Subjects: PRIED testing in Darwin; defence industry funding in the NT
STEVEN CIOBO: Well it’s terrific to be here in Darwin and to see the expansion of, potentially, defence capability. What we're seeing today – and what we witnessed today – was the trial of new technology that's being developed here in Australia. It's a combination of Defence and the private sector working together to meet the needs that we’ll have in the future. It represents a really material step forward. The technology that we're trialling today, when it comes to fruition, when it’s commercialised – and assuming that we are able to roll it out – could potentially save lives. And the Australian Government is absolutely invested in making sure that the safety and security of the men and women who serve our nation in uniform is paramount.
In addition to that, of course, we see terrific opportunity to be able to roll out this technology in a range of other areas as well. You could potentially see application of this technology in relation to Border Force; increasingly we see the work that's being done by the Australian Federal Police and other agencies in a variety of different theatres. We could also see this used potentially by the Navy and others in relation to their operations throughout the Pacific, Pacific Island countries, as well as the enforcement work that we do in East Africa and other theatres like the Middle East.
So, today a very concrete example of the reason why the Coalition Government is continuing to invest very significantly in building Australia's capability. We want to make sure that as part of our $200 billion build-up of our Defence Industry that we are investing in next-generation technology. Today is an example of a terrific million-dollar partnership between Defence – through the Defence Innovation funding – as well as the private sector. This will help to save lives in the future as well as increasing our capability in a really material way.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Should this trial be successful, is this the sort of system that the Government would invest in for our Defence Force?
STEVEN CIOBO: We always take decisions based on what's in the best interests of our Defence Force and other government agencies. If this trial is successful, then we could see this rolled out across the Australian Defence Force, as well as to other agencies. That's going to help to save lives, it's going to help to ensure that we are more accurate and better able to ensure that we can detect all sorts of different compounds, from illegal drugs through to, potentially, explosives.
JOURNALIST: And what are factors that you’d be looking at in order for this to progress from a prototype?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, there's always a myriad of different considerations. There's cost considerations; there’s considerations around efficiency and efficacy. You want to make sure that you’re not getting a whole heap of false positives and those types of things. So, all of that is taken into account. But the early feedback that I've had off this trial is looking very positive.
JOURNALIST: And how important is it for the Australian Government to invest in these innovative technologies?
STEVEN CIOBO: The Liberal-National Government is absolutely, deeply committed to continuing to invest in Australian capability and Australian industry. We are improving Australia's Defence spending; building it up over $200 billion. And part of what we've seen today is a concrete example of our investment together with the private sector in building capability. We don’t just want to be- we don't just want to import technology from abroad; we want to develop it here in Australia. We want to create jobs in Australia, we want to boost the capability of Australian businesses, and who knows; potentially, through the application of Aussie innovation, we’ll be able to export technology like this and others all around the world in the future.
JOURNALIST: There is going to be a lot of Defence spending here in the Northern Territory. How committed is the Government to ensuring that any spending in the Northern Territory is kept local and local contractors are used for the work that is made available here?
STEVEN CIOBO: The Liberal-National Government is deeply committed to boosting our Defence spending. We went through a period where we saw Australia's Defence spending fall to one of the lowest levels since World War II. We are now deeply invested in not only boosting Defence spending and Defence capability; we’re also growing the Australian industrial base.
Now, of course we make no apologies to the fact that we want a large part of that spending to go to local businesses - we want local businesses to be involved in the sustainment of our Defence Forces, want local businesses to be involved in the creation of new intellectual property. So, we will make sure that we make it as a key priority to invest in boosting capability.
First and foremost always is the safety and security of the men and women who wear the uniform of the Australian Defence Force. They serve our country; we want to look after them. We want to make sure that they have maximum effectiveness with respect to lethality where required, but also the protection of those men and women. And of course we want them to be very effective at what they do. They are increasingly being called upon to do a diverse array of different exercises - it's not just about the defence of our nation, it's also the work that we do in the humanitarian support, the work that we do in terms of support for law enforcement and those kinds of missions throughout the Pacific and other theatres, and all of this comes back to this reason why we're so deeply invested in that spending.
