Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly was sworn in as the Minister for Defence Materiel, on Monday, February 4, after Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced his promotion into the Ministry on Saturday.
Dr Kelly took the oath in a ceremony at Government House and will take up his new portfolio immediately.
As Minister for Defence Materiel, Dr Kelly’s responsibilities include 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.
The promotion is a perfect fit for Dr Kelly, a former Army Colonel, who served in Afghanistan and Somalia and experienced first-hand how defence materiel choices can affect those at the sharp end.
Dr Kelly reluctantly hung up his full colonel’s uniform at the urging of Kevin Rudd, and won the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro from Liberal Gary Nairn in the 2007 landslide to Labor.
“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.”
The new portfolio is both a demanding and high profile one because of the enormous costs involved in defence. Getting the best equipment can often mean investing in cutting edge technology which can also be risky. It is a challenge that Dr Kelly can be expected to tackle with enthusiasm with his interest in technology.
“The Australian Defence Force has always got to focus on quality above quantity, that means we’re always going to be exploring the technological edge of new capabilities and, of course, that’s where all the risk is.
“We went through that with the F-111 and ultimately we had an asset that dominated the region for decades to come,” Dr Kelly said.
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.”