Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly has been sworn in by Prime Minister Julia Gillard as the Minister for Defence Materiel.
His promotion into the ministry will involve responsibilities including the acquisition of military materials and equipment, science and technology matters relating to their development, skills and industry policy, and helping to develop the national Defence Capability Plan.
Dr Kelly, a former army colonel who entered the Parliament in 2007 after a 20-year military career, said his appointment was a great honour.
“I am intensely aware of how important this job is, having seen first-hand during my military career what can happen if you don’t get it right,” Dr Kelly said.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got a soldier out there depending on their equipment for his or her survival. There can’t be any greater responsibility for a Minister to remind themselves every day that, at the end of the chain, somebody’s life is at stake.”
In an interview with the Canberra Times, Dr Kelly said during his 20-year career in the army, he was often the victim of “dodgy kit”.
“When I was deployed to Somalia for instance, I had to spend a lot of my own money to get enough appropriate equipment,’’ he said.
“Now the equipment is light years from where it used to be.
“Obviously defence and security policy is the great passion of my life and to be able to contribute at a higher level in the security policy area is really something that thrills me and I am very excited about,’’ he said.
Dr Kelly is aware his new portfolio is the focus of intense scrutiny over waste, particularly white-elephant projects.
‘’Having been a user and consumer of defence materiel I’m keenly aware of the importance of getting it right,’’ he said.
‘’I think a great deal of progress has been made in the past five years on cost effectiveness, efficiencies, savings - the organisation has been rigorously examining itself and refining and finding those savings.’’
While his new portfolio will be demanding, Dr Kelly said his focus on Eden-Monaro would be as strong as ever.
“My two great passions are the military and Eden-Monaro, where my family goes back 160 years. I feel extremely lucky to be able to serve the people of Eden-Monaro and our brothers and sisters in the armed forces.
“While the role of Minister comes with extra time and travel demands, I will be out in the electorate as much as ever – and I will keep working hard to secure the golden future our region deserves.”