05 September 2017

Question: $200b – the largest peacetime build up of military capability in our nation’s history

My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the Minister update the House on the largest peacetime build-up of our military capability, a record $200 billion commitment by this government? How will this assist Australia to defend itself? And how does it compare to alternative approaches?

Mr PYNE (Sturt—Leader of the House and Minister for Defence Industry) (14:35): I thank the Member for Corangamite for her question. We sit in a region that we share with seven of the world’s 10 largest standing military forces and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations, including North Korea. The events of the last few months, particularly the last week, remind us of how important it is that the government has committed to and embarked on the largest build-up of our military capability in our peacetime history: a $200 billion investment. That’s why we’re taking this investment so very seriously.

On the sea, to support the Collins class submarines and the Anzac frigates, we are building three air warfare destroyers, the most lethal air warfare destroyers in the world. We’ve also, on this side of the House, committed to building 12 offshore patrol vessels, nine future frigates and 12 new class submarines that will also be patrolling our waters. The work for those projects is well underway. But we also have room in the integrated investment plan, which followed the Defence white paper, to upgrade the air warfare destroyers to meet a range of missile threats. That upgrade of the air warfare destroyers is costed. It’s in the integrated investment plan. All options for the capability of the air warfare destroyers—in terms of meeting missile threats—are being considered.

We’re also implementing a land based surface-to-air missile defence system, which we announced earlier this year. It is a $2 billion investment that will be provided by Raytheon Australia and CEA Technologies, an Australian radar company. It will install a surface-to-air missile defence system for our deployed forces and will intercept a range of air threats: planes, helicopters, drones, cruise missiles and rockets. So the government is not just investing in things like the Joint Strike Fighter, the Tritons, the Poseidons, the ships that I’ve talked about and the cybersecurity capabilities. We’re also investing in the kinds of platforms that can protect us from the missile threats from North Asia that have been talked about.

This, of course, stands in very stark contrast to the period when Labor was in office. In that period of six years, they did not commission one Australian-built vessel—not one Australian-built vessel! They reduced spending of GDP as a percentage on defence to 1.56 per cent—the lowest since 1938, the last year of appeasement. We will hit two per cent of GDP being spent on defence by 2020, two years early.

4 September 2017