Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace recently returned from visiting ADF personnel serving in the Middle East and most notably Afghanistan, where he learnt more about the ADF, its operations and equipment in theatre. This first-hand knowledge of how the ADF uses its supplies and equipment on the ground will help him to advance his Sunshine Coast Defence Industry Initiative.
At the air base in the Middle East, whose precise location is secret for security reasons, Mr Wallace received the same briefings and battlefield first aid training as that undertaken by ADF personnel on their way to Afghanistan and Iraq. He lived in the same conditions as those soldiers, and had numerous opportunities to speak confidentially to airmen, soldiers and sailors of all ranks involved in Operations Highroad and Okra from Major-General to Private soldier.
Mr Wallace said “I want to attract more opportunities in the defence industry to the Sunshine Coast, and see some of the Government’s record $200 billion investment spent in our community. I do not have a background in the armed forces, so it was important that I join this ADF program and see for myself what our brave servicemen and women are doing and how they work. I needed to see how our equipment is used in theatre, and speak to everyone from Generals to Privates, to learn more about what they need.”
Mr Wallace spoke to ADF personnel about all aspects of their equipment, from boots to firearms, and experienced for himself how important that equipment is to daily life in theatre.
“I had the opportunity to live side by side with our troops, and I saw for myself how an armed force in theatre is like a microcosm of any community. They certainly need weapons, communications equipment and medical supplies; but they also need everything that you and I do back home, from toothpaste to breakfast cereal. That all has to be supplied from somewhere, and I believe the Sunshine Coast is perfectly positioned to meet the need. The opportunity for local businesses from the Government’s $200 billion investment is huge.” He said.
Mr Wallace met a number of ADF personnel whose parents live on the Sunshine Coast, and said that those parents, and all Australians, should be rightfully proud of the work being done by our servicemen and women.
“The many men and women I met on this trip were exceptionally well-trained, courageous and highly professional. We should all be grateful and proud of the work that they are doing in training the Afghan National Army in Afghanistan, and taking the fight to Daesh and the Taliban in Iraq & Syria. Their efforts are helping to reduce the threat of terrorism at home and abroad.” Mr Wallace said.
Mr Wallace received confidential briefings on the progress of Operation Okra, the ADF’s contribution to the international effort to defeat Daesh, and on the mentoring of local military forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Highroad.
“I believe as a Parliamentarian that we are responsible for sending our young men and women into harm’s way. I need as strong an understanding as possible of what that will mean for them, and what benefits it will have for all Australians.” He said.
Mr Wallace serves on the Government backbench Committee for Defence and Veteran’s Affairs. He was able to speak to serving personnel about some of the challenges that they had experienced in dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Many servicemen and women in theatre told me that the Department of Veterans Affairs could be offering them a better service. I now have a greater understanding of those issues and I will be taking them up with the Minister for Veterans Affairs when I return to Canberra. I also believe that this understanding will help me to deal even more sensitively with enquiries from veterans in our community.”
Local small to medium sized businesses who are seeking more information about how to engage with defence industry procurement should contact the office of Andrew Wallace MP on (07) 5493 5556.