Topics: RAAF Amberley facilities, relocation of 17th Construction Squadron
Minister, can you give us a bit of an idea what it will take to get this project done – how many workers, that sort of thing?
So here we are in December, this time next year we will be seeing this project completed. In the mean time you can expect local contractors and local suppliers to be engaged by the builders, Watpac. It’s probably going to peak with about 200 people working on site here during the construction of 17th Construction Squadron’s new home. And, of course, it also means that those families are going to come – they’re going to need homes and schools to attend. So it’s just a win-win-win for the broader Ipswich community, and of course also the Amberley family which is now not just Air Force, but growing to be that Army – Air Force combination. All we need now is a bit of Navy.
You spoke before about how a billion dollars can be spent quite easily. This is a significant plan for the next decade – is that the message?
I think that this is a really clear message to the businesses of Ipswich, to say this is not a static base here. This is a growing base, and with it comes opportunities for our local economy. They know the Commonwealth is totally committed to securing our nation and therefore providing the services that we need. Relocating something like a whole Squadron is not an easy task. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into it. But it’s at the beginning of a very large expenditure here – one thousand million dollars is forecast over the next five years. The capabilities to our Defence Force and to our national security are very important, but so is the human element. It is the people, it is the families, it is the way they integrate into our community – the way they are welcomed by everyone here, from the mayor down, is legendary. And I think the families of the 17th Construction Squadron are going to be very pleased about their new home.
And from a national point of view, where does this start to put Amberley in terms of its position as a military installation?
Clearly, it continues to grow in significance. I’ve recently been down to Nowra, they’ve had about a $350 million upgrade. It’s extraordinary, the civil works. Here we’re talking in the vicinity of a billion dollars. So these sort of places – here, Townsville, Darwin, Robertson – these sort of places are really the epicentre of our not just, shall we say, single Service, in the form of Air Force, but now Air Force and Army. And so much more is now about joint operations. So collocating means you also get to not only know people within the regiment, across the different squadrons, but you’re interrelating all the time at a mess level, at a sporting level, at a social level with the families. And that only helps with our operational capability when we are actually doing the job in the field.
Does it give you some relief as the Minister to finally have this signed on the dotted line and get the green light after some disappointing delays?
Yes. It’s so disappointing for Defence. I mean for years they plan and then they are basically at the whims of changes of Government, and we want to provide them with some security and some permanency going forward about what we are determined to achieve. And hence the White Paper, when it comes out early in the New Year, will be both important to industry – defence industry – which needs to come to the heart of Australian industry, the innovation and science side of it is extraordinary. Only yesterday I was down at Bendigo seeing the new Hawkei and it’s just the most extraordinary new vehicle. It’s going to give us the safest capability in that class, but it’s Australian technology as well. So whether it’s our personnel in uniform, whether it’s the industry sectors that are supporting them, or whether it’s the broader Australian community embracing the job that our three Services do, they all play a really important role in giving us the security that we need, and the White Paper will give us that roadmap going forward.