Thursday, 16 August 2007
Statements by Members
Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond
I wish to congratulate the government on announcing last Saturday that the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond will remain open permanently. There will be no more uncertainty for those who serve on the base and for the people of the Hawkesbury. RAAF Base Richmond is an institution. The base was established in 1925 and was the first for New South Wales and the second in Australia. The base has been part of the Hawkesbury for over 80 years. The base served a major role from 1923 through to 1925 and now is a hub of logistic support for the Australian Defence Force in Sydney. Richmond RAAF base provides support for specialised defence units, including the Tactical Assault Group (East), the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and the Incident Response Regiment. It is also the home of the C130 airlift fleet.
I was privileged to be present at the Richmond RAAF base on Saturday when the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson, announced to Air Force personnel; local council representatives, including the mayor; and local chamber of commerce representatives that the Richmond RAAF base was to remain there permanently. There are many businesses in the Hawkesbury which rely on the base and the income generated. I spoke firsthand on the weekend with many of the families and Air Force personnel, who welcome the announcement.
The base provides over $400 million annually to the economy and approximately $390 million to the annual household consumption in the New South Wales region. It also provides approximately 14 per cent of the gross regional product, and over nine per cent of total regional employment comes from the base. The base is estimated to directly and indirectly contribute to over 6,000 jobs in the region.
I would like to particularly make mention of Mr Kerry Bartlett, the federal member for Macquarie, who has worked long and hard lobbying for the past 10 years to ensure that the base is secure for the region. I was passed the baton late last year and have been working hard since then to ensure that the Australian government committed to the ongoing operation of the base. After meeting with the Minister for Defence on many occasions and also having meetings with Air Commodore Jack Plenty, Base Commander Tracey Simpson and Chris Young, of MBF/Airspace DF Richmond, I was delighted to hear the minister on Saturday commit to retaining the base. I would like to thank the minister and also the Prime Minister for considering the future of Richmond RAAF base and our region and weighing up what is best for our region and for the broader community.
Richmond RAAF base plays a pivotal role in Sydney, which is why it is imperative that it remains open. It is the only secure point of departure in the Sydney basin for large-scale operations. Having lived and worked in the Hawkesbury, I know firsthand that the base is significant not just to the Hawkesbury but also to the Western Sydney region. The permanent commitment will enable people to move forward and plan for the future with absolute confidence. The job of a good federal member is to listen to the needs of the community. (Time expired)