Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Matters of Public Interest


12:45 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! It being 12.45 pm, I call on matters of public interest.

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in today's matters of public interest debate to speak about the 2013 defence white paper and the opportunities for defence procurement that arise out of this updated defence plan. On Friday, 3 May, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, released the 2013 defence white paper, which outlined the capabilities that the Australian Defence Force will need in the coming years to address strategic challenges. The 2013 defence white paper builds on the government's 2009 defence white paper and will ensure that we maintain an ADF that has the capability and culture it needs to effectively serve Australia's national security interests. It also acknowledges the economic and strategic shift to the Asian region, which was outlined in the white paper Australia in the Asian Century, which was released by the Prime Minister on 28 October 2012.

The 2013 defence white paper recognises that since 2009 there have been a number of domestic and international developments that have influenced our national security and defence settings. These include impacts on force posture, future force structure and the defence budget. These developments include the ongoing economic, strategic and military shift to the Indo-Pacific; the Australian Defence Force's operational drawdown from Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands; the United States rebalance to the Asia-Pacific; Australia's substantially enhanced practical cooperation with the United States pursuant to our alliance relationship; and the ongoing adverse effects of the global financial crisis, which have continued to have a significant impact on the global economy, domestic fiscal circumstances and defence funding.

The federal government's 2013 defence white paper also backs up our judgement that the world's strategic shift to the Indo-Pacific region as part of the Asian century will mean growing economic prosperity but also some uncertainty and risk. The 2013 white paper will support our strategic interests and support regional security and will undertake four principal tasks for the government: (1) deter and defeat armed attacks on Australia; (2) contribute to stability and security in the South Pacific and Timor-Leste; (3) contribute to military contingency in the Indo-Pacific region with priority given to South-East Asia; and (4) contribute to our military contingencies in support of global security.

It is worth noting that, since we released the 2009 defence white paper, the federal Labor government has approved more than 150 proposals for new or enhanced defence capabilities. These capabilities have a total value of over $20 billion. Over this period Defence has taken delivery of a number of new capabilities, including a C117 heavy lift aircraft, FA18 Super Hornet air combat aircraft, Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles and two large amphibious sea-lift vessels. By the end of this decade the ADF will also have taken delivery of three air warfare destroyers, two amphibious ships with a helicopter landing dock and the initial two F35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

The 2013 defence white paper also outlines the government's plan to significantly upgrade our capability over the coming decades. This will be worth billions of dollars to improve and maintain our existing capability as well as provide funding for new capability. In Tasmania we have a world-class shipbuilding industry that stands ready and willing to help provide this capability. It is conveniently located at a one-stop shop at Prince of Wales Bay in the northern part of the electorate of Denison. I believe there is potential to maximise the use of this precinct to support the ADF's capability over the coming decades. I will highlight some of the businesses that operate in the precinct and outline how they have the experience to support the ADF.

Iconic shipbuilder Incat has been a world leader in the production of fast ferries for over 20 years. In that time it has produced a range of catamaran vessels that have been used for both military and commercial purposes. In 1999 the Royal Australian Navy chartered an 86-metre Incat vessel to be used as part of the East Timor crisis when Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed to maintain peace in that country. As the HMAS Jervis Bay, the Incat vessel completed over 100 trips between Darwin and Dili. During this period it transported personnel and equipment as part of the United Nations transitional administration. The HMAS Jervis Baycompleted a 900 nautical mile return trip from Darwin to East Timor in less than 24 hours.

Incat has also provided three vessels to the US military, including the 96-metre HSV X1 Joint Venture, which was in partnership with Bollinger. The success of this joint venture led to more charter contracts with the US military. We had the 98-metre TSV Spearhead, which was delivered to the US Army in September 2002, and the HSV-2 Swift was delivered to the US Navy in August 2003. These vessels have been used for a range of purposes, with the Swift being used in a humanitarian role, including being part of the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

Taylor Bros is a third-generation family business and has grown from building timber yachts and small coastal river craft to being a widely diverse engineering company with a highly skilled workforce. Taylor Bros has undertaken a range of work, including offshore support services, rig maintenance, equipment installation, accommodation units, defence contracts, Antarctic projects and shipping refit and repair. Most recently, its world-class work has been recognised, with the company being awarded a contract worth more than $25 million with the Air Warfare Destroyer project. Taylor Bros will provide a range of accommodation products, including cabin and sanitary modules, onboard furniture, and a galley, pantry and scullery equipment.

Finally, I want to highlight Liferaft Systems Australia, who design and manufacture marine evacuation systems and large-capacity life rafts. They pioneered a simple incline slide, designed for the marine evacuation system, that delivers passengers and crew in a fast and safe manner to large-capacity life rafts. They have also provided a range of marine evacuation systems to naval vessels around the world, including to vessels being operated by armed forces from New Zealand, the United States of America, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. There are other businesses in the precinct who also have the capacity to provide capability to the Australian Defence Force. As you can see, there is considerable capability in our shipbuilding industry.

To help capitalise on the opportunities presented by the 2013 Defence white paper, a delegation was formed. As well as me, it included: the Labor candidate for Denison, Jane Austin; Craig Clifford, managing director of Incat Australia; Stuart Slade, Glenorchy City Council Mayor; Daniel Leesong, executive director of Tasmanian Industry Group; Steve Walsh, an AMWU state organiser; and Grant Wise, an Incat employee. The delegation travelled to Canberra to speak with the Minister for Defence Materiel, Mike Kelly, about the capability that exists in Tasmania.

This was a key delegation that brought together the political element, the local community, the union, the industry group Incat and an employee to highlight that Tasmania is here and ready to help fulfil this Defence capability. This delegation also highlights the AMWU's shipbuilding campaign to design, build and maintain our ships in Australia. The campaign also recognises the importance of continuous shipbuilding so that we avoid the peaks and troughs that plague the shipbuilding industry and result in the loss of jobs and skills.

We are not seeking a handout. We believe that we have world-class shipbuilders who have a capability that could be greater utilised by the Australian Defence Force. The delegation engaged in a very positive meeting with Minister Kelly. After receiving a presentation from the delegation, he will be coming to Tasmania to tour Incat and other shipbuilding businesses in the Prince of Wales Bay precinct to see firsthand what capability exists within the state and how it might be utilised.

Minister Kelly will also hold a forum with businesses on how Tasmania can play a greater role in providing capability for the Australian Defence Force. This forum will be chaired by the Tasmanian Industry Group executive director, Mr Daniel Leesong, and hosted on site by Incat. Minister Kelly has expressed his support for local manufacturing and outlined his goal to see as much Defence procurement fulfilled by Australian businesses as possible. He said, 'I see no reason why Tasmania can't play a role in the future of our Defence capability needs.' With so much capability required over the coming decades, we see no reason why Tasmania's world-class shipbuilding industry cannot play a greater role in supporting the ADF.

We have highly skilled and talented workers, who have a proven track record of delivering product for militaries around the world. We want to see that workforce utilised and expanded in the coming decades. Securing further defence work would provide a much-needed economic boost for the state and would allow us to build the capacity of the Tasmanian workforce, with the creation of highly skilled jobs. We look forward to Minister Kelly's visit to Hobart.