Defence Industry Regional Business Roundtable

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SpeakersCatanzariti The Hon Tony; Kelly The Hon Tony
BusinessQuestions Without Notice, QWN

Page: 6136

The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI: My question is addressed to the Minister for Regional Development. Can the Minister provide an update on what the Iemma Government is doing to secure defence industry spending for New South Wales?

The Hon. TONY KELLY: I thank the Hon. Tony Catanzariti for his interest in the first regional New South Wales defence industry roundtable. On a number of occasions in this House I have spoken about the Iemma Government's determination to compete for a lion's share of the Federal Government's projected $100 billion defence spending. I am pleased to report to the House that yesterday we took a big step forward towards that goal with the inaugural meeting of the defence industry roundtable.

The focus of yesterday's meeting was the issues and opportunities for defence and defence- related industries in regional New South Wales. The roundtable included representatives from local government, economic development agencies, regional defence bases, the Department of Defence, and defence industry associations. The former head of the Australian Defence Forces, General Peter Cosgrove, also participated, addressing the roundtable in his position as Chairman of AgustaWestland (Australia). I know the participants appreciated the tremendous insight General Cosgrove was able to provide into how the defence department works, and particularly his emphasis on how contracts with the defence department can enhance regional economic development. I want to place on record our sincere thanks to General Cosgrove for his willingness to make himself available yesterday.

This roundtable initiative reflects the Iemma Government's determination to grow investment, encourage job creation, and increase prosperity in New South Wales. I believe the defence industry has an important role in regional economic development, particularly in areas surrounding defence bases, such as Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Singleton, Nowra, Richmond, Queanbeyan, Port Stephens and Newcastle.

Feedback from the roundtable participants simply confirmed the economic opportunities available to regional communities in procurement, as well as the significant opportunities available through the ongoing maintenance and supply. About $22 billion a year is spent by the defence industries. In the past the Government has offered substantial incentives and assistance for defence projects, ranging from early-stage research and development to business development, internationalisation and securing major projects, and we will continue to do so when the economic case stacks up.

Certainly the New South Wales Government is keen to continue supporting businesses to export into international markets through trade missions and export programs. For example, the Iemma Government provided support to nine New South Wales-based companies to exhibit on the Team Australia pavilion at the Singapore Airshow last month. This included businesses from Tamworth and Newcastle. The participating New South Wales companies, which issued contracts worth $0.5 million at the show, have already reported anticipated sales of over $3 million as a result of their attendance at the show.

The New South Wales Government will continue to promote local capability at trade shows, including the upcoming defence and industry 2008 event in July. Our challenge is to develop a long-term strategic approach that will allow local and State authorities to partner with local businesses to compete for defence contracts. One clear message that came across during the roundtable was the need for regional businesses to be proactive not only in engaging defence but also in how to prepare effectively for defence contract tenders.

The New South Wales Government is taking an active role in preparation for any defence contracts, with a support program that will maintain and monitor day-to-day interactions between the business development managers in each of our regions, the regional development boards, and any businesses with an interest in defence contracts. The next phase of the roundtable process will see local forums held with local and State Government authorities along with businesses interested in defence tenders. The New South Wales Government will also report back to the group in six months, at the next roundtable.