Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence. I thank the minister for the work she's doing in relation to the very difficult situation in North Asia at the present time. My question is more related to domestic matters. Could the minister outline what steps the Turnbull government is taking to ensure that local industry benefits from the unprecedented investment in the defence estate and infrastructure that the Turnbull government is making over the next decade?
I thank Senator Macdonald for his question and particularly acknowledge his ongoing advocacy for local businesses in Queensland. Last week, in Darwin, I announced the local industry capability plan initiative, which is intended to strengthen the opportunity for local businesses, particularly throughout rural and regional Australia, to maximise their involvement in defence estate and infrastructure projects. In relatively small communities I know even modest levels of defence spending can provide tangible economic benefits, whether they are to be seen in increased skills, jobs or economic sustainability.
It is also the case that using local businesses near defence bases, facilities or training areas simply makes sense and, frankly, provides value for money. So Defence will be piloting a local industry capability requirement as part of the request for tender for three upcoming major facilities projects: the $230 million explosive ordnance logistics reform, which covers 12 defence sites across Australia; the $135 million Shoalwater Bay training area redevelopment; and the $24 million Townsville field training area mid-term refresh. They all go to market in the next few months.
There will be an additional requirement on tenderers bidding. It will take the form of a specific schedule in a request for tender. It will require tenderers to clearly state how they have engaged with local industry in providing their proposed response and detail how local industry will be involved in delivering the work packages that underpin the project. The successful tenderers' local industry capability commitments will be a deliverable at contract signature, and contractors will be required to provide regular reporting of their achievements. This is a very important initiative for local businesses across Australia, particularly in rural and regional areas, where there is significant opportunity related to growth in defence estate and infrastructure.
I thank the minister on behalf of Townsville's small to medium businesses and the huge unemployed number, regrettably, in Townsville at the moment, and I ask the minister how the local industry capability initiative will benefit Central and North Queensland, particularly the Rockhampton region and the Townsville region?
All three of the pilots that I have detailed will have a positive impact on local businesses in Central and North Queensland, whether they are the upgrades to the explosive ordnance depot at Mount Stuart, the Townsville field training area or the Shoalwater Bay training area near Rockhampton, which all form part of this pilot. The initiative will also give local businesses in Central and North Queensland a useful opportunity to showcase their capability in the lead-up to the Australian-Singapore military training initiative, which is also going to prioritise the use of local industry as recorded in the memorandum of understanding that was signed between both the Australian and Singaporean governments.
The week before last, the trade minister and I led a trade delegation to Singapore, in which Senator Macdonald participated, with approximately 20 business and local government representatives who gained very useful visibility of the opportunities that are available and also built valuable relationships with the Singapore government and businesses. I loved their enthusiasm; they are great representatives for their region. (Time expired)
Has the minister had any response or feedback from industry to this announcement? As the minister mentioned, this was clearly something that was raised a lot in the Singapore delegation. I'm wondering if the minister has had any feedback from businesses on that announcement.
I am pleased to say that we have had very positive feedback. The initiative was well worked through in discussions with local industry representatives, particularly in the Northern Territory, and elsewhere. Masters Builders Northern Territory has described it as 'an important step in making sure that local businesses have a real opportunity to tender for work in the rollout of the nearly $8 billion in defence infrastructure over the next decade.' Similarly, the Civil Contractors Federation NT has said that small-to-medium civil construction companies will be the major beneficiaries of this new approach. The Capricorn Coast Business Alliance in Central Queensland has also backed the initiative, as has Nicole Manison, the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, who welcomed the plan and its focus on local business. Unlike many others—particularly, if I might say, those opposite, who neglected defence infrastructure and investment—we are actually committed to ensuring that regional communities benefit from this commitment and that defence capability benefits from this commitment as well. (Time expired)