Royal Australian Air Force, No. 6 Squadron (6SQN) Armament Technicians, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) William Mearns (left) and LAC Brendan King, prepare to perform maintenance on an EA-18G Growler inside the new 6SQN Hangar, RAAF Base Amberley.
Royal Australian Air Force, No. 6 Squadron (6SQN) Armament Technicians, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) William Mearns (left) and LAC Brendan King, prepare to perform maintenance on an EA-18G Growler inside the new 6SQN Hangar, RAAF Base Amberley. CPL Colin Dadd

Defence will provide Ipswich high-paying jobs in the future

AN EXPANDING defence industry across the region will provide a once-in-a-generation ability for Ipswich to grow its skilled jobs and economic prosperity.

That's the message from demographer Bernard Salt who told the QT Ipswich needed to take more advantage of having the southern hemisphere's largest air force base on its doorstep.

As squadrons and personnel are expanded, RAAF Base Amberley will grow to become an even more vital pillar in the Department of Defence's arsenal.

With that comes the spin-off benefits for private business to supply technical components to the air force's mammoth fleet.

SEQ Water chairman and former member for Ipswich David Hamill has been spruiking the defence industry possibilities for several years.

He has been arguing the case for a defence precinct to be built outside the gates of RAAF Base Amberley.

In 2010, it was envisaged an Aerospace and Defence Support Centre housing high-skilled enterprises would serve the engineering and maintenance requirements of Australian Defence Force assets at Amberley.

"A precinct adjoining the base to support activities on base makes a lot of sense both economically and strategically," Dr Hamill said.

"Whether it can get up really depends on what defence itself wants to do with the land near the base."

The former Queensland treasurer expected the defence industry would be a significant economic driver going forward.

"Ipswich does have a strong skills base and that skills base gives it a competitive advantage to an industry that requires skills trade," he said.

"These are the attributes that build a platform for defence-related industries."

 

David Hamill talks about defence industries.
David Hamill talks about defence industries. Rob Williams

Dr Hamill said the expansion of TAE Aerospace to Bundamba proved the region was growing its technical skills.

"At one level it just demonstrates the Ipswich region offers defence support industry a number of strategic benefits in terms of space and skills base," he said.

Dr Hamill said how or if the Commonwealth would expand the footprint of RAAF Base Amberley was yet to be known.

"Defence is growing the base and it's not just in terms of air force but also the presence of the army and supports units of the army in the area," he said.

"What we don't know is the extent if any for defence to grow the size of the base itself.

"That becomes one of the critical issues."

LET'S DO MORE TO GROW SKILLED DEFENCE JOBS: SALT

WE ARE not doing enough to benefit from the highly skilled opportunities RAAF Base Amberley is providing Ipswich, leading demographer Bernard Salt believes.

Between 2017 and last year just 10 new businesses were created in the professional, scientific and technical services industries.

It was a growth of 1 per cent in Ipswich compared to 3 per cent across Australia and non-metro Australia.

Mr Salt told the QT that Ipswich needed to grow its professional and technical services jobs for the future.

"In an ideal world you'd see that expanding," he said.

"What you want is Amberley ratcheting up."

At the end of last year there were 1636 professional, scientific and technical services businesses in Ipswich.

It was the eighth largest industry for jobs in Ipswich at the end of last year.

Retail and accommodation industries employ more people in Ipswich.

Across Australia technical services is the third-highest industry for employment.

Mr Salt said the skills base of Ipswich needed to move towards more professional skills and trades.

"The skill base of this region needs to be more focussed on professional skills and that comes down to universities," he said.

"We need to be creating the skills for the jobs of the future."