Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Solomon Electorate: Defence Industry
As we look to the pandemic recovery, jobs for my community of Darwin and Palmerston are at the forefront of my mind. People are doing it tough, particularly those who have lost their jobs. Having a secure, long-term job is key to keeping Territorians in the Territory. If I can show my bias, I will say that it's the best place in the country to call home, and Territorians know that our lifestyle can't be beaten. But no matter how much you love that lifestyle and the great opportunities we have in the north, if you can't pay your rent or you can't pay the mortgage, it's very difficult to get by.
Labor has a plan for secure work for Australians, for reconstruction and rejuvenation of our economy post-COVID, and the focus is on jobs: good, secure jobs with fair pay and conditions for the work Territorians do. Defence and its related industries is a very important employer in the Northern Territory. It's more important than ever to keep those jobs in the North, and that's what I've been concentrating on doing, and to grow our capability to support the defence community.
I recently visited Northtrack Machinery, who provide first-class services to support defence and other industries. An example is maintaining the patrol boats and their smaller RIBs—rigid inflatable boats—that are so important. We have been out on those RIBs. They provide the border protection that is so important for our nation. They're doing a great job, and Northtrack Machinery will be key to the northern regional maintenance centre that will provide services to Navy and to Defence into the future. The government has committed to purchasing 29 Apache helicopters within four years, but I'm calling on the government to be honest with Territorians about where those Apaches are going to be based. They should be replacing the Tigers in Darwin. So, I'm asking the defence minister to confirm that that will be the case. Our local industry is ready to start that transition process from the Tiger helicopter through to the Apache, but they deserve that certainty.
We've got the Marines up in Darwin, and I welcome them at this time every year to do the joint training they do with us. We're going to have a $400 million ship lift facility as well, which will enable us to, whilst working with our US allies, to support the US First Fleet operations in the Indo-Pacific as well as our own Navy and border protection assets. Darwin is the capital of the North, and we serve the nation from there.