Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Questions without Notice
Australian Defence Force
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Turnbull government is strengthening Australia's ability to monitor and protect our borders and contribute to regional security?
I am very pleased to get a constructive question from Senator Hume in relation to one of the government's key priorities, in which I know she has a strong interest. I can advise the Senate that the government is, as I indicated to Senator Whish-Wilson earlier, further strengthening Australia's ability to protect our maritime interests through the acquisition of the first of six MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft. These aircraft are a game changer for defence and a game changer for defence capability. Our maritime area covers approximately 10 per cent of the earth's service, which makes the provision of maritime patrol and response across such a vast area certainly a challenging exercise. The Triton is going to be capable of missions of over 24 hours on station while covering an area of over one million nautical square miles, which is equivalent to about the size of Western Australia, in one activity. It will provide Australia with a significantly enhanced ability to conduct search operations across significant areas of Australia's primary maritime areas of interest, including the Indian, Pacific and Southern oceans. Of note, the Triton is the first high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely-piloted aircraft system to be operated by the Australian Defence Force. It is important to note that there will always be a human remotely piloting these aircraft.
I am also pleased to advise that around $364 million will be invested into new facilities and infrastructure which will be constructed at RAAF Base Edinburgh and RAAF Base Tindall. The investment is further proof of the Turnbull government's commitment not just to creating a more capable Australian Defence Force but also to Australia's long-term security and our commitment to regional security and stability.
The Triton, as I outlined in my earlier response to Senator Hume, is a very, very important new capability. Even more importantly, it is going to be working closely in concert with our cutting-edge P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft. The Poseidon aircraft is currently being introduced into service, with seven of the 12 already operational. Together, the Triton and the Poseidon will work as complementary systems. They will significantly enhance our anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike capability as well as our ability to both monitor and secure Australia's maritime approaches, helping, importantly, to protect our maritime area from threats such as people smuggling and illegal fishing—very significant issues to our neighbours in the Pacific and in South-East Asia. When they are fully operational the Triton and the Poseidon will fly twice as many hours as the P-3 Orions they replace, greatly increasing that ability to monitor our maritime areas. While the Orions have served Australia well for more than 50 years, it is time for the change. (Time expired)
I can advise that, as part of the investment, Australia is also going to enter into a $200 million cooperative program with the United States Navy, which is for the development, production and sustainment of the MQ-4C Triton. That follows on from the example of the equally successful cooperative program that we had with the US Navy for the Poseidon aircraft. This is an arrangement which will enable Australia to work more closely with the United States to develop the capability and effectively manage both integration risks and through-life sustainment costs. These development programs underscore the depth of our alliance with the United States, which again is underpinned by strong cooperation in defence industry and in capability development. Australia is one of only a very few nations with which the United States has shared the Triton and Poseidon technology, so it is a very important engagement for us. They will also ensure that we meaningfully contribute to the ongoing development of the platforms to remain at the cutting edge. (Time expired)