House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice

Defence Industry

3:06 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the minister update the House on how a strong economy enables the government to create jobs and opportunities for small and medium enterprises in the defence industry through exports? How would a weaker economy, through higher taxes, put this action at risk?

Photo of Steven CioboSteven Ciobo (Moncrieff, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Bonner for his question. I can see members of the Labor Party getting a bit excited, no doubt looking for some inspiration on defence policy. You can understand why. Labor's track record on defence industry policy, from the last time Labor was in power, is pretty average. Those on this side know that we've commenced and actually commissioned 55 vessels. When Labor were in government for six years, how many do you think they commissioned? Fifty-five? Fifty? Forty? Thirty? Labor's track record was zero vessels commissioned.

I want to speak about the member for Bonner and, in particular, the way in which the coalition, the Liberal-National government, are backing in Australia's small to medium businesses around defence industry. The fact is that the member for Bonner has in his electorate a business called Ferra Engineering. It's just one example of how Australian defence industry is benefiting from this government's investment in the Defence Export Strategy and defence industry more generally. In fact, Ferra Engineering in his electorate has now won about one-tenth of all of the Australian contracts in the global F-35 program. It's through the support of the Liberal-National government that businesses like Ferra Engineering have been able to grow, invest with certainty and create more Australian jobs. We are making it easier, and we're determined and resolute to make sure that Australian companies can access global supply chains so they can grow their businesses and grow employment.

That's why we created the Defence Export Facility to give Australian businesses access to export finance to ensure they're more competitive. It's also the reason why we put in place the Defence Export Strategy, which is delivering results. As the Minister for Defence said, at $3.2 billion, Australian defence exports in just the last quarter were higher than the previous two years combined. That doesn't happen by accident. That's a result of deliberate policy design. It's about government backing in, through taxpayer funds, the support that industry needs.

It's very different to Labor's approach. The shadow minister for defence spoke recently at an event where he was asked what Labor's policy is when it comes to defence industry. He said:

I'm not really sure … It's a profound and deep decision the nation needs to make and we haven't made it.

In other words, with six months to go, the Australian Labor Party don't even have a policy on defence industry. For the 25,000 Australians that are employed in the defence industry space, for those who are relying on the fact that the Liberal-National government commissioned 55 vessels, and for those who remember Labor's track record of reducing spending down to a measly 1.56 per cent of GDP, they know that Labor will be— (Time expired)