Call to switch Jobseeker increase to defence spending

Opposition Defence Industry spokesman Luke Howarth wants more money committed to the national defence budget over the next four years  – with government assurances that dollars will reach struggling South Australian small businesses.

May 08, 2023, updated Jan 30, 2024
An illustration of the new frigate being built at Osborne. Photo: BAE Systems

An illustration of the new frigate being built at Osborne. Photo: BAE Systems

Howarth met with defence companies and industry leaders in South Australia last Wednesday and heard how many SMEs were struggling after cancelled or stalled contracts meant few dollars reached businesses while the national Defence Strategic Review was underway.

Now the review has been released by the Federal Government, Howarth believed it still provided no surety of projects. The government also announced there would be another review of naval assets, meaning current work on the frigates program at Osborne could be affected.

“The Defence Minister and the Minister for Defence Industries need to pull the department into line,” he said.

“We’ve got to feed these people now or they will go broke and they will leave the industry … or we won’t have the base when the submarines and ships ramp up in five years’ time.”

Howarth advocated that the Federal Government abandon its expected budget plan to be announced tomorrow to make a small increase in Jobseeker for those aged over 55 years of age, and instead spend that money on the defence industry.

He met with key companies including Saab, Raytheon Australia, Supashock and Acacia Systems along with the Defence Teaming Centre industry organisation in Adelaide, then also visited defence industries in Queensland and Northern Territory.

The comments follow the DTC this month saying its members feared stalled and cancelled projects listed in the Defence Strategic Review could lead to businesses leaving the industry.

Howarth met with DTC acting chief executive officer Tim Dore who recently raised the concerns about SA defence businesses losing out as the government’s direction in defence spending changes again.

While industry described the review as a “welcome relief” to learn which defence projects will continue, Dore wants the government to move faster in telling industry who the “winners and losers” will be in the surface ship review it has now announced.

He also raised concerns that supply chain companies will be impacted by a scaleback in the Land 400 vehicle contract.

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