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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to be here at Tindal and to be joined, of course, by Melissa Price, my ministerial colleague as the Minister for Defence Industry, and Senator Sam McMahon, Senator for the Northern Territory. Can I also join in welcoming Air Commodore Phil Champion, Colonel Len Rouwhorst and Wing Commander Tim Ferrell. Can I also thank all the team here from Lendlease and all the contractors and those who built this wonderful facility. It is tremendous to be here sharing this day with you. Can I also acknowledge the traditional owners, our Indigenous peoples and elders past, present, future, particularly any who are here today is, as I know they are because they’ve played such a huge role in the development of this facility. A peak engagement of Indigenous Australians in the work that’s been going on here at 11 per cent and that is a tremendous achievement. And to see the skills that have been built up in our Indigenous communities here in the Territory and how that is being drawn into this project, not by accident, but on purpose with a determination to see where you are involving indigenous Australians in this tremendous project. I thank all of those who were very involved in this, the consulting firms and those who came in and were on the tools, those who were training others who are going to have a bright future in the industries that they have chosen that this project has enabled them to. And as I always do, I want to acknowledge – there are lots of them here today – serving men and women in our Australian defence forces and also any veterans who are with us because we so often know that it’s the veterans after they’ve served will find themselves in many of the roles that are involved in defence industries, as Melissa knows. You will not find a better employee working in your business than one that’s served their nation in the defence forces. So we want to thank them all very much for their service.

Keeping Australians safe, keeping our economy strong. These two things go together. And if you’re serious about both of those tasks, which our government is, then you invest in both of them. And what we’ve done here, what we’ve been doing here, and more importantly what we’re going to keep doing speaks to both of those objectives. The Joint Strike Fighter program isn’t just about getting the planes, the fighter planes. It’s about facilities, it’s about the expertise, it’s about the industry, it’s about the training, it’s about the people, that all needs to come together to make that capability a reality. And that’s what we’re seeing coming together here at Tindal. Our government made a commitment that we would return this country to 2 per cent of our economy being invested in our nation’s defence and its capability. Australians deserve that and Australians who serve in our defence forces who keep Australians safe, who stand up for our values, stand under our flag and wear our uniform, they deserve that too. They deserve to have the capability and the support and the facilities that enables them to do the job, a very difficult job, that we ask of them. And that’s as true as the most recent deployment through Operation Bushfire Assist and this morning, I had the great privilege to speak to many who’ve been involved in that Operation, all the way from up here in Tindal.

And it’s just as true when we’re standing here in Tindal and the very important job this place does in Australia’s broader Indo-Pacific strategy and the work we do with our partners in this part of the world and particularly in the northern part of Australia and the partnerships we especially have with the United States. This rebuild is based on the white paper strategy we set out a number of years ago, which is seeing some $200 billion invested in our defence capability over the next decade. And we’re ensuring that Australian industry content is maximised in all acquisition and sustainment projects to ensure a sovereign industrial base that supports high-skilled Australian jobs and local investment. And I’m so thrilled with the high proportion of jobs that have gone into this project today out of the Territory, not just Australian jobs. Because I’m sure Sam would agree, Territorian jobs and seeing that Territorian experience being really put to the test. It’s not easy to build these facilities up in parts of the country that deal with the climatic challenges that we have in this part of the country. But I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of Australians and great companies like Lendlease who have led this project and all the contractors, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet today, bringing their special Territorian know-how to meeting the challenges of building this facility here on this site. And for those who need those sort of projects done, maybe a bit further north in Indonesia or across Malaysia and throughout our Indo-Pacific partners, well, there are great Australian companies that have proved themselves here working with our defence forces and I have no doubt, whatever the project is across the Indo-Pacific region, Australians are able to stand up and show what they’re capable of doing.

This investment we’re putting here is important. When I was in the United States last year and was with the President and was meeting with the Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and the Secretary of State and many others, I was so proud that we can say unreservedly that Australia holds up its end when it comes to our defence commitments and the role we play in our part of the world. And we don’t just look to the United States. We don’t leave it to the United States. We look to ourselves and our own capability and we do the things that we need to do as a country to measure up when it comes to our defence force capability and what you have to invest in to make that a reality. Plenty of people want to talk about targets, well, I can tell you, when we set a target as a government, we meet it and the 2021 reaching the target of 2 per cent of GDP being spent on our defence forces and standing in the middle of all the facilities that our expression of that commitment. That’s real stuff. That’s real commitment. That’s real jobs. That’s real defence force capability, which is keeping Australians safe.

We’re investing a total of $1.6 billion at RAAF Base Tindal. Tindal is strategically significant as a forward operating base to provide support to Australia’s air combat capabilities and with our allies. Our investment will enhance air combat capability and our engagement with allies through the conduct that joint exercises, particularly with the United States Air Force. The Australian Government has improved $1.1 billion to undertake a seven-year program here at Tindal, which I’m here to announce today. These works will upgrade the airfield, increase aviation fuel storage, reinvest in ageing base engineering services and provide additional living accommodation for the posted Air Force personnel. The 80s accommodation, which you are very used to, there’ll be some new millennial style accommodation, which I’m sure those living on the base will be very appreciative of as we move forward, in particular the families that are coming and living here. People who come and get deployed to Tindal often come back because of the wonderful community that exists here amongst the defence forces themselves, but also their contractors and suppliers to the base and the family that exists here at Tindal.

And we’re investing in Australians, as these works will provide strong economic benefits for the region over an extended delivery phase, with significant opportunities for the local construction industry to bid for those subcontract packages. Over the last few years, our government has invested $495 million in new Air Force combat capability facilities, which we’re opening here today to support the arrival of our Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which will be operated by the amazing 75 Squadron. This project is enhancing defence air combat capability with the introduction of the service of the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and the facilities work at Tindal here are due to be fully completed in just a few months time.

So I want to say to you all, thank you for what you’re doing for our country, whether you wear a uniform, whether you fly a jet, whether you serve the meals, whether you install the air condition, whether you lay concrete in the middle of the night to deal with the climatic factors that are evident here, if you’re putting the ceilings in, whatever you are doing, you are doing a great job for your country. And I want to assure you that my government is committed to you and there’s $1.1 billion worth of investment to back that commitment up here alone in Tindal, on top of what has already been invested out of the defence white paper. And I can do that because I have confidence and my government has confidence in you as Australians to get this job done. I have confidence in Australians who are serving and working as part of these projects that I can stand before other leaders around the world and say Australia will always be able to step up because we have got the people to do the job and we’ve put our investment in the facilities and the supports that enables them to do the job.

We are a reliable nation when it comes to our own defence and our own security, and that makes us a reliable partner, able to work with others to keep our region safe. Because, you know, when you have a stable region which this place is critical to achieving, then people can enjoy prosperous lives. They can live out their time in peace in our region and this is a very important time where we are underpinning that as a nation. We’ve got such an important job to do. You are so much a part of that job and I want to thank you for your service in assisting in all that we’re doing as a government, as a nation, in this very important time.

So I’m going to look to those who are running the show here today and ask is it time for us to unveil the plaque? Thank you very much, Len, a great pleasure. I declare the new facilities here at Tindal officially opened.