Minister for Defence – Opening of Airbus Group Australia-Pacific, Canberra


JOHNSTON:   Thank you to you Jens as the new Managing Director of Airbus Group, and of course the CEO of Australian Aerospace as it once was – I’m taking it for granted that that’s the transition across to the new name.

Spanish Ambassador, Your Excellency Viguera, it’s nice to see you as always.

Can I mention also Rear Admiral Tony Dalton and Air Vice Marshal Kym Osley, senior commanders of the ADF.

I want to also mention John Sharp, Ken Gillespe and Laurie Brereton as board members of – I take it – the new group, I haven’t seen the transition across as to who’s who in the zoo, but I take it you’re all holding the positions that you held previously.

As many of you know I’m a very big fan of Airbus in its iteration Australian Aerospace because of its determination to have an Australian footprint.

What you’ve done – in Brisbane particularly – is something that I think the Australian Government should pause to compliment and congratulate because we do buy aerospace products off-the-shelf, so it’s fairly easy for the Australian Government through the Australian Defence Force to say ‘this is the product that we want’.

It’s much more difficult to have the original equipment manufacturer of that product say ‘we will maintain a service and sustainment facility here in Australia’, and I want to say one of the reasons I was so keen to be here this morning is because you do that.

The helicopters, the ARH Tiger, the MRH90, the refueler KC-30, and the work you do with the C-130, now J, and the P-3 Orion is something that I see cross my desk almost every day.

Recently as many of you would know we had a very tragic situation with MH370. We put three P-3 Orions into the air, they flew out 2,000 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, had about two hours on station and then five hours home again.

So about an 11 or 12 hour turn around with some enormous number – I think 200 – sorties, not all Australian but we had international partners in looking for that aircraft. We had more than 200 people on the ground looking after just our aircraft.

Now when you’re in Western Australia you think you’re in one of the most remote places in the world, but when you’re 2,000 kilometres to the west of Western Australia it just doesn’t get much more remote and you want to be able to sit there in a P-3 and say ’the people who maintain this aircraft know what they’re doing and I know that I’ll be safe and that I’ll be coming home’.

So Jens can I say thank you. When I was up at Pearce looking at the output of our operation in looking for that aircraft I thought ‘the sustainment of this aircraft is first class, who’s the contractor?’ and of course it’s you guys, well congratulations for that.

It’s very, very important that all of us have confidence in that aircraft when we’re putting it in a place so far from home for such a long period of time.

I think we’re going to have, as time goes by, an enormous amount of capability delivered by the Airbus group.
The tankers with their very innovative – and not without some teething problems – boom and drogues, for our environment, is going to mean that we have the capacity to take our fighters and our Wedgetails, our E-7’s, and our C-17’s to places we did not dream of going in terms of range until that aircraft came along.

This is a massive force multiplier for us. I think going to evolve to be a hugely innovative aircraft that can not only do fighters but the general aviation support aircraft that I’ve mentioned.

In coming along today to open your premises here in Canberra I want to say thank you for the work that you do in providing and supporting the aircraft that the Australian Defence Force relies upon to provide the level of national security that we all want.

Jens thank you very much, and to you board gentlemen thank you very much for having the foresight to be part of an organisation that is committed to Australia, I want to say thank you very much for that, more power to you and it’s my pleasure to open your premises today.


Media Contacts (Defence Minister’s office):

Mark Dodd                        0477 389 560

Rebecca Horton                 0477 389 554

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