Australian Defence Industry - Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 - Consideration in Detail

By Matt Keogh MP

15 June 2021

Watch Matt's Speech here

I appreciate the gags coming from the Minister for Defence Industry. I want to pick up on a few points she just made and in particular any imputation that might arise from her remarks in respect of the good work that is being done by Australians on behalf of the defence forces in their defence industry work. No issue is ever taken with the work that is being done. I have to say that has certainly been my experience whilst I have been in the portfolio, both in meeting with the men and women of the Defence Force and the men and women in our Australian defence industry businesses around the country. Not only do they do good work and are firmly committed to the work that they do for the benefit of the nation but they bring great insight, technological development and innovation in the work that they do.

It must be said and I think acknowledged that Australian defence industry businesses are amongst the greatest and best employers of our veterans. That is something to be commended and expanded upon. The opportunity of ensuring that, of the much-trumpeted $270 billion to be spent over the next decade on defence capability for Australia, there's increased spending in Australia is something that will enable the employment of more veterans and more people in these defence industry businesses. It will also ensure the development of a greater and an advanced manufacturing sector here in Australia, one where we don't just build things or put things together but where we also develop that technology and intellectual property and we're involved in the engineering and the drafting. That is fundamentally important. As I mentioned earlier, it is so fundamentally important that there is transparency around the concept of what constitutes Australian contractual expenditure when it comes to the SPA with Naval Group for the development of the future submarine project, and in similar contractual terms in these major multibillion-dollar programs.

We don't take issue with the spending of multiple billions of dollars on defence capability for our nation. We desperately need it. There is a concern, as the member for Shortland just pointed out, that many of these projects are slipping not just in terms of cost but also in terms of time. This government has over recent months made a lot of the fact that it sees the chances of armed conflict increasing in our region and that it may happen sooner than we had otherwise anticipated. The force structure review goes to this exact point. Yet not only are these major capabilities more than a decade away in their planning time frames alone but those time lines are also slipping and slipping and getting further away. That is not just of concern to us on this side of the House; it is of concern, I'm sure, to the Defence Force, it is of concern to defence industry—and it is one that they have spoken to me about—and it is of concern to many strategic observers in Australia.

As we've gone through the last 18 months or so of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of being self-reliant has never been greater. We as a nation need to make sure that we are investing everything that we can in developing that self-reliance, that we're identifying the gaps in defence industry and that we're identifying where we're not currently doing the work here in Australia but we could be. Government should be supporting that happening and understanding what those gaps are. One of the key things to come out of the government's review of the CDIC was that the CDIC didn't know the scope of defence industry here in this country, yet the one thing that the CDIC is supposed to do is know the scope of defence industry here in this nation so that it can better connect those businesses.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—