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Scott Morrison spends $1bn on defence amid China tensions

Scott Morrison will spend $1billion on boosting the defence industry to create 4,000 jobs across the nation over the next two years.

The Prime Minister will on Wednesday announce a plan to upgrade crucial equipment, maintain defence bases and hire an extra 500 reserve troops.

Half the money will be spent on seven building works at bases in the Northern Territory and maintenance projects at others across the country.

Another $200million will be used to upgrade and maintain key equipment, including the Bushmaster infantry vehicle and the C-27J transport aircraft.

A new Navy uniform will be designed with modern features such as working boots without steel caps – and the purchase of two remote weapon stations will be brought forward.

The government will also spend about $200million on developing new kit, including the Loyal Wingman fighter drone which was unveiled in May, and a large-hull Navy ship.

Meanwhile, about $80million will be spent on workforce initiatives including hiring 500 more reserve troops, giving more work to existing reserves and helping the wives and husbands of defence personnel find work if they have lost their jobs. 

Mr Morrison hopes the cash splash will stimulate the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis which is expected to leave almost a million Aussies out of work for the next two years.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Like much of the economy, our local defence industry is doing it tough because of COVID-19. 

‘This is especially so for small and medium sized businesses, that are critical to jobs.

‘Supporting our defence industry is all part of our JobMaker plan – especially high-paying, high-skilled jobs that ensure we are supporting a robust, resilient and internationally competitive defence industry.

‘We want to build our sovereign industrial capabilities and Australian workforce to keep our people safe.

‘We will also support our ADF members and families, particularly any Reservists who are doing it tough because of COVID-19.’ 

In June Mr Morrison announced the government will spend $270billion over the next ten years on beefing up the Australian Defence Force with state-of-the-art equipment including long-range missiles and new artillery systems.  

The main aim of the beef-up, which will include hiring 800 extra soldiers, is to deter aggression against Australia and its allies – but the Prime Minister also wants to prepare the defence force for war in case tensions with China escalate. 

Beijing and Canberra have been at loggerheads since Mr Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus in March. 

More than half of the $270billion announced in June will be spent on improving Australia’s air and maritime forces, including buying new AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles from the US. 

The missiles, which were designed in America in 2014, cost around $5million each and can hit a target 370km away, giving Australia significant new range.

They will be attached to F/A-18F Super Hornet planes and can also be paired with other defence aircraft. Troops will be trained how to use the weapon next year.

The government is also considering buying a range of other weapons and defence systems including the surface-to-air Missile, the High Mobility Rocket Artillery System and the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System.

In addition, between $5billion and $7billion will be spent on undersea surveillance systems, and up to $17billion will go towards buying more fighter aircraft.

Up to $11billion will be spent on remotely-piloted and autonomous combat aircraft, including air teaming vehicles.

And between $8 and $11.5 billion will buy long range rocket fires and artillery systems including two regiments of self-propelled howitzers. 

In May Australia unveiled The Loyal Wingman unmanned drone, its first military aircraft to be built on home soil in 50 years.

The drone will fly alongside fighter jets including Strike Fighters, Super Hornets and Growlers to provide support and intelligence and can hold several systems including a radar, an infrared search and track system and a defensive laser system.

Billions will also be spent on space capabilities and cyber security as Australia faces ongoing attacks on institutions and companies from a ‘state actor’ which intelligence sources believe is China.

Mr Morrison also announced a shift in focus on the Indo-Pacific after Australia pulled out of the Middle East with the training mission at the Taji Military Complex in Iraq concluded earlier this year.

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