Parliamentary Speech: Defence Industry

Federation Chamber - Monday 3 June 2024

Private Members' Business
Defence Industry

Check against delivery

It was all the way back in April 1951 with their backs against the wall that fewer than 1,200 Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and American troops held firm against overwhelming odds, against a 6,000-strong communist Chinese force. Spread thinly across some seven kilometres of mountainous terrain and under constant assault for three days, our soldiers prevailed against a numerically superior enemy. This was our victory at the battle of Kapyong. It was a decisive turning point of the war.

It is an understatement to say they faced a complex set of tactical challenges against wave after wave of the enemy. Here we are today, nearly 75 years later, facing the most complex set of strategic challenges since Kapyong, the Korean War and the Second World War before it. We are living in a dangerous world, and Australia is at the forefront of great power competition and the threats posed by authoritarian powers.

Kapyong proved then what we know is still true today—that Australians always punch above our weight and we can prevail. There are no limits to what we are capable of if we are given a fighting chance. It is true of our soldiers and it is true for Australia's defence industry. A strong and capable sovereign defence industrial base is indispensable in our mission to keep Australia safe and secure. A strong and capable defence industry means a strong and capable defence force, which in turn means a strong and capable Australia.

Australian defence entrepreneurs and innovators punch above their weight. Several have been growing their businesses and equipping our allies and friends. We have world-leading capacity to deliver state-of-the-art platforms and state-of-the-future capabilities. We offer many things wanted by the advanced militaries of the world, including by our friends fighting for survival in Ukraine. We have leaders in defence industry who are showing the way. We have tasted what's possible. But it's not the full story.

Under the Albanese government, Australia's sovereign defence industry isn't being given a fighting chance. Instead of supporting the industry, Labor is starving it. Under the Albanese government, there have been two years without moving the dial—two years of endless reviews and inconsequential aspirations. Programs have paused, spending has stalled and uncertainty abounds. Everyone in defence industry fears for their future, with economic pressures, crippling inflation and an absence of investment and imagination making conditions tougher than ever. Numerous firms are, at best, pivoting away from defence to survive, and, at worst, shutting down and going under.

Australian defence industry can punch above its weight; we just need to give it a fighting chance. A Peter-Dutton-led coalition government will invest more in defence and defence industry, sooner. If elected, we will give sovereign defence industry a chance to get moving again, and we will give our patriotic entrepreneurs and innovators a fighting chance. When they win, we all win.

We have AUKUS pillars I and II, the race to restore our surface fleet and to keep our submarines on station, and the need to reinvigorate our Defence Force. We cannot be left behind. And we should not leave it to others.

The Coalition will restore faith in our own industrial heft. We'll grow our sovereign industrial base and provide support and certainty to small, medium and growing enterprises, to urgently deliver the future capabilities we need today.

We are running out of time. The most sober assessments warn that there is no longer a decade of strategic warning time. Meanwhile, the Albanese defence establishment seems intent on operating with a decade of self-imposed waiting time. We can't afford to wait any longer.

My message to Australia's defence industry is this: we know you're hurting; we hear the disappointment; and we see what you see—that the Albanese government continues to let you down and turn its back on you. Well, the coalition has your back and we'll do whatever we can to get you back in business. We know you punch above your weight. We know that there are no limits to what you can achieve if you have a fighting chance, and that a strong and capable sovereign defence industry means a stronger and more capable Defence Force, and, therefore, a stronger and more capable Australia.

I commend the member for Herbert for moving this motion. We support it. The time to act is now.

Those members on the other side have committed $50 billion over the next 10 years, and most of it will be spent in the next decade. They assume, absolutely, that we still have 10 years to wait, and, if you look at the forward estimates, you see $5.7 billion, which perhaps accounts for inflation—perhaps; it's unlikely. But most of that money, $3.8 billion of it, will be spent in the fourth year of the forwards, and that just shows that this government, the Albanese government, is not serious at all about defence. They are playing politics. They are dressing up—they're wearing the uniform—but they're not actually serious about building defence industry and a strong Defence Force. And we are weaker for it.


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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-06-04 12:44:20 +0800