Australia to invest $1 billion to recruit more reservists

The Morrison government says it will bring forward $1bn of planned defence spending over the next two years in a stimulus package that includes upgrading capital works on defence properties and funding extra days for reservists who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The package, to be unveiled on Wednesday, includes a $300m capital works program, including repairs to the defence estate in bushfire-affected regions on the south coast of New South Wales, as well as RAAF bases in East Sale, Pearce, Wagga Wagga and Amberley, the Albury/Wodonga military area and Blamey barracks.

Funding of $190m will be allocated to seven infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory across the Robertson barracks, RAAF base Darwin, Larrakeyah defence precinct and the Delamere air weapons range.

In the bring-forward of previously budgeted portfolio expenditure, the government will also allocate an extra 210,000 days for reservists, and create a budget for the recruitment of an additional 500 defence reserve personnel, at a cost of around $80m

The package includes a planned upgrade of the bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, and employment for an additional 38 people in maintenance activities for aircraft, likely former technicians of Qantas and Virgin. The government claims the total package could support up to 4,000 jobs.

In a statement issued ahead of the announcement, Morrison said the stimulus was necessary because the local defence industry had been disrupted by the pandemic.

“We want to build our sovereign industrial capabilities and Australian workforce to keep our people safe,” the prime minister said. “We will also support our ADF members and families, particularly any reservists who are doing it tough because of Covid-19.”

The defence minister, Linda Reynolds, said the government had fast-tracked a range of capability, infrastructure, skilling and workforce initiatives over the next two years. “Already, over $11bn has been provided in early payment for invoices and work to improve or sustain industry capacity for the delivery of critical supplies,” Reynolds said.

She said the government needed to ensure the defence forces were given critical capability during the pandemic.

The government said the recruitment of additional reservists would create part-time employment for up to 500 personnel for an average of 50 days annually. It said the package would also include support for the partners of people in the ADF if they had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The package includes a commitment to bring forward construction of a South West Pacific large hull vessel in Western Australia to support the government’s Pacific step-up initiative. Around $110m will be allocated to the defence innovation hub for investments in new technology.

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