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The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Defence
Defence Media: email@example.com
10 March 2022
JULIAN SIMMONDS MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Alright, good morning. Thank you, everybody for being here. I'm Julian Simmons, I am the Federal Member for Ryan. It's within my community here that the Gallipoli Barracks are situated. It's great to be here with the Minister for Defence and of course, the Prime Minister. I just want to start by, first of all, welcoming you all here to the Gallipoli Barracks and to thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to my community.
My community was the first one he came to when the border reopened with Queensland late last year. I know he was up here in the Disaster Coordination Centre with the Brisbane City Council last week during the floods, and now he's come back during our recovery and rebuild phase here in the community. So thank you, Prime Minister, for your commitment to our community.
As we're sitting in the Gallipoli Barracks. I really want to acknowledge the 500 serving men and women who have come out of the Barracks to help my community when they were in need. When we went through the flood last week, they were some or if not the first on the ground. They were there before the mud army. They were there before a lot of the other government agencies, particularly in areas like St Lucia. They were there helping out clean out flooded basements and clean out flooded properties. When I was, I was there when they arrived in St Lucia and we had an elderly lady who was volunteering, who had her house flooded fall over in the flood waters and the medic was right on her. So thank you to those ADF men, women who have been helping with the flood. It meant so much to our community. They were in tears when they saw those serving men and women arrive. And then finally, I just want to say thank you as well as I'm sure the PM and the Minister for Defence will, to the families of the servicemen and women who have been helping out. I was cleaning out a flooded community group on Tuesday. I was with a partner of a Defence Force member. She lost her house during the Townsville floods when they were out there. Now they're stationed down here and her partner is currently on a humanitarian deployment and she's going through this flood. Having gone through the Townsville one by herself, and that is the kind of sacrifices that our families of our Defence Service men and women make, they do it with a smile because they know how important it is to our country, so thank you to those families as well. Thank you to the Prime Minister for coming and seeing the rebuilding effort and for deploying the ADF in the way that you have. It has been a tremendous help to our community, and I'll hand over to you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much. Well to Julian, he was one of the first calls I made when I came through this last Sunday, a week ago and he was out delivering water bottles door to door in his community. And so I want to thank all the local members of Parliament here from right across the aisle, state and federal who've done a great job, I think, in supporting their communities here in south east Queensland. Over the course of this very difficult past two weeks as the weather bomb, as it was described by the Premier, fell on the city and fell on the surrounding areas up to Gympie, Maryborough and other places. And of course, the devastation that I've only just witnessed yesterday down there in the Northern Rivers, which is a terribly, terribly difficult scene as it's been very difficult here in Queensland. So thank you, Peter, for your great leadership in your role as Minister of Defence and to all of the senior commanders who've been involved in leading the defence effort here in responding to these not just this natural disaster, but over the last three and a half years, time after time, whether it's been flood, whether it's been drought, whether it's been cyclones, the pandemic, supporting people in aged care facilities, responding to any number of difficult natural disasters and other situations. We've called on our defense forces time and time and time again, and they have never failed us and they never will. And I will salute them for the tremendous service that they have offered, not just as they've gone about their first job, which is always to defend our country. They are out there in Tonga at the moment. They've been in many places around the world doing a very dangerous job, but they have at all times been available to support the civilian effort here in Australia when it's come to defending our own homeland against the national natural disaster threat that we're faced on too many occasions here in this country. So thank you, Peter, and thank you to all of those who are here today.
I was only here just over a week ago as they were ready to deploy and support that effort here in Brisbane with the cleanup efforts, and I am pleased that I'll be speaking with the Premier after this press conference and we'll be speaking about a number of issues. Of course, the flood issues being very significant in those and moving to the state of emergency declaration, which I spoke to the New South Wales Premier about yesterday. I'll speak to the Queensland Premier about that today and hopefully that will enable us to press forward with that tomorrow when I see the Governor-General in Canberra, I want to thank the Brisbane City Council and Mayor Schrinner for the great job that he's done together with Premier Palaszczuk, I got to say that the coordination, the integration, the cooperation which we've seen here in Queensland has been tremendous. Queensland are very used to dealing with natural disasters, whether it's up in the flood crisis some years ago around Townsville in northern north western Queensland, most recently here with these weather bomb events that we've seen in south east Queensland, I want to thank everybody for the integration and cooperation that has occurred here in Queensland.
