House debates

Monday, 29 May 2017


Fisher Electorate: Defence Industry

7:46 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The federal government is spending $200 billion on defence industry capability over the next 10 years. In every branch of our nation's armed forces we are acquiring new equipment and expanding our defence capacity. I want to see some of that $200 billion spent on the Sunshine Coast. We have RAAF Base Amberley not far away from us in Fisher. We have an underutilised aerodrome in Caloundra and vacant industrial property. Most importantly, we have the human resources. A great many retired Defence personnel choose the Sunshine Coast for their home—and, let's face it, why wouldn't they?—while our USC innovation hub is drawing more and more technological innovators to our community.

I want to see a Sunshine Coast that is no longer dependent on tourism, building and construction. If we want to be able to ride out our future economic storms, we need to get more industries operating in our community. We need to diversify. Defence industry is highly paid, highly skilled and the Sunshine Coast is the perfect place for it. That is why, in May, I organised the inaugural Fisher defence industry forum. I invited the Minister for Defence Industry to come along, with representatives of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability and the Defence Science and Technology Group. They spoke to attendees about what local companies can do to get a start in winning Defence contracts, and what work is available. I also invited prime defence contractors such as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to meet our local businesses and tell them about what they are looking for in a subcontractor. Finally, local small businesses who have won Defence contracts spoke about what they did to break into the sector. More than 170 local businesses registered to attend, and I am delighted to say that the innovation centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast was packed on that day.

As we heard, there are businesses in Fisher who are already taking advantage of these opportunities. We have a fantastic company in Caloundra, HeliMods, who employ 25 skilled workers on the Sunshine Coast. I visited Will Shrapnel and the team there, with the minister, to see their manufacturing facilities. HeliMods' story is an example to all businesses in any market. It was not easy to get their first Defence contract. It took vision to see the opportunities, it took flexibility and ingenuity to meet ADF requirements and specifications and it took perseverance. This was not their first attempt, but now HeliMods has a contract for $154,000 to deliver wet decks for 14 Navy helicopters. Yes, that is a modest sum in the broader scheme of things, but it is an important first step for their business.

The minister and I sat with Will inside the main cabin of a rescue helicopter in the Caloundra Aerodrome and listened to him speak with passion about the potential that HeliMods has for more contracts. I hope that that is just the beginning for them.

Bigger contracts are available to the Sunshine Coast businesses with the right capabilities or an innovative idea. We have another company in the same area, Praesidium Global, who have recently won a $1.3 million contract to design and manufacture a new type of unmanned ground vehicle. David Baird, General Manager of Praesidium, says: 'The purpose of these vehicles is to reduce a soldier's exposure to danger. Instead of sending personnel in, we can send a robot in.' These UGVs are in the developmental stage at the moment and will undergo further evaluations.

What we are seeing now is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can provide. These are the sorts of success stories that I want to see on the Sunshine Coast. We are on the cusp of something huge.

I want to thank the Minister for Defence Industry for coming along to our forum and speaking to businesses in Fisher. I also thank CDIC and DST Group; Mark Cook from NIOA; Andrew Sanderson from TAE and Will Shrapnel from HeliMods for presenting. I also want to thank the many prime contractors who attended.

I intend to hold defence industry forums on the coast in the future. In the short term, I will be hosting a series of defence industry breakfasts to maintain the momentum and keep us moving forward. I hope the local businesses will look out for these events in the future because I am very excited about what we can offer here in Fisher.