TRANSCRIPT: ADDRESS TO 36SQN, RAAF AMBERLEY
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY AND E & OE
DATE: 22 NOVEMBER 2012
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be back at Amberley to celebrate a great day for Amberley, for Air Force, and for the Australian Defence Force, the arrival of our sixth C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft. Can I acknowledge the Chief of the Air Force, Geoff Brown, can I also acknowledge Ian Thomas, the president in Australia and the South Pacific for Boeing and can I acknowledge my state parliamentary colleague Ian Berry, the local state Member for Ipswich. Can I also acknowledge the men and women of the Royal Australian Air Force who work at Amberley, can I acknowledge those members of the workforce of Boeing who are also here and, most importantly, can I acknowledge the members of 36 Squadron who have the great job of looking after now our six C-17s.
Back in 2006 Australia received the first of what was then planned to be four C-17s. They successfully arrived over 2006, 2007 and 2008. Last year the Government decided that it wanted to double the size, effectively, of our C-17 fleet- so we purchased a fifth, and I recall a day, from memory, in September 2011 when we greeted the fifth here, and I said to the Chief of the Air Force on that day and to the men and women of the Amberley base, that I liked the fifth one so much we might buy a sixth one. And we did, and we got it in record time, so about 240 days later at a cost of $280 million we got our sixth C-17 which is this one over here. And just to show you the versatility and the capability of the C-17, we've got medical assist in the sixth C-17, and variously in the others we've got a couple of Tiger helicopters, some Bushmasters and an Abrams tank. The difference between a fleet of four and a fleet of six is shown today. If you've got a fleet of six invariably you can get four up and running at any given time.
We've got the fifth in the Middle East and we've got the sixth in maintenance. With a fleet of four, on a good day you'll have one or two so we have effectively doubled the heavy lift capacity. That's a great thing, because we have seen, right out of this base, the great work that Air Force and the Australian Defence Force can do with the C-17s, whether it's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in our own backyard, as we saw in the aftermath of the cyclones and the floods in Queensland itself, or whether it's overseas in Christchurch in the aftermath of an earthquake or whether it's in Tokyo and Japan in the aftermath of a tsunami.
And at one point in the aftermath of the tsunami, we had half of our then fleet in Japan, working with Japanese Self-Defense Forces and United States Japan-based forces, delivering Japanese Self-Defense Force personnel and equipment to aid those Japanese people adversely affected by the tsunami. Of course, we use the C-17s not just for humanitarian assistance, but also for our operations, one of our C-17s, as we speak, is today operating in the Middle East.
Today's a very important day for our effort in the Middle East. We see today effectively a transition of security in Uruzgan Province to the four infantry kandaks of the 4th Battalion of the Afghan National Army. We also see today the end of our security effort in East Timor, a stabilisation effort that's been ongoing now for a decade, and the C-17s will be involved in the repatriation of both men and women and equipment from East Timor and also from the Middle East as transition occurs.
So it's a very great day for the base. It's a very great day for Air Force. And it's a great day for the Australian Defence Force as we officially welcome our sixth C-17, the doubling of our heavy airlift capability, which we will put to good use- whether that's for security purposes, whether that's for peacekeeping purposes, or whether that is for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
And can I thank the men and women of Amberley and the workforce of Boeing who make sure, on a daily basis, that they are ready, able and safe to put into the sky to do that great work on Australia's behalf.
Thanks very much.