It's been a tremendous effort and to give you an idea of the scale of change, and this is not meant as a criticism I want to stress. In the 2011 floods, Prime Minister Gillard rightly went out and deployed the ADF to support the Brisbane flood effort, using every capacity that they had at that time to do that. The difference between 2011 and today is we've been able to deploy here four times the number of ADF and do it a week quicker. Now that's because of the build up of our defense capability that we've been able to put in place over many years now. And it's a testimony to the skill and the experience and the lessons learned from many natural disasters by the people who joining us behind the cameras here today in our defense forces. What they do, I just met a young woman whose job it is to get skip bins. I mean, it's pretty hard to get skip bins sometimes at the best of times. But you can imagine how hard it is to get skip bins in south east Queensland at the moment and in other parts of the country. These are the practical everyday things that defense forces are doing through the course of this incredibly difficult flood event.
An update on a couple of those points, then on what's occurring with the flood response. Some 400,000 claims through Services Australia have now been processed, and that's $480 million that has gone out into the pockets of Australians who need that emergency financial support right now. And that's occurred since the last time I stood before you here in Brisbane. So that's not a long period of time and Services Australia has surged to 5,000 people to ensure, and we pulled Services Australia volunteers from other departments right across the public service to ensure that we can get what has almost been half a billion dollars out the door. And as I announced yesterday, down in the northern rivers, where the flooding is not just a flood event, this is a natural disaster catastrophe beyond anything they have ever seen at any time in any flood in history in that part of the world. And those three local government areas in particular, and we're looking at other impacted areas in those districts to see how we might extend some of that support. I spoke to the Mayor of Ballina yesterday, last night about those issues. And just like in any natural disaster like we've seen here in Queensland, you define a couple of LGAs early on the most impacted. And as the damage assessments come in, you will add others to that list when you go through the proper process and that's what's still occurring. And even now, we are continuing to provide support here in south east Queensland as well. Here in Queensland, specifically, $170 million has been put in the pockets of Queenslanders to support them as they go through this very difficult flood event here. And in New South Wales, $309 million has been already provided in those areas.
Right now in across the defense forces, there are some 5,000, this will be achieved by the end of today, 5,748 Defense Force personnel deployed across Navy, Army and RAAF. That's 1,289 here in Queensland and 4,459 in New South Wales, which includes 2,918 specifically in northern New South Wales. And so that is an extraordinary deployment of force as they've been able to be staged and moving into those positions and doing an incredible job. And in all of those places, particularly if you indulge me for the sake of those who are listening in from New South Wales, particularly in the northern rivers, we are providing continuing aviation support, relief task plant task recon for future engineering works, heavy plant operations in Lismore. Food loading at the food distribution points where that's been tasked, aerial route reconnaissance is underway, continuing to assist with helicopter operations out of Southern Cross University. That's for food distribution, particularly now and ensuring supply chains. There's an ADF presence in Casino now. There's ICR surveillance on flood damage regions that's being conducted and a 500 personnel camp construction is commencing in the vicinity of Lismore, as we speak. There are many other points we can go to, if that is the questions people would like raised.
The other very important reason I'm joined here today by the Minister for Defence is to make a significant announcement, which means the biggest increase in the size of our defense forces in peacetime in Australian history. This is a significant vote of confidence in our defense forces, but it's a significant recognition by our government, which has always been clear eyed about the threats and the environment that we face as a country, as a liberal democracy in the Indo-Pacific. Today, I'm announcing that we will boost our defense forces by some 18 and a half thousand, which will take our defense forces to 80,000 in number. This will cost some $38 billion out to 2040, and this is a significant investment in our future force. We have an outstanding defense force and that is recognized, I believe, not just by Australians here, but it's I know it is recognized by our allies and partners around the world. The reason we have been able to secure incredible agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom in particular in AUKUS, is because they know what our defense forces can do and they know what our government is investing to ensure they more and more capable. We don't leave our tasks of defense to others. We don't leave it to them. We take it up ourselves. And that means we're a contributor. And with this investment, we're going to make sure that the Australian Defence Forces are a big contributor for generations to come, as more and more people take up those careers in our defense forces.
