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Opposition commits to supporting regional defence industry content

Shadow defence minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have announced a plan that would see regional Australian defence suppliers have greater access to business opportunities as the election race heats up.

Defence is a major investor in regional Australia. In some regions it is the single largest investor in infrastructure. Local economic benefit is the social licence Defence needs to operate in local communities.

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Labor’s Defence Regional Procurement Policy will ensure local economic outcomes are a key objective of Defence procurement.

This policy commitment will be broken down into three distinct levels, which will require: 

  • Any contractor tendering for more than $4 million in work from Defence in regional areas to provide a Local Industry Capability Plan;
  • Defence to produce a Regional Procurement Plan ahead of key decisions for regional procurements of more than $10 million, including an analysis of local industry and workforce capability and capacity; and
  • Regional procurements over $100 million will be referred to the Minister for Defence to ensure local communities are getting a fair deal from these major
    projects.

Marles' release said, "Labor will invest in local expertise by appointing Local Procurement Officers in key regions, beginning with Darwin and Townsville. Local Procurement Officers will map local industry capability, advise on appropriate scheduling of work, and be the contact point for local industry with Defence."

This announcement builds on Labor's commitment, made by Shorten during his budget in reply speech, where he committed Labor to maintaining Australia's defence expenditure at 2 per cent of GDP, with a focus on maintaining Australia's self reliance across capability and industry. 

Labor's national platform reinforced this, saying, "The foundation of Labor's defence policy is the principle of Australian self-reliance. Australia's armed forces need to be able to defend Australia against credible threats without relying on the combat forces or capabilities of other countries.

This commitment extends to the need for developing a self-sustaining Australian defence industry, with the Opposition outlining key objectives for the Australian defence industry, with a focus on: 

  • Provide the ADF with the world’s best capability in order to keep our sailors, soldiers and aviators safe and successful on behalf of our nation;
  • Provide Australia with the sovereign capability to maintain and sustain the ADF and all of its equipment;
  • Enable Australia to project its strategic weight through an exporting defence industry; and
  • Build technological capability and workforce skills within Australia's broader industrial base.

"Labor will ensure Australia has a defence industry which will always be able to provide our nation with this sovereign capability. We will require equipment to be manufactured in Australia to the greatest extent possible. Greater export opportunities will help to sustain Australian defence industry over the long-term
and improve our economic ability to invest in superior defence capability," Labor's national platform identified. 

The shadow defence minister's release also stated that Labor will "establish Local Advisory Groups comprising representatives of local industry and civic leadership to monitor the roll out of Defence investment in the regions".

Opposition commits to supporting regional defence industry content
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