Arrival of C-17s at RAAF Base Amberley
For the last 75 years, the city of Ipswich in my electorate of Blair has been home to RAAF Base Amberley.
Over those years, the base has grown to become one of the nation's largest, employing some 5,500 uniformed and civilian personnel.
Ipswich is a proud Defence city. RAAF Base Amberley is as much a part of our history as coalmining, railways and even rugby league.
The base is essential to our local economy. The men and women who serve on it enrich our community.
On 4 November, I was honoured to speak with some of those serving Defence personnel as we welcomed the eighth C17A Globemaster aircraft into service with No. 36 Squadron at Amberley.
The C17, as is it commonly called, has become a familiar sight over Ipswich city.
We recognise its rumble and we cannot avoid an upward glance when it is overhead.
The C17 program has received strong support from Commonwealth governments of both political persuasions. The first four aircraft were acquired by the Howard government.
The former Labor government added another two to the fleet. The current government added aircrafts seven and eight.
While the C17 has been in RAAF service for less than a decade, it has still proved its value time and time again.
The aircraft's primary role is military, allowing the swift deployment of Australian troops, supplies, vehicles and heavy equipment throughout the world. It can carry an Oberon tank, three Bushmasters or over 130 personnel.
It has shone in its role in supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan, UN peacekeepers in South Sudan and our military personnel across the Middle East.
The aircraft has excelled in another role since entering service, as it has spearheaded Australia's response to local and international disasters.
Indeed it is one of Australia's greatest ambassadors.
At home, the people of Ipswich remember the C17s in action during the 2011 Queensland floods. When rising waters threatened Amberley, the aircraft briefly relocated to New South Wales. From there they delivered vital supplies to flood affected communities across Queensland. Weeks later, the C17s evacuated patients from Cairns Hospital as Cyclone Yasi approached, returning with 200 tonnes of supplies when the cyclone passed.
Beyond our shores, the C17s delivered Australian aid to Wellington during the earthquake, to Japan following earthquakes and tsunamis, to Fiji, Samoa and the Philippines. Recently the C17s have played a significant and solemn role in the repatriation of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster.
When called on, there is no doubt the aircraft crew and ground staff of No. 36 Squadron have responded with their renowned diligence and professionalism.
I thank Air Vice Marshal Gavin Turnbull for graciously guiding me around the aircraft.
When he mentioned that he spent a couple of years as a student at Ipswich State High School, we decided to claim him as local.