House debates

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Ministerial Statements

National Security

5:05 pm

Photo of Matt BurnellMatt Burnell (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I would like take note of the statement made to the House by the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as the Minister for Defence on 9 February 2023. The ministerial statement provided the House with an appraisal of Australia's sovereign capabilities, speaking broadly to security challenges within a local and global geopolitical landscape, which we reside and participate in. However, this ministerial statement was holistic in the sense that it spoke to the maintenance of Australia's sovereignty in the face of our strategic partnerships, as well as the challenges that we face in the present and in the years ahead. We were presented with blueprints for how Australia can coexist in a complex, challenging strategic environment and prosper by utilising our talents, our natural advantages and our ability to innovate and by punching well above our weight as a nation.

The ministerial statement touched on a few core themes worth mentioning here. The first is the current set of strategic circumstances that Australia finds itself in—the state of play in a geopolitical sense. Next, it began to describe Australia's position in the world and particularly our role within the Indo-Pacific region. It also further outlined a set of broad principles that Australia prescribes to when it operates alongside strategic partners and allies—namely, how Australia ensures that it acts in a manner consistent with its interests and at its behest alone.

The ministerial statement devotes a large section to outlining the importance of Australia's strategic relationship with the United States of America, describing the United States as 'our most vital security partner', as well as outlining the benefits of joint facilities and partnerships with the United States and the terms in which our strategic allies—namely, the United States—operate on our soil. Lastly, the minister's statement speaks to the future of this strategic partnership, the AUKUS partnership—a security partnership forged between Australia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.

Australia is fundamentally a lucky country. It has relative political stability coupled with strong established alliances and partnerships in the regions surrounding our lands and beyond. Australia is, after all, a country girt by sea. A natural advantage in many ways this may be, but, on the other hand, it can be isolating to an extent. There are many out there, sadly, who view this isolation as something that we should actively seek out. As one of the founding member states of the United Nations, this is a very unfortunate attitude for some out there to possess.

Since the end of the Second World War, we have been at the forefront of ensuring that diplomacy should be tried before violent alternatives are sought. The ministerial statement itself contends that we live in an age of strategic circumstances that are the most complex and challenging since the end of the Second World War as well. It is why we need to seek out friends, strategic allies, and join them to further our goals and extend offerings of friendship where relationships are at best mixed. It would be wrong to see the blue ocean abroad and label the map, 'Here be dragons', for we know Australia's involvement in our region is a positive one, in the sense of both our soft diplomacy—fostering and encouraging shared values and ideals with our neighbours—and unlocking new and exciting avenues for trade.

It would appear that I have spoken on an issue without speaking about my electorate of Spence, a state of events that I simply can't endure any longer because, as a proud local member, I feel obliged—duty-bound, in fact—to highlight some of the numerous ways that Australia's strategic needs have been enhanced and fulfilled within my electorate of Spence. As many would know, my electorate includes RAAF Base Edinburgh, along with the Edinburgh Defence Precinct, which was built around the base and contains a number of organisations, both government and civilian, with a large focus on defence manufacturing and technology.

Speaking of manufacturing, the heart of the northern suburbs of Adelaide was first established to operate as a satellite town around our manufacturing industry. I, like many of my constituents, lament the death of General Motors Holden a few years back. The death of car manufacturing was felt not just in the loss of jobs but in the loss of our soul in the north. It's why I am especially proud, long before the ministerial statement was delivered last week, to take every opportunity that I can get to come into this place to speak about defence industry and associated advanced manufacturing capabilities that exist within Spence. Many of the big players in defence industry circles operate within Spence, primes such as Lockheed Martin Australia, Saab Australia, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. I am sure many members of the Edinburgh Industry Alliance, had they been listening to the minister's statement, would be heartened that there is a coherent strategy in place to utilise hubs such as the Edinburgh Defence Precinct.

Within the precinct renowned innovators operate, with engineers had at work innovating the next big technological advances that will give Australia the leading edge. As it so often is, defence research has been the catalyst for technological advances in the civilian sector. Many of those advances have been born out of the minds that work in the Defence, Science and Technology Group, or DSTG, such as the architects behind the invention of the black box flight recorder.

There are always big things happening at RAAF Base Edinburgh, one of the hubs that help to ensure being girt by sea remains an advantage. The base is home to the P8-A Poseidon, which can perform maritime surveillance operations. It's SIGINT capabilities within the base are second to none. I am proud that Australia can hold its own in that respect, but it's always a little better when it's happening in your own backyard.

My electorate of Spence is also home to a number of agricultural ventures and secondary food industries, such as the Safcol cannery, which, at extensive scale, contributes to safeguarding Australia's food security for tomorrow while feeding Australians today. We can all do our part within our patch in this great country, but it gives me comfort to know that my electorate of Spence is well poised to strengthen our sovereign capabilities and make a positive contribution to our national security.

The ministerial statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister may not have received widespread coverage on every evening news channel, but you can guarantee that many an embassy or high commission down the road would have been tuning in. This statement sets a tone for many countries that interact with Australia. Whether it be a strategic relationship, one involving trade or whether your nation is seeking Australian support, financial or in-kind, to fund a number of development goals, you will know, in broad terms, where you stand and how the government will look to interact with you under different sets of circumstances. It represents a modicum of consistency in an ever-changing world and geopolitical landscape. I am content knowing that the nation states are going to have a similar realisation to the Australian public—that being the realisation that the adults are in charge of the Australian government, and it is ready to adapt to changing headwinds and grow our country in its international standing, and also its economic outlook in the process.

It is true to say that these times may have challenges associated with them, but they can still be exciting ones, where our country grows to meet those challenges and ends up better off as a result of doing so. As a nation, we can have a booming defence industry, yet lead the region with our diplomats. There is no opportunity cost. It just takes the right kind of leadership to foster this—leadership that I am confident we have at the helm. I thank the House.


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