Television Interview, NBN News

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Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Media contact

Karlis Salna - 0435 521 326

Defence Media

Release content

28 December 2023

SUBJECTS: Announcement of the BAE Systems contract; the Hunter as a defence hub; importance of defence to the Albanese Labor Government.

JACK HOWARD: An exciting announcement. Tell us a bit about it.

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY PAT CONROY: It's a great day for the Hunter Defence Industry and the Defence of the nation. We've announced a $110 million contract for BAE Systems to build an additional seven maintenance bays, bringing us to 13 maintenance bays for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. We're acquiring 72 of these aircraft, the best jet fighters in the world, and most of them are located in the Hunter. So, this is great news for the Air Force and it's great news for workers in the Hunter.

JACK HOWARD: And when can we see, I guess, work on this done?

MINISTER CONROY: Well, we're building the first six bays right now. Those will be completed in 2024. Then a second batch of seven bays will be completed by early 2026. This is part of the 400 jobs that are in the Hunter looking after the Joint Strike Fighter, 750 across the country. These are the cutting edge of the Defence of our nation. These are high-tech, high-skilled jobs that are in the Hunter due to our skilled workforce.

JACK HOWARD: And how much money would these additional hangers cost?

MINISTER CONROY: $110 million for the second batch, $100 million a couple of years ago for the first batch of hangers. So, $210 million investing in this maintenance facility. And importantly, this facility isn't just for Australia's F-35s, it's for the global fleet. There are around 3000 F-35s around the world and we'll be a regional maintenance hub for the Indo-Pacific. So, in the future, you'll see F-35s from other nations being maintained in the Hunter, helping their defence contribution, but also employing more Australians doing this high-tech work.

JACK HOWARD: And as we're seeing more and more, I guess, defence spending here in the Hunter, are we becoming a bit of a defence hub, and could we expect more announcements like this in the future as we continue to build on?

MINISTER CONROY: Absolutely, we are a defence hub. From maintaining the F-35s to building modules for the Air Warfare Destroyers, to innovative manufacturers supplying parts for our armoured vehicles, in places like Cardiff. We are at the heart of the Australian Defence Industry because we've got high-tech companies and very skilled workers, and you can expect to see that to grow. I want to see Hunter defence companies supplying parts for our new submarines that will be assembled in Adelaide, but just as we built parts for the Collins Class submarines in the 80's and 90's, I would like to see Hunter defence companies competing and winning work for that as well.

JACK HOWARD: And how important is defence to this government?

MINISTER CONROY: Well, the defence of the nation is the first job of any government, and the Albanese Labor Government is committed to defending the nation. We face the greatest strategic uncertainty since 1945. We're seeing a regional arms race, so defending the nation is our number one priority. We've committed to that. We're delivering a record amount of money in the defence budget. We're spending more on the Australian Defence Industry than any government in the past, and that's helping support over 100,000 workers, including thousands of workers in the Hunter.

JACK HOWARD It is an interesting space, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. Does the government feel, I guess, a little bit of punch to get this project completed as quickly as possible and get those fleets in the air?

MINISTER CONROY: Well, the F-35s are flying. Anyone who's gone through Newcastle Airport will see them. They'll feel the vibration in the chest as they take off. But this is about expanding our maintenance facilities and our support. Earlier this year, Meryl Swanson, the excellent Member of Paterson, and I announced a big investment for a stealth coating facility. So, these aircraft are stealth fighters, and you need to re-coat them regularly to maintain their radar invisibility. So, that stealth coating facility will be next to the maintenance facilities. It's all adding up to the most advanced fighter jet in the world, supported by the Hunter workforce.

JACK HOWARD: Fantastic. They were all my questions. Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.


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