Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Questions without Notice
Northern Territory: Australian Defence Force
My question is for the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. Can the minister outline to the Senate the defence investments the coalition government is making in recognition of the strategic importance of the Northern Territory to our nation?
I thank Senator McMahon for that question, and, yes, I can. I also thank you for your boundless passion for defence in the Northern Territory, and for their support. Northern Australia is of profound and increasing strategic importance to our nation. The Territory is the gateway to the Indo-Pacific, looking out to some of our closest neighbours and friends across the Arafura and Timor seas. As the Indo-Pacific becomes more contested, our region faces the most consequential strategic realignment in our generation.
This government reaffirms its commitment to bolstering defence capability in the Top End through both the 2020 Defence strategic update and the 2020 Force structure plan. The Territory has played a key role in supporting more recent initiatives, including the US Force Posture Initiatives, and next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Marine Rotational Force and these initiatives. The US FPI provides the ADF with improved training opportunities and closer interoperability with US forces and also supports US engagement in the Indo-Pacific.
I witnessed this cooperation firsthand when I visited Mount Bundey last month with Senator McMahon and US Ambassador Culvahouse to observe Exercise Koolendong. Observing this high-end, live-fire exercise demonstrated once again the great interoperability between our forces and the clear benefit to both our nations. The fact that the rotation went ahead at all despite COVID-19 is a great testament to the ADF's ability to be agile and also to our ability to work with the United States forces. At AUSMIN, we signed a statement of principles to guide the next decade of cooperation on forced posture to ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
Thank you very much, Senator McMahon, for your hospitality and, again, for your great passion for the community of Katherine and your support for defence personnel at RAAF Base Tindal. The Morrison government is investing over $8 billion over the next decade in the Northern Territory. As part of this investment, we are spending $1.1 billion to further redevelop RAAF Base Tindal. These works will enhance defence air combat capability and our ability to engage with allies and partners through the conduct of joint exercises, including our enhanced air cooperation with the United States. The building tempo for the redevelopment is accelerating very rapidly, as we both witnessed. These works are in addition to the new facilities to support the Joint Strike Fighter, which are now already complete. Just last month I had, with Senator McMahon, the great privilege of turning the first sod for this $1.1 billion additional development. This will develop 350 jobs locally. (Time expired)
At the heart of our $8 billion investment into the Northern Territory is our nation's security but, wonderfully, it will also provide significant new job opportunities in the Northern Territory for at least the next decade to come. This government has provided industry with significant long-term pipelines of investment. I was up there recently meeting with the Chief Minister, Senator McMahon and business representatives to work together to ensure we can provide a continuous pipeline supply of jobs and investment in the Northern Territory. Local industry capability plans, which were implemented by Senator Payne, who was the relevant minister at the time, are now realising very significant benefits to local industry in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory's industry participation in major Defence construction projects is now over 80 per cent and is continuing to rise. Hundreds of local jobs and millions of dollars are now flowing into local businesses and this will continue for many years to come. (Time expired)