Thursday, 10 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I rise to speak on this important issue. Listening to those opposite whinge and whine and moan and complain incessantly, it reminds me of that scene from Life of Brian. 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' they said. Aqueducts, sanitation, roads, health—the list goes on.
But I want to talk about something very, very important, because we all know that one of the principal obligations of any government is to keep its citizens safe. This government has done such an outstanding job in delivering for all Australians, unlike those opposite when they were in government. This government walks the talk when it comes to defence. As the Chair of the Defence Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Joint Committee, it has been my absolute privilege to see our great men and women in uniform, to be able to work alongside them to some extent and to assist them to do their job. We're doing that by providing unprecedented sums of money. A sum of $270 billion is being spent on defence procurement over the next 10 years. That $270 billion is the largest expenditure in Australia's peacetime. In fact, it takes our commitment to two per cent of GDP, which is what we promised we would take our defence expenditure to.
I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, you're thinking: what was the defence expenditure under the Labor government? When the Labor government left power in 2013, their defence industry expenditure was the lowest that it had been since 1938. How many ships did they build when they were in government? It was zero—zip, zero.
We walk the talk when it comes to defence. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the best kit, and nothing is more deserving of the best kit than the best defence force. As we saw in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, we want to ensure that our policies shape, deter and respond. We want to be able to shape the Indo-Pacific, the environment in which we live. We want to be able to deter those countries who may seek to do us harm. And, if they do seek to do us harm, we need to be able to respond with credible force. That is exactly what this government is enabling our Australian Defence Force to do.
I want to send a big shout-out right now to the Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds. She has done an absolutely outstanding job, as has the Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price. Together, those two ladies have worked absolutely exceptionally in continuing the great work of the previous defence minister and the previous defence industry minister, who both set Australia up to do an absolutely fantastic job. Both our existing defence and defence industry ministers have continued on in those traditions and are doing absolutely outstanding jobs. When I talk to men and women in the military, they tell me that they are so pleased that they actually have the gear that they need.
I spent some time recently on HMAS Collins, one of our Collins class submarines. I was very fortunate to spend three nights and four days—somewhere around there—on board. It was a great time. I got to see our men and women working for the defence of our nation. Really, they are absolutely professional, and I've seen that right across the board. Why? It is because we enable them to do the job that we ask them to do by giving them the kit that they require, by giving them the kit that they demand and by giving them the kit that they expect. Those opposite did nothing other than cut defence budgets for the years and years they were in government. But we support our ADF, and we will continue to do so.