Can you tell me how important this opening in Canberra is for Airbus and the Government?
Well Airbus makes a magnificent contribution to Australia’s defence capability across a number of platforms, particularly helicopters and aircraft.
I mentioned in the opening that we have the P-3 Orion being sustained and maintained by the Airbus Group, that’s a very, very successful operation for us.
We put our P-3 Orions way out into the ocean – in harm’s way virtually – and we must have really good maintainers and sustainers, and Airbus does a fabulous job there.
Also, the new tanker, taking our air combat capability to a range and effect that we haven’t been able to see before.
So the Airbus contribution to Australia’s national security is quite fabulous.
And having an office in Canberra, I guess it boosts the local economy as well?
Well it’s good to have someone that you can look at and talk to and say ‘how is this programme going?’ and just generally be able to get into the nitty-gritty of discussing capability delivery to make sure that the taxpayer has someone who’s on the front foot, talking to industry getting to the bottom of some of the problems.
These are very technical areas, thing’s often don’t go as smoothly as we’d like and it’s great to have someone to discuss that with in a personal way.
And how much money does the Australian Government spend on Airbus?
I don’t know the exact figure because there’s a mixture of acquisition of platforms – the Tiger helicopter, the MRH90 helicopter, the air-to-air refueler – and then there’s the service of the C-130J and the P-3 Orion.
There’s a whole host of output in terms of money that’s a mixture of acquisition programmes and sustainment, so it’s a bit of a variable number, but it would be certainly in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
On that theme of industry and policy, how important is it for companies to have an Australian footprint?
I think the Parliament takes a completely different perspective with industry when it knows that industry is committed to Australia.
In this instance the Airbus Group has committed to Australia, employing several hundred people in Brisbane to deliver leading and cutting-edge technology in the defence space, and I think all Parliamentarians welcome that and go ‘here is a company that we can rely on and trust because they’ve committed to us’.
And on a related thing, DMO reform, how are things shaping up there?
First Principles review is just about to get under way, we’ve got a few I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but I expect that we’ll dovetail that in with the White Paper and we’ll see the product of the First Principles review in the first half of next year, including DMO reform, Departmental reform and also some military structural reform.
What we’re chasing is a much more expeditious understanding of capability and its development so that we get time and cost into a much more reasonable schedule.
The problem at the moment is that by the time we’ve decided on what we want the technology has escaped us and the costs have run away from us.
On staff numbers, in Opposition you were very critical of the numbers in Defence, have you changed that view since coming into Government?
In terms of Departmental numbers we’re down below 20,000, that has been done without forced redundancies, it’s been natural attrition by and large – there’s been some small areas of redundancy in the changing scope of policy within the Department.
The Secretary’s done a fantastic job here, he’s managed this, he’s known what the Government wants and he’s gone forward and delivered – I think quite seamlessly – a really good outcome so far, we’ve got a little way to go but it’s happening.
Media Contacts (Defence Minister’s office):
Mark Dodd 0477 389 560
Rebecca Horton 0477 389 554