House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Questions without Notice

Defence Procurement

2:45 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government is supporting Australian small business through the defence supply chain?

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much to the member for Forde for his question. I just want to note his great passion for the defence industry. It reminds me of some very wonderful visits that I've had to Forde to visit Australian defence industry small businesses. One in particular, PWR, is a wonderful example of an Australian business which produces advanced cooling systems. Nine out of 10 Formula One teams use that system, so it is indeed very capable.

During this COVID-19 period it's been critical that we have been able to keep the wheels of defence industry small businesses turning—those 15,000 businesses dotted across the whole of the country, together with those 70,000 employees. What we have done to keep small business strong is to focus very much on ensuring that they are paid as early as possible. As we know, cash flow has been critical, not just to small business but to big business. So well done to the defence department and CASG. By and large, we've paid a lot of those invoices early. Since late March, we've paid around 100,000 invoices—some $6 billion in invoices, and some 4.5 of that was indeed early. Most of those payments go directly to the primes, but we've worked with the primes to ensure that they have their own processes in place to ensure that they then pay the smaller contractors. It really has been a remarkable effort on behalf of all of the industry.

The other thing that we've been focusing on is estate works. We've identified around $870 million worth of estate works that we can bring forward, which of course is a great boon for our construction companies. One of the benefits with respect to COVID-19 has been the restrictions to state borders. What this has meant is that many of the local subbies—say, the local plumber or the local electrician—who, ordinarily, wouldn't get a go at some of these bases, have indeed had an opportunity to get some of that work. Long may that continue!

We remain focused on capability. Recently I had the pleasure, together with the Minister of Defence, of announcing a new $350 million project with respect to six new Cape class patrol vessels by Austal in Western Australia, saving thousands of jobs and also saving hundreds of small businesses in their supply chain. During this period it has been critical to have a high level of engagement and communication. Every week I've been speaking to all of the primes, industry groups and Master Builders, and I want to thank them for their cooperation and their collaboration. Without us understanding what their problems were on a daily basis it would have been difficult for us, as I said, to keep the show on the road.

So, together with our payment of early invoices and JobKeeper, I'm absolutely sure that we have saved thousands of jobs. I just want to thank the Australian defence industry for all their—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister's time has concluded.