Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (11:52): I am proud to rise today to talk about the crucial role that local small business plays in supporting and working with defence. Our defence family on the New South Wales South Coast is an important part of our community. They are there for us in our times of need, lending a helping hand and working with us to make sure the community is safe and protected. There has been no better example of this than in the terrible summer we have just endured. I want to talk briefly about the great work of the ADF over the last few months before I get to small business.
This year my electorate, on the New South Wales South Coast, has endured a summer like never before. The devastating bushfires that raged for months have wreaked havoc on our community, causing so much destruction. But there was always a source of comfort to us: the familiar sound of local Navy helicopters and aircraft flying overhead. HMAS Albatross and HMAS Creswell played a crucial role during the fires. HMAS Albatross was a base of operations for a fleet of fixed-wing water bombers and observation platforms, with the Airfield Coordination Centre providing 24-hour air services support to visiting RFS firefighting aircraft and crews. The Naval Air Station Weather and Oceanography Centre also provided detailed daily meteorological and oceanographic forecast support for RFS air operations. It was very important work in difficult conditions.
Defence industry and the Royal Australian Navy worked together to support firefighting efforts on the North Coast, South Coast and beyond over many months. This was crucial to the firefighting efforts, and our community is eternally grateful. I again take the opportunity to thank each and every member of our defence family for all they have done.
It has meant so much.
A couple of weeks ago I got to experience one of my favourite exhibits at the Nowra show: the defence industry tent. On display were some of the best examples of how local small business can work with and support our defence teams. Global Defence Solutions had their amazing range of deployable catering equipment on display as well as their expandable hard and soft shelters. Normally at the show this tent is used as a bit of relief from the searing heat—GDS also display their field air conditioners and generators—but this year the tent provided a different sort of relief: relief from the pouring rain. GDS are a Nowra based, family owned company that have been building and supplying mobile field shelters for the ADF for more than 20 years. These deployable shelters can be used as hospitals, kitchens, operation centres and accommodation, but the best part is that GDS live and work in Nowra and support the Shoalhaven community.
Air Affairs Australia is another local Nowra business based in Albatross Aviation Technology Park. Air Affairs has been providing specialist airborne and engineering services to defence, government and multinational companies around the world for 25 years. It was fascinating to hear how these two local companies are creating job opportunities, training local people and supporting Defence, all on the South Coast. My electorate has the highest unemployment rate in New South Wales, and there are so many opportunities available when government, defence and small business work together. Tactical surveillance products are becoming more and more important as time goes by. During the bushfires, Air Affairs' Firescan was put to great use, mapping the fireground and providing important imagery in very difficult conditions. This was logistically critical in supporting our firefighting crews on the ground, and again I thank them for this great work.
There is really no better place for small business to integrate with defence than the New South Wales South Coast. Being close to HMAS Albatross and HMAS Creswell is just one reason. The Shoalhaven Defence Industry Group is working to encourage businesses to start their defence journeys on our beautiful coast. Albatross Aviation Technology Park has been designed specifically to support defence and aviation industries, boosting local aviation, defence support and advanced manufacturing industries, creating and supporting local jobs.
The possibilities for small business and defence partnerships in my electorate are endless, and we need to make sure that we are taking advantage of these opportunities. The recent bushfires have had a tremendous impact. We have a long road to recovery, but I am excited to see the possibilities that defence and small business can achieve when they work together.