of this white paper. I will not repeat all of those here, but I will summarise it like this: it is $20 billion over the next 20 years. $20 billion being spent in the Northern Territory is just a phenomenal amount, and we are absolutely delighted. This has been extremely well received by industry groups in the Northern Territory, which already have a stake in the Commonwealth's investment in defence in Darwin, Palmerston and right across the Top End. The Northern Territory Master Builders Association's chief executive, David Malone, had this to say:

As we all know, Defence has also been an integral component of the Territory's economy for a very long time, and these new commitments flag that it is only going to have an even larger impact.

He went on to say:

For the construction sector, the white paper paints a compelling picture, one that will bring a smile to many businesses and the 12,000-plus workers who rely on the industry for a living … The white paper speaks of multiple projects over multiple years, across almost all facets of construction.

By way of background, last year, the MBA conducted a study of operational capacity in the Northern Territory, prompted primarily by the imminent conclusion of the INPEX LNG plant construction project that identified, as the report's title suggests, there was 'Capacity to spare'. David Malone went on to say:

Our study first flagged many of these opportunities last year, but confirmation means we are now going to see those plans turn into real investment dollars.

David was here with a number of local businesses a couple of weeks ago, showcasing the Territory's capability in this sector. I was pleased to be able to meet with them and to push their case because no-one knows the Territory better than the locals.

The chamber of commerce's Greg Bicknell said an investment of $8.2 billion in infrastructure in the coming decade will be a significant boost to the construction industry in the Territory and that flow-on effects will be felt in the wider community. In addition, he identified that the US force posture initiatives will be worth an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion over the same period.

The white paper announcement will breathe new confidence into the Northern Territory's economy, which has its foundations on the strength of the thousands of small to medium business, the majority of which are in Darwin and Palmerston. Many of those small businesses are run by mums and dads, with close connections to their communities, who have invested their lives into the Territory and who I come across, time and again, in my duties around Solomon. Their kids go to schools in the Territory, they buy homes in the Territory and their families come up to visit during the dry season to get away from the cold winter weather. These are the cornerstones of the Territory economy and I am extremely proud that they will benefit from the Commonwealth's investment from the white paper. The white paper will have spin-offs for these businesses, whether it be the owner of the local lunch bar in Winnellie, the engineering firm at East Arm, the painter in Parap or the sheet-metal operation in Berrimah.

I will take this opportunity to remind the House that this commitment is in addition to the Commonwealth's promise to grow the Territory through its northern Australia investment strategy, which is also many billions of dollars. It will mean jobs and growth and people on the ground in the Northern Territory, and I will be working with the community, over coming months, to ensure they are aware of the coalition's commitment to the Territory. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: It being 9.30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 21 : 30