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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 29

Defence Equipment

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (14:48): I ask the Minister for Defence Industry to update the House on how equipping the Australian Defence Force with the Triton unmanned aerial vehicle will enhance the capability of defending our national interests. I ask him, secondly, whether he is aware of any approaches that would undermine this.

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Defence Industry) (14:49): I thank the member for Menzies for his question. Because of the government's excellent management of the economy and because of the Treasurer's management of the budget, we can afford to make announcements like the one we've made today to purchase the first of the Triton unmanned aerial vehicles at a cost of $1.4 billion—the first of six, at a cost of $6.9 billion. Governments like this one can do that because we're managing the budget and managing the economy. Governments like the one that we replaced—the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government—couldn't do that because of the way they couldn't manage the budget or manage the economy. In fact, under Labor, spending on defence dropped to 1.56 per cent of GDP, the lowest since 1938 and the lowest since the last year of appeasement. Because of this government's management of the budget and the economy, we'll get to two per cent of GDP in 2020—a year ahead of schedule, a year ahead of what we had promised—because we're pulling our weight. We want to be a good ally. We want to look after our own national interests.

Today we went even further along that road by announcing that we would buy the Triton unmanned aerial vehicles, a capability which means we'll have reconnaissance and surveillance across 10 per cent of the world's surface. One of the most important things we do as a nation, as part of the Five Eyes, is the reconnaissance and surveillance of the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, South-East Asia and, of course, Antarctica. It's an important responsibility. These Tritons will be able to cover that area, working with the Poseidons, which are replacing the Orion aircraft, at a cost of $6.9 billion.

That's not all; $2.6 billion of that will be spent here in Australia, growing Australian industry capabilities—the sophisticated, highly technical jobs that we want in an advanced manufacturing economy. Businesses like Ferra Engineering in the member for Bonner's electorate and Mincham Aviation in Adelaide are real businesses that are being given a leg up because of the company tax cuts we managed to deliver. If we can get the rest of our company tax cuts through the Senate, we will be growing the economy, growing jobs and reducing the tax burden.

Today the Leader of the Opposition said that he was going to rip those tax cuts away from small and family businesses. It was an absolutely disgraceful captain's call on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, without any consultation. I can tell you it is the beginning of the end for leaders of the opposition when they start thinking they can get away with this stuff. The truth is that he needed to consult with his party room and his shadow cabinet before he decided to throw to the wolves all those small and medium businesses with a turnover of between $2 million and $50 million a year. They need the certainty of tax policy that we are providing. They don't need the Leader of the Opposition.