To give you some perspective, when we came to government defence force spending as a share of our economy was 1.57 per cent. It was the lowest level since the Second World War. If we had kept defence force spending at the same rate as what the Labor Party left us, there would be $55 billion less spent in our defense forces today. Just ponder that for a minute. And this year alone, there would be $10 billion less being spent on our defense forces this year. Now, when you think about it with a Defence Force annual budget of just over $40 billion, it would be a quarter less than it is today if we stuck with what Labor thought was the commitment to defense that was necessary in peacetime. That's not a false gap. That's a real gap. That's a yawning gap. That's a chasm when it comes to the difference between what our government believes in when it comes to the support of our defense forces. $55 billion would not have been spent on our defense forces and our capability if we'd kept the settings as we inherited them. That's the last time we heard from a Labor Government about what they thought about investing in our defense forces. And it's an indictment. There is a big difference when it comes to these issues.
Now across the services, these additional 18 and a half thousand will be supporting future submarines, the Arafura class fleet, the Hunter class maritime targeting, long range fires, information warfare, warcraft. The Minister for Defence will go into more detail on these issues. Airlift, air base capabilities, missile defense space and in particular, cyber. We're building and continue to build a future defence force because their first job, let's not forget, is to defend Australia. That is their first job, and that's what we're equipping them to do. We greatly appreciate the extraordinary work they've done to support us in civilian tasks. But their first job is to defend this country. And the decision that we've made as a government after much planning to lift our defence force to a whole new level is designed to achieve that purpose to keep Australians safe. Peter.
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Thank you very much, PM. Thank you to Julian as well. I know that from having spoken to some friends and family in his electorate and with Trevor Evans and so many others. Kevin Hogan and and on both sides of the aisle, I know local communities are really pleased and proud of the efforts and the leadership provided by MPs like Julian Simmons. So thank you very much, Julian, for the work that you've done and also for your continued support of our people on base here at Gallipoli Barracks. I'm really conscious of the fact that we've got men and women in uniform here today, and I'm incredibly proud. In fact, I couldn't be prouder of the work of the Australian Defence Force that's been undertaken here on the base. The leadership provided, the response locally. The impact on their own families and the way in which they've been able to deal with that reality, whilst at the same time helping out other households when they know that they can't go home clean out their own. And that is an enormous sacrifices made by volunteers, it's made by those within the reserves. And it's made of course by those who's in the regular three services of the Australian Defense Force.
We've been positioning, as you know, in the lead up to the floods, and we've done that in Queensland and New South Wales, and we've done it in a faster fashion, as the Prime Minister points out, than even was the case in 2011 and the work, the effort, the expertize, the skill and frankly, the confidence that the Australian Defence Force brings to local communities to help lift those spirits. Because we will get through this as the Prime Minister, I think rightly pointed out yesterday the devastation that we experienced in North Queensland, north-western Queensland, cattle being washed down rivers, the horrific scenes. Those communities have recovered because of the support of our nation, because of the support of the Australian Defence Force and with the support of the Australian Defence Force and those volunteers and those communities and those groups that are working on the ground now, we will rebuild better and we will make sure that we invest into those communities and that's what's happening. We can't do that without a very significant investment into the Australian Defence Force. When you look around the Gallipoli Barracks here, it's similar to other sites around the country, including across the north, where we're spending $8 billion. But the new accommodation to new facilities here would have been possible if we hadn't been taking out that $55 billion over the course of recent years.
Let's be very frank about it. We wouldn't have the professionalism, we wouldn't have the vehicles behind us, the upgrade in Land 400, the investment that we're making in the submarines and across the three services if we had continued to flatline and to take money from Defence, in fact, we wouldn't have as many people standing in the audience today if we didn't make the decision early on and make the decisions within the budget and manage the budget as it's been managed over recent years during the course of COVID, we wouldn't have the numbers within the Australian Defence Force today, and we certainly wouldn't be in a position to make the announcement that we're making today to augment those numbers and to build them because the capability that we will achieve over the course of the next decade is significant, internationally recognized. And it's absolutely necessary when you look at what's happening in Europe at the moment.