JOURNALIST: And there are reports the US Marine Rotational Force in Darwin will be increased to close to the forecast 2500 next year - is this increase likely?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I’ll leave those types of issues directly to the Minister for Defence; that’s within his portfolio, not mine, and so I think it’s best that you direct those questions to him.
JOURNALIST: Yep. What do you think about the recent sacking of the head of the US Rotational Forces here in Darwin?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well again, I’ll make the same remark.
JOURNALIST: Yep, okay. And would the Australian Defence Force take the same action for one of its officers?
STEVEN CIOBO: Again, I’ll leave that to the Minister for Defence. I’m Minister for Defence Industry.
JOURNALIST: How strategically significant is Darwin, given the concerns of China's expansion in the South China Sea and with our Pacific island neighbours?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, Darwin is of course strategically very important to Australia. That's the reason why for decades we’ve been so invested in building capability. We see a genuine partnership between the private sector and government with respect to our capability. We're going to continue to invest record amounts of money in our Defence Forces. We're going to continue to partner with the private sector to boost the capability of our Defence Forces, and we do that in conjunction with the private sector. Darwin is going to continue to play a critical role in that respect. The Liberal-National Government will remain deeply committed to advancing the interests of Darwin, to advancing the Defence Force, and to advancing the private sector here in northern Australia.
We see that as being part of Australia's future and it’s indeed part of the reason, if you look more holistically, why we developed the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Plan, because we want to make sure that across northern Australia the Liberal and National Government will always stand behind industry, the creation of jobs from resources through to Defence and all manner of different industries to make sure that the prospects for northern Australia just go from strength to strength.
JOURNALIST: Great. And Defence spending has been given a significant boost here in the Top End - what's your message to Territory businesses who want to get work from this spending?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, they are seeing an incredible investment by the Liberal-National Government into the Defence Force and I make – I pull no punches – we are absolutely deeply committed to seeing strong cooperation between the private sector and government around Defence Force capability.
So, my message to Northern Territory businesses is: let's work closely together, let's build capability, let's be partners on this journey that's not just about the next three months or six months, but literally is about years and years ahead. We are going to continue to invest in boosting capability here in Darwin. That's government, that's private sector both working in tandem to make sure that we present Australia’s face to the world is as strong a position as possible.
JOURNALIST: Great. And you might just repeat this answer before, but what is the likelihood of increased naval presence in Darwin?
STEVEN CIOBO: Again, I’ll refer you to Minister Pyne on that.
JOURNALIST: Can you make a commitment that local companies and local businesses will be chosen for any work that is done in the Northern Territory over any interstate business that might be interested as well?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, what we want to make sure is that we get businesses that are up to the task. Now, obviously we will always make sure that we can wherever we possibly can support local businesses. But that doesn't mean that local businesses went over any one else irrespective of whether or not they're up to the task.
We will always back capability, but we're also prepared to invest in capability. So, if a business isn't quite up to the task yet but with the right application of some support they can boost their capability into the future, well then we'd be prepared to look at investing to make sure that we can build that capability into the future. That is precisely what lay behind the Industry Capability Plan that the Government has; that's why the Liberal-National Government is wanting to make sure that we invest taxpayers’ money wisely, boost our Defence capability, boost our industrial capability, invest for the future - because we know that is the key to a long term successful future between government and the private sector.
JOURNALIST: Can I just bring it back to the PRIED in particular-
STEVEN CIOBO: To the what in particular, sorry?
JOURNALIST: The device.
STEVEN CIOBO: Yep.
QUESTION: How likely is it that this will be on the ground?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, this is the beginning of- this is the first trial of it. It looks promising when it’s in early stages, but, you know, there’s a lot of hurdles that still have to be jumped over and so we’ll just allow that process to work through.
JOURNALIST: Is there a timeline as to when we might be able to make a decision as to whether or it would be something that’s purchased for the Navy?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I just make the same point again: we have to make sure that we jump over all the hurdles; we want to make sure that it's value for money, we want to make sure that it's effective, we want to make sure that we are not getting a whole range of false positives. And we want to make sure that this is an example of an investment - which so far looks very promising - an investment between government and the private sector that looks in its early stages to be providing improved capability.
Office of the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Gold Coast