MEDIA – Mix 104.9 FM – Transcript – Defence infrastructure funding must go to Territory businesses
DARWIN – 28 April, 2021
KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Joining us on the line right now is the Member for Solomon Luke Gosling. Good morning to you, Luke.
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Good morning, Katie.
WOOLF: Luke, I got a text message from you and I thought, “let’s get him on”. Luke, firstly, what is your reaction to this morning’s announcement? Well, to the fact that the Prime Minister’s going to be here talking further about this $747 million defence upgrade?
GOSLING: Well, it’s great that the Prime Minister is visiting Darwin, it’s been almost two years since he’s been here. And as you know, Katie, I’ve been inviting him periodically over that time to get him up here knowing that, you know, he’s all about the announcement. So the quicker he gets up here, the quicker he makes, in this case, a re-announcement of a 2019 tender. The figure is a bit higher by now just because of the time that’s elapsed since then.
What Dave Malone and I and others have been trying to get Defence and the Federal Government to do is to stop pushing the timelines out to the right, as in pushing the work back. It might be good for their political purposes, but we need this infrastructure up and running ASAP. And I’ve had a mobile office this morning in Stuart Park, talked to a number of tradies, both when I was getting coffees earlier this morning and then on the side of the road. And they’re saying there’s a bit of work around, but this work with the training ranges will be very welcome. But it’s got to – as Dave Malone has been working on and others – it’s got to make sure that local companies get a go and it just doesn’t go all the big companies from down south.
WOOLF: Yeah. you’re spot on. You know, we’ve got to make sure that if we’re talking here about such a phenomenal amount of money, $747 million, it does need to go to our local contractors. We’ve got to make sure that Territorians benefit from this investment into the Territory. You did say then, Luke, or at the start of what you were pointing out, that this is just money being re-announced. So are you telling me this morning that this is not new funding?
GOSLING: Yeah, basically, Katie, the tender was put out in 2019. I think what they’ve done is they’ve included an extra element. So that extra element might be new, but it’s designed for the front page of the paper. And, you know, that will get some people’s attention and they’ll think this is good news, which it is. But what I’m trying to stress is that if we had got the Prime Minister here before the two-year mark, maybe some of this work would have already been going and we could have had all our local companies engaged.
So I welcome it. But I just would like the Prime Minister to visit more often and to make more announcements, particularly when it comes to infrastructure up here and obviously, there is the outstanding issue of control of the Darwin Port that he needs to address whilst he’s here in Darwin today.
WOOLF: Yeah, no doubt he’ll be asked questions about the Darwin Port. We are hoping that we’re going to be able to get him on the show at some point. I do want to just ask you very quickly, though, Luke, we know that the increased tensions between China and the west, they’ve certainly been widely reported. Do you think that this announcement puts the Northern Territory at a greater risk?
GOSLING: The announcement of this training base funding?
WOOLF: The money, yeah.
GOSLING: No, that funding is about improving what are pretty sparsely fitted out training ranges. So it will allow us to be a place where not only the Australian Defence Force and our US allies, but other partners from around our Indo-Pacific region can train. And that is a very good thing because we need to be prepared for all contingencies. We know at the moment we’ve had a range of cyclone-related contingencies in the region, but we also need to be prepared to defend our sovereignty and also to take part in any sorts of contingencies in our region that maintain the freedom and open seas.
But we all hope that the Federal Government is engaging in de-escalating tensions wherever they can. So we need to be prepared. But we also need sensible heads in the Federal Government to be de-escalating tensions, standing up for our rights, but also making sure that as a nation, we own our critical strategic infrastructure and we’re prepared for the future, whatever it might be.
WOOLF: Luke Gosling, we are going to have to leave it there. Good to speak with you this morning. Thanks so much.
GOSLING: Thank you, Katie.