People who believe that President Putin's only ambition is for the Ukraine don't understand the history that our military leaders understand. If people think that the ambitions within the Indo-Pacific are restricted just to Taiwan and that there won't be knock on impacts if we don't provide a deterrence effect and work closely with our colleagues and with our allies, than they don't understand the lessons of history. And so it is going to be necessary to supplement, particularly in space, in cyber, in our naval assets, our underwater capability, our autonomous vehicles, both on the land and under the sea because that provides a deterrence. And it makes us a more credible partner with the United Kingdom, with the United States and with NATO, with Japan, with India and many other partners in the southwest Pacific. And if we are to rely on them, they need to rely on us and we have the best trained men and women in the world filling the ranks of the Australian Defence Force and today the supplement of 18 and a half thousand extra will talk to the capacity that we need in the future, and it will build on the incredible skill set that we have at the moment.
So I'm really proud to be part of a Government, Prime Minister, I have to say that has turned around the fortunes of the Australian Defence Force. The reality is to be very, very frank about it, the Labor Party lost control of our borders. And if you can't protect your borders and if you can't stare down people smugglers, how on earth can you pretend that you're the same as this government that not only can you deal with making sure that we continue to stop the people smugglers, but that you can stop adversaries and those that would seek to do harm to our country in the coming decades. So we have made conscious decisions, not just today, but since we were elected to put more money into our men and women more money into the investment in the Australian Defence Force. And this is our latest downpayment, our latest investment back into the ADF to recognize the incredible effort that they provide and they are providing now right across Queensland and New South Wales in the flood affected areas. And I want to say thank you very much to the work that they do.
PRIME MINISTER: Happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, a lot of people are saying that the threat from China is now. The 80,000 troop buildup won't happen until 2040. Is that too little, too late?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you must have missed the point I was making before. We've increased investment in our defense forces by $55 billion …
JOURNALIST: I understand that, but I'm asking about …
PRIME MINISTER: I'm answering your question. $55 billion of increased investment in our defense forces means we are already more reinforced now than we previously would have been. I mean, defence spending as a share of our economy is 2.1 per cent today. That's up from 1.5 per cent. When I became Prime Minister, it was 1.9. It's now 2.1 and specifically the additional capabilities that is enabling us to achieve to be defending Australia right now and into the future. The purchase of the Tomahawk cruise missiles and the Hobart class destroyers, the purchase of joint air to surface standoff missiles, extending our range for our hornets and our Joint Strike Fighters. The purchase of long range missiles for our Hornets. The doubling down on our investment in hypersonics. And accelerating our guided weapons enterprise by years to ensure we can making missiles here in Australia. This is all the additional capacity this government has delivered. We would never have been this ready if we'd stuck where the Labor Party had it in, not in just neutral, but actually gearing down when they left office.
And so Australia is more prepared, more capable, more able to not just do what we need to do as a defence force in our own country and for our own interests, but to join the capability that is delivered by allies and United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and India, as Peter has said, but also many others right now with the Singaporeans, they've got two helicopters in the air supporting our flood operations. And I want to thank Prime Minister Lee earnestly. This wasn't something we even had to ask for. They were just seamlessly joined in. We have built a web of alignment among like minded countries in our region to defend this country. We're putting the boots on the ground. We're putting the planes in the air and we're putting the ships out to sea and the submarines also below the surface. But in addition to that, we have formed the alliances. We have formed the webs of alignment, which is keeping Australians safe. So we're better prepared today. We are more ready today than I think many could have imagined would have been possible given the legacy that we inherited from the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Speaking, speaking of the submarines, the Queensland Premier has declined so far to engage in any conversations about the submarine base, saying more detail is needed. Can you give us more detailed timelines, perhaps of when studies or conversations will happen?
