Remarks – HMAS Cairns, Portsmith, QLD

Department of Defence

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Commander, and it’s great to be here with you all. Can I just start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and their elders past, present and future. Many of you will know, I hope, that it’s always my practice to also thank any serving men and women who are with us, and that’s the crowd today, all of you. So it’s wonderful to be here with you today and, and to thank you for your service, and any veterans also who are joining us. Can I also acknowledge my Cabinet colleague, Melissa Price, the Minister for Defence Industry, is doing a terrific job and I’m glad she took the opportunity to be here with me today. This is very important to the Deputy Chief of Navy, it’s, I’m sure it’s a great thrill for everyone here to have you on base here at HMAS Cairns. To Warren Entsch as well, who knows this place very, very well and knows the, its importance to the local Cairns community.

It was, it was quite a thrill to go past the Guardian Patrol Boat and to see our Pacific family there as part of a broader service that we’re all engaged in here in the Pacific, and to see that they’re getting their support right here out of HMAS Cairns and doing their work in their Pacific, in the great blue Pacific, protecting their waters and the operations that they’re on to protect their fisheries. But as I look out on all of you, and I thank you for your service, which is so varied across all the various vessels that are, that are serviced out of here and based here. And I thank you for the tremendous work you do.

What our Government wants to do is ensure you’re getting even better support for the job that you’re doing. And so here we are investing $155 million dollars in redeveloping this base and through the wharf and I’ll let Melissa, she can speak more to that, as I’m sure you probably know it better than anyone. But this is going to be a major revamp of the base here. It’s a very important part of our broader defence infrastructure around the country, and particularly up here in northern Australia. That investment will see peak of some 150 jobs on site, which will be a further boost to the local Cairns economy. Your presence alone is a significant boost to the Cairns economy, and, and the role that you all play here in the local community when you’re based here I think is incredibly positive.

So it’s an exciting period of time, it’ll all be done by 2025, I understand, Deputy Chief. And, and we’re looking forward that being done as, as efficiently and effectively as possible to give you the base that you need to do the great work you do for your country. And so I want to thank you again for your service. And I want to thank you for taking the decision to put on that uniform and to be part of Australia’s Defence Forces, in whatever capacity you’re serving, in whatever role and whatever your future holds. I really commend you for the decision to serve. And I, I trust that it’s a very rewarding time that you are having as part of your service, and you can look forward to many years ahead of being able to pull on that uniform and serve your nation in the way that you do. So with that, I want to pass on to Melissa, and she can talk a bit more about the project. But again, thank you all for your great work. Thanks for your service.

THE HON. MELISSA PRICE MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY: Thank you Prime Minister, and hi everyone. Thanks very much for a very warm Cairns welcome. Our Government has a very ambitious shipbuilding program, as you know, new OPVs, which will be home to you once we have the new wharf, frigates, submarines, new hydrographic vessels. And we do this because we want you to have the best kit that you need to be able to defend our nation. That, ultimately, is why we invest in defence capabilities.

But it’s not enough just to have the best bit of gear. And so I just want to acknowledge the Watpac team who’s over at the back here and congratulate them for their I think $155 million dollar contract, which is going to enable us to demolish the old wharf, build the new wharf which will enable the OPVs to be homed here. Congratulations to Watpac. They’ve committed to an 80 per cent local content with their contract within the Cairns and broader region, also a 10 per cent target with respect to Indigenous employment as well. So well done to Watpac, great injection of new jobs, a new bit of economic activity here in Cairns. We all know how Cairns has been doing it so tough because of COVID, so we’re just so pleased to be here today. And again, just want to acknowledge the Watpac team because the work’s all ahead of them now. Thanks very much.

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