Matt Keogh has been Labor’s spokesman for defence industry since the last federal election in 2019. As he campaigns for re-election in the seat of Burt in Perth’s south-eastern suburbs, Mr Keogh spent time with me to cover several key topics.
Could you please outline Labor’s approach to defence and national security?
“Labor has, and always will put Australia’s national interest first.
“Let me be clear: Labor will ensure that [the Department of] Defence has the resources it needs to defend Australia.
“Labor has a vision for an Australia that is stronger, safer and more resilient.
“For Labor, national security is above politics.
“Fundamental to our national security is our national resilience and sovereign capability. That means building and maintaining a strong economy, resilient supply chains and the skills, technology, infrastructure and industries to make more things here in Australia, securing our self-reliance.
What firm commitments has Labor made that will enhance defence and defence industry?
“Labor has a plan for a better future for all Australians through our Future Made in Australia plan.
“Building up our capacity for making the things we strategically need, ensures we’re not hostage to economic coercion, blocked lines of communication or global supply chain shocks.
National Reconstruction Fund
“The centrepiece of that plan is Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund (NRF), a $15 billion fund that will create secure jobs for Australian workers, drive our regional economic development, boost our sovereign capability and diversify the nation’s economy.
“The NRF will also allow us to develop and foster our current small to medium enterprises and mid-tier defence industry businesses…
“We have also released our Defence Industry Development Plan.
Australian industry content
“Labor will maximise Australian industry involvement in major defence projects…
“A Labor government will ensure at least one in ten jobs on major projects, including major defence procurements, is filled by apprentices.
Defence force posture review
“Labor will conduct the first Australian defence force posture review since 2012. It will ensure our forces, their capabilities and how they are deployed matches our strategic intent.
“I expect this will create more opportunities for industry, not less; I also expect this to be particularly pertinent in Western Australia as we look to our north-west.
“Labor has recently announced our $1.2 billion commitment to establishing ASRA: the Australian Strategic Research Agency.
“ASRA will ensure Australia can partner with [the US’s] Defense Academy Research Projects Agency and and the Advanced Research and Invention Agency in the UK through AUKUS to deliver cutting-edge future-looking technologies now for use in decades to come.
“Labor will prioritise the welfare of veterans, who play a vital role in our Australian defence industry, thereby continuing their service to our nation.
“Labor will fix the crisis in Veterans’ Affairs and restore the respect our veterans and their families deserve.
“[Our] plan includes: cutting waiting times; delivering ten new veteran hubs; boosting the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme; increasing the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Veterans Pension (TPI); establishing a Veteran Employment Program; and developing a Defence and Veteran Family Support Strategy.
National (merchant) fleet and fuel
“Fuel security is vital to Australia’s defence capability. These circumstances in part underpin Labor’s plan for a national strategic fleet of Australian flagged vessels.
“We’ll deepen our regional defence cooperation with close partners to bolster our joint capabilities, and plan for how we address any potential submarine capability gap before we receive the nuclear-powered submarines.”
Does Labor support the efforts to improve our organisational cultures, in the forces and politics?
“There is no question that everyone has a right to go to work, and to feel safe while there. It is up to all of us to change the culture, to change the story.
“This is not a women’s issue; it’s a cultural issue. It’s a people issue, and it is incumbent on all of us to fix it.
“There is still so much work to be done and something I’ve spoken about a number of times in the parliament.
“The Jenkins Report and the recommendations of that have my full support.
“Labor will work with all parties to ensure the safety of everyone who works in the parliament and indeed in the ADF.”
• Kristian Constantinides is the general manager of Airflite, and chairperson of AIDN-WA; the opinions expressed are purely his own
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