PRIME MINISTER: That process has already begun. And there are three locations we're looking at for the east coast base for the submarines. They are here in Brisbane, port of Brisbane I should say, as opposed to the Story Bridge. That's obviously not being contemplated. And in addition to that in the Hunter and in the Illawarra. Now I have noticed, to be fair, that there have been a number of Labor voices that haven't been very supportive of this initiative. The same has been true down in the Illawarra, in the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Keneally has not been supportive of this, so I'm not quite sure whether this view comes about that there's some sort of equivalence between the government and the Labor Party when it comes to the defense. Their record doesn't demonstrate it. And even on our most recent announcement, they um and they uh and they equivocate and they wrestle with themselves. Our position is instinctive. We need an east coast base for the submarines to translate to our nuclear-propelled submarine capability. You need to operate as Prime Minister Hawke understood on both coasts. So we get that and we move into it instinctively and deliberately and decisively. Because, you know, commitment to defense isn't just about the dollars you invest and the support you provide. It's the instincts you have.
Plenty of people can support what we've done in AUKUS, but only this government would have initiated. Only this government would have taken the steps to achieve it, and it was an enormous undertaking undertaking no other country has been provided with the technology, the nuclear propelled submarines by the Americans other than the British, and that occurred in the late 50s. And Australia has achieved that under this government by taking the initiative. Defence is about taking the initiative and when it comes to that issue, there is has not been, sadly, the bipartisanship that you would expect. People can catch up later. But that what that tells you is they weren't there in the first place.
JOURNALIST: Why is the Port of Brisbane being considered given it's privately owned and has the Government had conversations [inaudible].
PRIME MINISTER: Peter, do you want to talk about that as well, because this has been quite an extensive process. I mean, we went through in and out of the 17 locations before settling on those three and and there's quite a process now to finalise where the most appropriate location is. And, you know, Brisbane is in the mix for that, but Peter may want to speak to that.
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Thanks, PM. Look, I think the first point to make is if you say that you are supportive of the AUKUS agreement and you say that you're supportive and that you're in lockstep with the Morrison Government when it comes to the acquisition of the at least eight nuclear powered submarines, then it's passing strange that you don't support having a port to dock these submarines, I mean, they don't just lurk out in the bay and not coming to shore at some point. So when you've got Kevin Rudd, you've got Kristina Keneally and others out there, that are trying to undermine what we're trying to do on the submarine program. I think it needs to be called out. And I mean, the Premier here in Queensland has a very strange position compared to, say, the Premier of New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales, on the same available information is committing to what he sees as an opportunity for New South Wales, thousands of jobs. So the industry that's behind the submarines, it's the sustainment, it's the money the visiting platform spend in a local economy when they come to visit. And when you've got an enclosed reactor, it's not being refueled. It's not a technology of the 1980s. This is a cutting edge technology. This technology allows the submarine to work for months at the bottom of the ocean and give our adversaries doubt about whether or not we could strike them. Now ...
JOURNALIST: But has the Government had the conversation?
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Now the government has obviously, with the work that's been done by Navy and by their consultants has shortlisted three sites, in some cases they will have had some discussions, but in some cases they haven't, because this is a report that at the time was top secret for the government until the decision had been made to shortlist three. And those negotiations and discussions will be ongoing now. I don't have any doubt that the Port of Brisbane, given we've been dealing with them for a long period of time and in Newcastle and the Hunter would see the opportunity not only for their own precinct, but for their state as well. I don't understand, and the Premier is running from the cameras as to whether or not she supports something that could create thousands of jobs for Queenslanders and something that is an integral part of the delivery of our AUKUS commitment and the commitment to the nuclear submarines. So I mean, Labor, you know, talks a big game when they're in opposition, which is what Mr Albanese is doing. But it's clearly the case that behind the ranks in Labor, they have a real problem with our decision to acquire the nuclear powered submarines.
JOURNALIST: Civil defense struggles to meet current recruitment and retention targets. How do you think these ambitious numbers can be achieved?
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, Defence is very conscious and I've had a number of conversations before with the CDF and VCDF about how we can retain. I think we lose people at way too young an age after we've invested an enormous amount in them. I am very conscious of people being posted for two years and their children being dragged from school to school. I'm conscious of the impact on predominantly mothers, wives in that arrangement, where a generation ago it might have been okay to up the family and to move them to a new location every two or three years. But in the modern age, we've got to be conscious of the career of both peoples in that relationship. And so I want and I've asked Defence to look at ways in which we can stabilise that workforce so that people can pursue their respective careers so that their children can have greater stability so that they can have a greater connection. I don't want to see the rate of separation that we have within ADF families. I don't want to see the pressure that that puts on people when their estranged from their children. I don't want to see the financial pressures that are brought to bear when families separate. So I think there's a lot more that we can do in relation to retention. And we'll listen to the men and women, as I do as we move around the country about ways in which we can improve it to improve retention. Because I think that is a fair point to make.
