House debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Defence Industry

3:03 pm

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the minister please outline for the House how the Morrison government's national plan is critical to building the workforce that will be required to help deliver our $270 billion capability investment as we come back from the COVID-19 pandemic?

3:04 pm

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

I thank the member for Stirling and I acknowledge and thank him for his service to our nation. Repeated lockdowns and border closures continue to place challenges on Australian businesses, including those in Australia's defence industry. The defence industry relies on the free movement of key equipment and personnel across states and territories, so any impact on that supply chain clearly has an impact when we're talking about the development of our defence capabilities.

Over the last 18 months, my priority has been to keep the wheels of defence industry turning. A big focus of industry is to make sure they're building up their skills set and their critical workforce. Since late 2020, more than 60 small and medium-sized Australian defence industry businesses have shared almost $4 million in grants through the Skilling Australia's Defence Industry grant program. This is a grant program that supports businesses to upskill and retrain their employees so they have the skills to make sure our Defence Force gets what it needs.

Our government recently launched the Defence Industry Pathway Program. This is a $10 million pilot investment to provide trainee placements for WA school leavers to build skills, experience and qualifications with shipbuilding companies in Henderson, WA. I want to acknowledge that this particular traineeship would not be possible without the cooperation of Western Australian shipbuilders. I want to thank them for that. Forty trainees have already commenced their journey, and there'll be another 80-odd trainees who will continue throughout the rest of this year and also next year. I did have the opportunity to meet a number of these trainees down in Henderson in July, and can I tell you how excited they were to be able to take their first steps to be part of a very exciting shipbuilding industry.

The program is laying the foundations to build our Australian workforce to make sure we can deliver on our $270 billion investment in our defence capabilities. The key to building on this success is the national plan announced by our Prime Minister and endorsed by the national cabinet. This plan has given our defence industry a tremendous boost. At the heart of the national plan is accelerating and rolling out vaccination rates right across the country. I think we're all immensely proud in this House of the way Australians have been rolling up their sleeves and just doing their bit to get their jab. As of yesterday, more than 19 million COVID vaccinations have been given to Australians.

I want to give a shout-out to and acknowledge regional Western Australians who are doing their bit to help us with the national plan. Many people—most of those living in the seat of Durack, but also those in the seat of O'Connor—have to travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to get their vaccinations. They are doing their bit, and I just want to tell them that our nation is incredibly grateful to them for doing their bit.