The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of Australia being an island nation, which has reduced our exposure to the disease that is devastating lives across the world.
The pandemic, however, has hit Australia in other ways, and Cairns in particular has felt the brunt of the reduction in both international and domestic tourism.
There are areas of this country, including Cairns, that can no longer be reliant on one industry alone such as tourism, and there is now a pressing need for local economies to diversify.
While tourism will always be an essential part of the Cairns, Labor wants to see the local economy afforded an opportunity to diversify and grow, and defence industry may offer new ways to do that.
Growing tensions in our region have elevated the importance of our defence capability, and Australia must ensure we are equipped and ready to protect our national interests.
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update warned of the rapidly changing circumstances in our region, and stressed that a ten-year strategic warning time for major conventional conflict is no longer an appropriate basis for defence planning.
Reduced warning times mean defence plans can no longer assume Australia will have time to gradually adjust military capability and preparedness in response to emerging challenges.
The Indo-Pacific region in particular has seen a rapid expansion and modernisation of maritime forces, and Australia needs to keep up with this global shift.
After six Defence Ministers in eight years, the Government should be assessing whether Australian defence assets are positioned where we need them to be.
Clearly, located in Australia’s north, Cairns is a strategic location for Australian defence assets and should always be under consideration from Australian governments.
The Cairns Marine Precinct offers huge potential when it comes to defence assets and defence industry.
Already there are Australian businesses in the Cairns Marine Precinct, adjacent to HMAS Cairns, that provide services to defence, like Austal, Tropical Reef Shipyard, and Norship Marine that repair and maintain Australian Defence Force vessels.
And soon Cairns will be home to Defence’s first Regional Maintenance Centre for sustainment of Navy vessels.
As defence further focusses its attention on Northern Australia and the Indo-Pacific region we can expect to see potential opportunities to see the Cairns Marine Precinct grow as a centre for large vessel repair work.
With this growth comes the opportunity for further defence industry jobs in Cairns.
The defence industry is one of the largest industry sectors in Australia, with more than 3000 business working in this industry
The Australian Government is spending $270 billion on defence procurement over the next decade and Labor is committed to maximising the local component of that spend, with jobs here in Australia.
Labor wants to see a strong sovereign defence industry, which not only improves our capability and resilience, it offers economic benefits for our country.
We will ensure our armed forces are equipped with the personnel, skills, technology, tools, and other resources they need with a focus on local content in Australia’s defence procurement.
This will not only enable us to address these threats, it will also allow us to develop the skills and know how locally that will in turn help secure decent, long-term jobs not just in Far North Queensland, but right across Australia.