House debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Questions without Notice

Australian Defence Force

2:51 pm

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is working to strengthen the Australian Defence Force? Minister, how is the government working with international partners to keep Australians safe?

2:52 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Braddon and thank him for his service to our country as well. Obviously the Morrison government is absolutely committed to making sure that we can put greater financial and moral support into the Australian Defence Force. We know that, under the opposition, defence spending dipped to 1.56 per cent of GDP, which was the lowest level since 1938. Because we've been able to manage the economy well, because we've been able to manage the budget well, because of strong economic management, we have been able to build a stronger, more prosperous Australia and, indeed, a safer region as a result.

As a country we do face many significant challenges in what is certainly an evolving global security environment. It is absolutely critical that we provide support to our service men and women, who defend our nation not just here but across the world in our different equities, and we are backing our armed forces in a way that no government before has. We are investing $270 billion in defence capability over the next decade, and these investments are getting the best equipment into the hands of those service men and women while creating opportunities for our defence industry in Australia to create jobs in local communities right across the country. Over 15,000 companies and 70,000 Australian workers are benefitting from the Morrison government's investment in defence. These numbers will continue to grow. We are building more than 70 naval vessels in our country. We know that when Labor was in government over a six-year period they built how many naval vessels? I'd like to say 'one', just to try to provide them with some cover, but it was not one—they didn't build anything. They were right into boats, but not into building boats, only into receiving the boats from other parts of the world. And we know the detail of that tragedy.

As Minister Reynolds has announced, we have a very significant engagement, and it builds on the work that the Prime Minister did with Prime Minister Modi in June to increase and improve and enhance that collaboration. It is a very significant partnership that we are endeavouring to build with India, but also, of course, with Japan and our traditional ally in the United States. We have a lot to be proud of in that relationship and there is a lot of upside as we continue on the Malabar naval exercise. It will mean that our service personnel can continue to work together to build those relationships, and that is very important not only for our country's interests but for our regional interests as well, and I commend all of those in the Defence Force who worked very hard to make that a reality.