Doorstop Interview, RAAF Base Tindal

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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9 May 2024

SUBJECTS: Defence Estate Works in the Northern Territory, Defence Strategic Review, National Defence Strategy, Defence budget.

MINISTER SELENA UIBO, MEMBER FOR ARNHEM: Thank you. Selena Uibo, the member for Arnhem and Northern Territory Government. It's great to be here with the Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite, here on Tindal RAAF Base. I'm a very proud local member, here with Tindal, the great works that are happening on base, but also the positive impact that's happening here in the Katherine community, particularly across the Northern Territory, with local companies being contracted to do construction and the work here at RAAF Base Tindal, one of the fastest growing bases in the country. So, I'll pass over to you.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Thanks, Selena, and thank you for welcoming us to your community and for the Northern Territory Government's commitment to partnering with Defence to grow our Defence Force and our capability here in the north. I want to thank our Wing Commander Pearce and her team for welcoming us back to RAAF Base Tindal. I love coming to Katherine because the community is so welcoming, and the community is such a fundamental part of the important work that's going on here at RAAF Base Tindal. We're growing the capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Defence Force here at RAAF Base Tindal. And today I'm announcing a further $41 million dollars worth of investment in infrastructure upgrades here at RAAF Base Tindal, including the live-in accommodation, the working accommodation. We've just seen some of the upgrades that are occurring here at the fire station, the security perimeter and electrical works. All of these aimed at improving the livability of the base, and ensuring that our ADF personnel get the best opportunity to advance their careers here at Tindal and in the Northern Territory. Comes on the back of one and a half billion dollars worth of investment that the Government is making here at RAAF Base Tindal. We're upgrading the runway, the taxiways, the aprons, a new terminal that can take all manner of aircraft now from fighter jets all the way up to the heaviest C-17 aircraft. We're upgrading some of the live-in accommodation as well as the fuel storage facilities, upgrading the fuel storage facilities and the general infrastructure here at the base. The works that we're announcing today will create 550 jobs in the local community and most of those will be delivered by local small to medium-sized enterprises that engage with Defence to complete these important construction tasks. We've just met with some representatives from DDR, a local Indigenous business, and we're keen to ensure that we're giving more opportunities for traditional owners and local Indigenous workers to be involved in these projects. 12 per cent of the workforce that will be engaged on these projects will be Indigenous, and that's something that we're keen to promote as the Government through the Defence Force. So, this is a win for the Australian Defence Force. We're upgrading our facilities here at a very strategic and important base, very important base for the Australian Defence Force, but an equally important relationship with the local Katherine community. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: There's a lot of money going into Tindal specifically. How important is Tindal on a bigger scale of things for, for the rest of the country?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: The Defence Strategic Review and the National Defence Strategy identify Tindal and indeed all of our bases in the north as critically important to the defence of Australia moving forward, and that's why we're upgrading all of our bases across the north of Australia. It's $3.4 billion dollars worth of investment from Scherger in the east, right across to Learmonth in the west. And basically every Defence base in the Northern Territory is getting an upgrade from HMAS Coonawarra right down here to Tindal. And that will improve the facilities, but it will also ensure that we can cater for the increasing number of personnel that will be stationed in the north, particularly in the Northern Territory, and the interoperability that is so fundamental to our Defence Force through important exercises like Pitch Black, Talisman Sabre and Kakadu that are often held here in the Northern Territory.

JOURNALIST: Building up Tindal and raising its profile, I guess, to a very strategic base in the nation. Is that painting a target on our back?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, this is ensuring that we have the capacity to defend Australia into the future. And Tindal is a strategically important base, particularly as a logistics base. We have fighter jets that operate out of here and increasingly it will be an important base for refueling operations into the future. It's part of a network of bases that are getting an upgrade, so we're not specifically looking at Tindal. All of the bases throughout the north of Australia will be upgraded because they're strategically important to the defence of Australia into the future.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask, where does this sit? Is this within the $50 billion dollar announcement that was made by the Defence Minister, I think, at the Press Club last month. And within that, does it sit within the $18 billion dollar for the hardening northern bases?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, these are projects that sit within the Defence budget and we're increasing the Defence budget by $50 billion dollars over the course of the next decade, about $5 billion dollars over the forward estimates. And projects such as this, specifically targeting estate works, are part of that increasing investment. So, you've got the larger projects, like the runway upgrades - just as important are these smaller projects that improve the livability of the base and provide better facilities for troops who are working here on a daily basis. We've just gone through the fire station here and saw the upgrades to not only the office accommodation but the recreation spaces as well, with more accommodation for females to come into the future with that work as well. So, it's about improving the livability of this base and ensuring that our troops get a better experience when they're deployed here.

JOURNALIST: There’s also the 70-odd billion, an even bigger amount of money, that you’ve, the Government's taken the decision to reallocate from other areas of Defence. I mean, it's the case, isn't it, that investments in bases like Tindal are to some extent only enabled by making the difficult choices to shut down other programs and reallocate money?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we've done this based on the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review, and that was a holistic look at Australia's Defence Force and our capacity to defend Australia into the future. And that report made recommendations on upgrading bases across the north. So, we're delivering on those recommendations with these investments. And the Integrated Investment Program is a very large investment program and we make decisions based on what the priorities are for the Defence Force moving forward. 


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