Following a tight race the Coalition has been returned to power. Here’s what the Coalition’s re-election means for the Defence Portfolio.
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The Coalition has hung on to office – with promises of continued momentum and investment into developing the Australian Defence Force and supporting the growth and sovereign capabilities of Australia's defence industry.
The projected federal budget surplus for the 2019-20 financial year will support growth and investment in defence industries, the PM said, particularly through the Liberal Party’s planned naval shipbuilding projects.
The election of the Coalition in 2013 saw a major shake up in the way defence was approached by government – following what the Coalition describes as six years of neglect under the tumultuous Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments – the newly formed government sought to create an environment of stability and consistency for defence with a number of key policy objectives.
Central to this was the commitment to return Australia's defence expenditure to 2 per cent of GDP following what both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and now former minister for defence Christopher Pyne explain as a 10 per cent reduction in real terms in the last year (FY2012-13) of the previous government – resulting in defence investment falling to its lowest levels since 1938.
While Australia's defence expenditure looks set to increase to $38.7 billion in 2019-20, it is a case of business as usual for defence and industry, with the Coalition's budget announcement signalling the government's continued commitment to supporting the capability and development of Australia's sovereign defence industry capabilities.
The Coalition remains committed to continuing the delivery of a number of key projects identified as part of the government's 2016 Defence White Paper, which focused on delivering a series of major capability upgrades and modernisation programs across the Australian Defence Force, including:
- The delivery of the first unit as part of the $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles;
- Industry partners presented their bids as part of the $10-15 billion LAND 400 Phase 3 Armoured Fighting Vehicle program;
- Construction progress for the $35 billion SEA 5000 Hunter Class guided missile frigate program;
- Construction commencement and milestones at the $535 million SEA 5000 Shipyard facility at Osborne, South Australia;
- The continued arrival of Australia's Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters; and
- The $50 billion SEA 1000 Attack Class future submarine program.
The government has confirmed over the next decade to 2028-29 the government will invest more than $200 billion in defence capabilities, including:
- The continuous naval shipbuilding program, which is investing around $90 billion to build world-class vessels, while also building a strong and viable Australian naval shipbuilding industry;
- Supporting the acquisition of 30 new self-propelled howitzers for the Australian Army – to be built and maintained at a purpose-built facility in Geelong;
- Building three new naval surface ships to be built at the Australian Marine Complex at Henderson, WA.
- Continuing to upgrade the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail battlespace management aircraft; and
- Building Australia's policy and intelligence capabilities to ensure Australia has a deeper understanding of the changing geo-political environment.
With the retirement of former minister for defence Christopher Pyne – the Coalition has an open cabinet posting to fill – with recently appointed Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds expected to fill the position.
Minister Reynolds was elected to the Senate in 2014 following more than 20 years’ experience at the national political level working for Ministers, Members of Parliament and the Liberal Party of Australia.
Minister Reynolds served for 29 years in the Australian Army as a Reserve Officer in a wide range of part- and full-time appointments. She combines a wealth of political, academic and professional corporate experience, including:
- Chief of Staff to the Minister for Justice and Customs;
- Project Director with Raytheon Australia;
- Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia;
- Commanding Officer of a Combat Service Support Battalion; and
- Adjutant General of Army, the Chief of Army’s key governance adviser.
The Coalition has used this relatively short election campaign to sell its credentials on defence and national security – with the FY2019-20 budget serving as the culmination for what became "business as usual" for the defence industry under the Coalition – despite its own internal leadership challenges.
Minister Reynolds was the first woman in the Australian Army Reserves to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier and was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross, she has completed a Master of Arts (Strategic Studies).
More to come.