Address at BAE Systems contract signing for Hawk 127 lead-in fighter, BAE Systems, Williamtown

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP

Minister for Defence

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24 February 2022

Ladies and gentlemen, it's a great honour to be here with you today. Firstly, Neville, thank you very much for your kind words. That wasn't your first time in front of a microphone. You gave it away when you spoke of your vocation, but they were beautiful words and I very much appreciate your welcome to country here today.

I want to also say thank you very much to all of the men and women would have been involved in the program and Hawk for a long period of time and good friends and good partners we have in BAE. It's a remarkable relationship that works across many platforms, as Gabby pointed out before, and there's enormous opportunity for us to continue to strengthen and deepen that engagement.

And as you know, there's a $270 billion investment over the course of this decade and I hope that we're able to find further opportunities, and we must for the sake of our future and stability of our country and our region.

Thank you very much it Air Vice-Marshal Rob Denney as the Head of Air Force Capability, and thank you very much to Tim. Thanks for having us back. It's great to be back here in Williamtown. Also to Group Captain Anthony Stainton, Senior Defence Force Officer here at
RAAF Base Williamtown. To Gabby, of course, who's moving on to greener pastures, but has done amazing things in her role as CEO of BAE Systems and has served our country with great distinction.

I also want to acknowledge all those who are in uniform or who have worn the uniform of our country and acknowledge the contribution and the sacrifice that you and your families have made to Australia.

I also today want to make special mention to a few of my friends who are here, to Brooke Vitnell, to Nell McGill and to James Thomson as well. Thank you very much for being here and for what you do, and you're very important to the Government's – you might have heard that we've got an election coming up – but to the Government's re-election prospects, and I'm really pleased you're able to be here with us today. So thank you very much.

Well today we're looking back at Air Force's history and the achievements which are varied and many. We have a very significant commitment to support our men and women of the Australian Air Force into the future, and we've seen just in recent days the stress and pressure that members of our Royal Australian Air Force can come under, the stress they have in a very important role. We've seen them undertake that role in the Middle East most recently. We've seen them undertake the role in the Arafura Sea only in the last few days.

It's my great pleasure today to formally announce that BAE Australia has been awarded – Gabby said 1.4, but that didn't include GST, so the Treasurer would be happier if I said $1.5 billion and we'll claw a bit of the GST back – but it's a $1.5 billion contract. It's an extension to the service and upgrade, as we heard, of the Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter, and the work that will be undertaken in this program is essential. It will provide support to those who will fly the Super Hornets, the Growlers, the Joint Strike Fighters and our pilots in training use the Hawk to sharpen their skills. They are amongst the best in the world and we need to maintain that edge over our adversaries.

The contract allows for the training platform to be used out to 2032 and it will, as was pointed out before, provide job opportunities here in the Hunter, but also in Perth as well, some 350 BAE jobs and almost 900 Australian supply chain jobs.

So for the local families in this community, it means stability, particularly following Covid, and many people have relied on an income having worked for BAE or worked for the Royal Australian Air Force, or for others in the supply chain over the course of Covid, when many others were missing out. There are many Australians who have done it tough over the course of the last couple of years, but to be able to provide that stability and the income during a period of uncertainty, and as we come out of Covid as well, is a very important point to note today. That's the reason that we provide support, we want to see Australian industries grow, we want to see the jobs continue to provide that support to families and obviously to get the Defence outcomes that we must have in our local community.

We have seen the defence industry grow significantly in recent years and this will provide in the sustainment phase, about $130 million a year, and 80 per cent of that will be Australian industry content. The Government is absolutely determined to make sure that we see that grow but at the same time, we want to increase our capability as quickly as we can because we do face an uncertain time in the Indo-Pacific, but as we're seeing in Ukraine at the moment, great instability around the world.

Twenty twenty two should be a year in which we continue to celebrate and recommit ourselves to peace, but that is not a certainty and I think most Australians are hearing that message, and that's why the investment here is incredibly important.So I want to say thank you very much again to BAE Systems, to all of our partners who have made this program possible over the course of the last couple of decades. I want to acknowledge all of those that are the trainers and provide the support to the next generation and really making sure that they can pass that baton on. We have some incredible young people coming through our organisation and we want that opportunity to be the best for them and if we can provide them with the platform that can give them the best training, that gives them the best chance of survival and the best chance of honing their skills, which ultimately will serve our national interests and the interests of our partners, which is important as well.

So thank you all for being here today. It's a very significant day for our country – one and a half billion dollars is a lot of money from our taxpayers. They expect it to be spent wisely and I know that in BAE we have that partner with the ability to spend it wisely and to leverage off that for a great community outcome here in the Hunter Valley and in Perth as well. So thank you all very much for being here today.


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