We must start buying bombs the smart way. We must turn what defence buys into local jobs and exports wherever we can. Australia’s defence industry must be central to how we keep our nation secure.
We already know our local defence industry can perform. It may surprise many that this year the Department of Defence expects to spend $6.4 billion arming our defence forces.
This is money that will be spent on everything from bullets and boots to armoured vehicles and artillery systems. In southern NSW at Mulwala, Australian workers are making rifle and machinegun ammunition, cannon rounds for combat vehicles, grenades, and missiles for ANZAC frigates.
The Australian-designed and developed REDWING program has developed devices no bigger than a walkie-talkie that are stopping improvised explosive devices detonating within a 10m range of the individual or vehicle using the device. This is remarkable technology, made in Australia and saving lives.
But we could be doing more. The recent First Principles Review of Defence highlighted that Defence must reform how it buys equipment and technology. Buying jet fighters or armoured personnel carriers requires being a smart buyer. We need tailored processes that recognise this.
We need to engage with industry early in a project’s life so we can plan together how to deliver not only value for the taxpayer but quality products for our armed forces. When defence buys its bombs, we need to understand that cost blowouts or lengthy wait times hurt local industry and local jobs.
We need lower-cost solutions for both our defence forces and our defence industry. We need to make sure our defence forces are provided with the best equipment, at the best price, as soon as possible.
The new Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG) within the Defence Department, established by the Coalition government, will look at reforming these processes. Reforming our purchasing will also help grow our local defence industry. With 25,000 jobs and 3000 small businesses in the sector already, the potential for growth is enormous.
The government’s Defence White Paper, released last month, intends to harness local talent and firms to benefit Defence’s capability. The government has announced an investment of $1.6 billion to build a stronger relationship between Defence and our local industry. The greatest defence capability advances come from pushing the boundaries of current technology or pursuing the next generation of technology. The future of our defence forces and their ability to serve rests on how and where we spend our defence dollars. The Defence White Paper sets out how we will do this.
At its heart it focuses on innovation and making us globally competitive. Buying bombs the smart way, will deliver greater national security and our economy will reap the rewards of a competitive industry.