Monday, 20 August 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the minister update the House on the success of the government's defence export strategy? How is that strategy assisting Australian businesses and the broader economy, and how does the strategy differ from the approach by previous governments?
I thank the member for Cowper for his question. I must admit that I'm sorry to hear that he's retiring from this House at the next election. He's done a marvellous job representing the people of north New South Wales for the last 17 or so years.
The member asks me about the alternative to the government's defence export strategy. I have to tell him that there simply isn't an alternative to the government's defence export strategy. When Labor were in power, they didn't even conceive of a defence export strategy. They didn't have a defence industry policy strategy. They didn't have any plans for naval shipbuilding in this country. They hadn't commissioned one ship to be built in Australia. They didn't do anything to initiate the Joint Strike Fighter program. They certainly didn't support the combat reconnaissance vehicle program or the Australian industry content in it. When Labor was in power, spending on defence fell to 1.56 per cent of GDP, the lowest since 1938, the last year of appeasement. They didn't have any alternative to our defence export strategy. Quite the opposite: they were content to have a foreign military sales strategy where they bought everything from overseas, creating no jobs in this country, no highly sophisticated jobs in engineering, science, technology, maths or the 60 per cent of jobs in naval shipbuilding, for example, who are tradespeople.
By contrast, the Turnbull government initiated a defence export strategy which was released in January of this year with a defence exports advocate, a defence exports office and a grants program for small and medium enterprises to support defence exports. I can tell the member for Cowper and the House that it is working. In the June quarter of this year, applications for defence export permits jumped 25 per cent on the same period in 2017—an enormous increase in companies having the confidence to apply for defence export permits to get their goods and services overseas. I could also tell you that, since the beginning of January this year, the value of defence export permits granted has hit $1 billion in six months. That is $1 billion in six months of defence export permits that have been granted. So Australian businesses, small and medium enterprises, those who support the primes, are taking the clarion call from the government and investing in their businesses, trying to break into new markets, creating jobs, growing the economy, and innovating and investing in infrastructure in this country, which is the hallmark of the Turnbull government: focusing on the economy, focusing on jobs, focusing on increasing wages and infrastructure in our economy.