In terms of recruitment. I think as we've seen over COVID, we have significant interest in people coming into the ADF. When we get a mining boom, we lose people from the ADF and other spikes in the economy. All of that will be dealt with and we will look at ways in which we can improve both those coming, the numbers coming in and the retention piece, which I think is incredibly important.
JOURNALIST: Can we just go back to the submarines quickly. They are, I guess deep water is needed. An east coast base in Brisbane would involve the submarine traveling on the surface. Also, a Defence report in 2011 noted that one of Brisbane's strengths was the existence of the Barracks, which has since been sold. So so what has changed to make Brisbane in the top three locations for the base?
PRIME MINISTER: One of the most important things of establishing a future for nuclear submarine capability is the people you need to be on those boats and the people who are supporting those boats. And that means you need to be able to base these operations close to a very major population centre, whether that be in Brisbane or indeed in the Newcastle-Sydney-Illawarra-Wollongong precinct of New South Wales. That means you're drawing on academic capabilities, scientific capabilities, universities, defence industry. All of this is critical for the successful operation of a nuclear propelled submarine base and not just for our submarines, as I'm sure Peter would agree because we would be looking in the much near term to be able to have visiting and even basing nuclear powered submarines from our allies and partners within AUKUS as well. And beyond our AUKUS partnerships. And so this capability is necessary, and to draw from that workforce will be essential to the support.
Now, there's no doubt that in Brisbane, there are some logistical and technical issues and they have been identified through this process as there are issues with the other two other sites, and they would have to be worked through in coming to an ultimate decision. But having considered 17 locations, these were the three that were shortlisted by the Defence as to the ones that can be best progressed. Now which of those ultimately be's the site? You could be right. It could be that the limitations of the Brisbane option means that it doesn't become the preferred option. But I can tell you another thing that's going to be important in the government's decision on this, well at least a decision my government would take. And that is the support that there is coming from state and local government to support the basing of such an operation. Now I've been, I've got to say, in terribly, terribly encouraged by the conversation that I had with Premier Perrottet about this. I've also been excited, I’ve got to say, by the more local response we've had from the Hunter in New South Wales, who seem very keen on going ahead with this, there's been from Labor councillors and Greens and others down in the Illawarra, a lot of noise that have come back in response to these things. And these are not irrelevant issues. You want to be able to working in a location where people and governments want to work with you to establish this capability.
So if local governments and state governments don't want to be involved, well, they'll be doing themselves out of a potentially very significant investment and capability and jobs in their own communities. If that's their choice, that's that's their choice.
JOURNALIST: Is that the vibe you're getting from Queensland, then?
PRIME MINISTER: Well at the moment, it's pretty quiet, but I'm looking forward, and I have no doubt that will come up in discussions I have with the Premier today, and I look forward to those being practical discussions. I must say the discussions I had with Premier Palaszczuk are always of that nature. We'll talk about the Olympics today and we've been looking to have that conversation for a couple of weeks. But obviously, the impact of floods and other events in Ukraine and so on has prevented that. So I'm looking forward to those discussions. That's following this press conference. It'll be over the phone. We don't have the opportunity to meet in person today because of other scheduling. But we'll have that conversation today and I'm interested to hear what her view is about these issues. I was in contact with her before we made the announcement to give them a heads up that Brisbane had been shortlisted and so they're now engaged. So we're in that process. But the very technical issues you raised are the very things that have to be worked through. We don't we don't discount that. We don't think they're not issues. They they are issues. There are issues with other sites as well. But you need to be able to work with people who are prepared to resolve them to put it in place.
JOURNALIST: On the announcement today, it seems to be mostly targeted towards uniformed personnel. What about the civilian workforce that's going to be needed to [inaudible] $270 billion?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, there's several thousand in that commitment as well. On top of it ...
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] continue to rely on heavily paid consultants.
