Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price explains how Queensland can power Australia’s sovereign capability agenda.
I love Australia’s defence industry. Militant protesters, not so much. But hey, that’s why we live in a wonderful democracy like Australia – because everyone has the right to protest.
I was chatting to people at the C4 Edge stand – a consortium of 18 Australian companies that includes Queensland-based companies – at Land Forces 21 on Tuesday when there was a small commotion nearby.
Thankfully, the protester who had snuck into the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre with a bottle of red liquid was apprehended before she could do too much damage.
I was particularly thankful that I wasn’t on-hand on Wednesday to witness 20 or so protesters – of which several were arrested – storm the expo and make a nuisance of themselves.
Nonetheless, those incidents got me thinking – I actually have something in common with the protesters, even if we go about it in a completely different way.
While they might think they are the ones fighting for the right to protest for our freedoms, I am also fighting for our country’s freedom. It’s a freedom that gives those people the right to protest.
It might have been lost on them, but Land Forces 21 has everything to do with protecting us as a country, and protecting our freedoms.
It is actually all about maintaining a peaceful region and a free Australia.
Because despite the commentary, Australia is not looking for a fight.
The real fight I’m up for is to back our local defence companies and local jobs.
There were 700-plus companies who attended the Land Forces event, a staggering 36 per cent increase on the 2018 event, despite the uncertainty created by COVID-19.
Those men and women, from small, medium and large businesses, were there because they believe, as our government does, that we all have a role to play in defending this great country.
They display the very best our defence industry has to offer – the sort of ingenuity that will ensure we are capable of building what we need at home, when we need it.
You might ask, why is that so important?
We live in uncertain times, as our 2020 Strategic Update underlined.
But – there’s also nothing like a pandemic to get our nation to focus on what we need to build at home, to defend our home.
And as a result, Australia’s national security is at the very top of the list of the Morrison government’s priorities.
Considered, deliberate and strategic planning, anchored by our national interests and our core values, guides the delivery of the record $270 billion investment in the defence of our nation.
Queensland plays a massive role in that mission.
Whether it is established defence businesses, small or large, or even local building companies delivering key defence infrastructure, they are all benefiting from the hundreds of millions of dollars we’re investing in the maroon state’s defence industry.
The Army’s $5.2 billion fleet of new Boxer armoured vehicles are being built by Queenslanders at the $170 million, world-class Rheinmetall Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Redbank in Ipswich.
Holmwood Highgate, at Loganholme, will benefit from an additional $30 million contract on top of $108 million already spent with the company to support defence logistics vehicles.
We have invested $155 million in new and upgraded facilities at HMAS Cairns, which the Prime Minister and I recently announced.
That in itself will see up to 180 people employed at its peak, and 80 per cent of the work going to local subcontractors.
This government has also committed $31 million investment in the delivery of a new, three-storey Armoured Vehicle Simulation Centre in Townsville – which will support the capability of Army armoured vehicle units.
And finally, our $370 million contract with Saab Australia will see the company relocate its global Deployable Health System Design and Development Centre from Europe to south-east Queensland, creating 50 new full-time jobs.
These sorts of investments are replicated right across this great country of ours.
And it is investments like these – in companies, in infrastructure, and in equipment – that is making Australia safer for everyone, including those who want to protest against our efforts.
Melissa Price is the Minister for Defence Industry and member for Durack in Western Australia.