Op-Ed - The West Australian - Defence job for the times

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The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for Science and Technology

Media contacts

Ben Spencer (Minister Price’s office): +61 412 754 310 
Kasey Ellison (Minister Price’s office): +61 429 378 440
Defence Media: media@defence.gov.au

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22 March 2022

As the crow flies, Perth is more than 12,000km from Kyiv. 

But the horror of conflict in Eastern Europe is clear for all Australians to see. 

And as polling published in The West Australian (P1, March 17) shows, what is out of sight for West Australians is far from out of mind.

Each morning, as we turn on our televisions and read the headlines in newspapers and on our mobile phones, we are left aghast trying to comprehend the latest brutalities inflicted upon the people of Ukraine by Russian Forces.

The senseless violence and destruction comes down to one power-crazed autocrat whose thirst for conquest using military might is reminiscent of last century’s dictators and tyrants of bygone eras.

It’s why we’ve committed $91 million in lethal military assistance to support the defence of Ukraine, including missiles and weapons, and about $65 million forhumanitarian supplies to help the Ukraine people.

The situation in Ukraine is a reminder to us all of the continuing investment we need to make in our rules-based order. Peace is always on the precipice. Stability can quickly transform into instability.

Right now, we are contending with tensions in our own region, the Indo-Pacific. 

China’s coercion directed at many countries is well-known. 

Nations of the Indo-Pacific have also witnessed China’s high-speed military build-up in recent years.

North Korea continues its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, posing a grave risk to international peace and security.

The fracturing of peace in our region as a result of an outbreak of conflict would be catastrophic for all. 

That is why like-minded nations of the Indo-Pacific must lift their efforts to not only condemn aggression, but also act to deter it, whatever its source. 

We must become better and more reliable partners to each other, because only our combined efforts can provide credible deterrence in times of high tension.

To this end, the Morrison Government has taken many important steps. 

We have deepened defence cooperation with our allies and partners across the region through, for example,more joint exercises. 

We have established AUKUS – the enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US. 

We have lifted defence spending to more than 2 per cent of GDP and are providing record investment in defence capabilities for the Australian Defence Force. 

And we are continuing to strengthen Australia’s defence industry to grow our sovereign industrial capabilities.

Simply put, we must get the best equipment for our men and women in uniform as quickly as possible so they can do the job of defending our nation.

If COVID hadn’t already rammed home the importance of the need for sovereign industrial capabilities – that is, to build at home what we need to defend ourselves, when we need it – then the conflict in Ukraine certainly has.

Having a robust, sustainable and innovative defence industry is important for several reasons: to bolster our nation’s ability to develop and sustain military equipment and technologies for the Australian Defence Force; to build our national resilience and self-reliance; and to increase our international competitiveness with a view to export opportunities.

Right here in WA, we have an incredibly dynamicdefence industry that continues to grow off the back of the Government’s record investments in Defence. 

It is why the likes of the $4.3 billion investment in a dry dock the Prime Minister and I unveiled this week is so important. 

This shipbuilding facility at Henderson will support 2000 jobs when operational and 500 construction jobs during its build.

But its importance goes far beyond providing a majoreconomic boost.

This project is going to be critical as we look to sure up Australia’s national security at a time of great global uncertainty. 

But while the impacts of a facility of this size will be clear, what is less well known is that there are so many small and medium sized businesses in WA making important contributions to deliver and sustain equipment for our men and women in uniform.

Luerssen Australia is building our offshore patrol vessels and is partnering with BRE Engineering. 

Under an $8 million contract, BRE is producing major components for the vessels, with the work seeing its staff grow from 10 to 50 people.

Allship Engineering also supports Luerssen Australia. 

Last year alone, Allship undertook $5 million worth of fabrication and maintenance work on our Anzac Class frigates and Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels.

Back in 1964, the Special Air Service Regiment was established in Perth. 

Today, Precision Technic Defence is supplying tactical network equipment to our Special Forces under contracts valued at more than $11 million.

At the SASR’s home in Campbell Barracks, works including a $34 million facilities project are seeing the construction of a vehicle workshop, hardstand and shelters, among other upgrades. 

Many local construction businesses, including indigenous employees, are benefitting from this work.

Australian Defence Force pilots are widely regarded asbeing some of the best in the world. 

That is because they have the opportunity to train and refine their skills in the Pilatus PC-21.

The sustainment of our pilot training systems over the next 25 years is estimated to provide more than $126 million to Australian businesses, including Jet Aviation,which services the Pilatus training aircraft in WA and Victoria.

These businesses are just a few examples of exceptional West Australians whose work is making our nation stronger and more secure.

The contributions of WA’s defence industries companies will continue to be one of national significance in significant times.

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