PRIME MINISTER: No, there is a [inaudible] about 3,000,
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: So it goes back to Tim's point earlier as well about the ramping up the workforce, which in many cases is tied to the acquisition and delivery timetable. So there are people in uniform and people out of uniform who form part of those programs and the management of them. So you'll see in some of the numbers that was the dramatic increase, as you say, is in the number of people in uniform. There is an increase in the ASL of the Australian Public Service, so that, we'll give you those numbers afterwards. But that increases. But as I say, not at the same rate because we want to increase the numbers in uniform, but it increases the accord with the acquisition of those those programs.
PRIME MINISTER: It's about two and a half thousand.
JOURNALIST: But the number of consultants the Government [inaudible], will that number decrease?
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, I think if they were involved in essential work with Defence, no, it won't. And you'll see many people with expertise that leave Defence and go and work for different companies that we engage because they've got a skill we want in a particular program. And so where it's unnecessary, of course we won't continue, but we engage those people because they add value to the program and hopefully end up saving a lot of money and time.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Queensland Government has highlighted the flood mitigation program. Out of 20 they applied for only three were given the funding. Can you tell Queenslanders why more of those projects weren't funded?
PRIME MINISTER: The flood mitigation works in Australia are a primarily a state responsibility, so you may well ask the same question. Why isn't the Queensland Government funded those? We have been seeking to get a whole range of dams built in Queensland for the last eight years, and we've had an enormous amount of frustration to get dams built in this state. We have offered billions and billions for dams here in Queensland, and we would love to get on and build those dams. I know the Deputy Prime Minister is even more keen to go and build those dams. Our focus as I said yesterday, there has been frustration in the necessary mitigation, and other works, in the northern rivers of New South Wales. Those decisions at a local level have been frustrated for a generation, and I gave our commitment yesterday that we would be committing heavily to putting those works in place because we now have a Mayor in Lismore who is prepared to get on and do that, and I think that's fantastic. I gave him that support yesterday and the New South Wales Premier, I know will be doing the same. So, you know, we work with all governments around the country, but the primary responsibility for these issues rests with the Queensland Government. I mean, all through the pandemic, I was reminded every single day by premiers and by the media about what the responsibilities of state governments had and and the restrictions they could put in place and how they could tell people to live their lives and they were their responsibilities.
JOURNALIST: This is federal funding that could have been made available.
PRIME MINISTER: The federal funding was allocated across a large number of projects here in Queensland and other states and territories. It wasn't an unlimited fund and priorities were set and decisions were made. But when it comes to particularly urban water management and things of that nature, these are responsibilities of local authorities and the state government. So I think the question I could equally put to you, why haven't they funded them? Why, why do state governments constantly come to the federal government to pay for things that are responsibilities of state government?
JOURNALIST: Do you understand the frustration of people out there who might be listening to this press conference, and they've all they've heard and going to the pandemic as well, is governments blaming each other about whose responsibility is what?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I think that's a I think that's a dialogue that has been focused on by others. But the truth is, you've raised the pandemic. We've worked very closely together in the pandemic. We have the strongest economy in the advanced world. We have had higher jobs growth and higher economic growth than any of the G7 countries over the last two years. We've got one of the highest rates of vaccination anywhere in the world, and we've got one of the lowest death rates from COVID in the country, in the world. So I would say that that's a trifecta of achievement for all governments across this country. And so while some might want to focus on the odd disagreements, the actual results, as they say, if you look at the scoreboard, the scoreboard says we'd saved 40,000 lives together. The scoreboard says that we've got 250,000 more jobs than we did before the pandemic. The scoreboard says that we have one of the highest vaccination rates. It's around 95 per cent double dose vaccination of the population aged over 60. That says that the cooperation actually does take place. And if there was more focus on the cooperation that's occurring just like the cooperation we've seen here in Queensland right now in dealing with these flood responses. I mean, particularly with Premier Palaszczuk and and specifically more recently with the event in Brisbane with Mayor Schrinner. We have worked closely together and the flood response here in south east Queensland, I want to thank everybody for as I started this media conference today, we have worked closely together and that's what Australians do want to see and that's what's happening despite the odd report of a disagreement here or there. I can tell you that is not the overwhelming experience of governments working together. We're focused on the cooperation, not the differences. Thank you very much.
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