Speech: Year in Review
Mawson Lakes, Adelaide
7 December 2011
**CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**
It’s not widely known, but the steel hull of the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle wasn’t designed for trucks.
It was originally designed for our Frigates in the 1980s. Then adapted for our Collins Class submarines - then adapted again for use on the Bushmasters.
It is no ordinary steel.
I saw that when I was in Afghanistan in July.
I crawled under a bushmaster that had been hit by an IED.
There were large salad bowl shaped bulges in the steel where the bomb had exploded. The steel had buckled – but it hadn’t ripped apart.
The steel took the force of the blast – and all eight men inside walked out.
It’s a good example of what the Australian defence industry does – and what Australian engineers can do.
Cutting edge work for Navy in the 1980s that’s saving lives in another decade, in Army, on the other side of the world.
Defence often gets a bad rap - but we have a lot to be proud of.
And we have done a lot of good work this year.
• We’ve increased project approvals
• We are implementing important reforms to the way we buy and maintain equipment
• We have delivered a lot of new equipment to our troops; and
• We’ve fixed a number of problem projects as well.
Over the past ten years the average number of Defence projects approved by the Federal Government each year has been 28.
So far this year we’ve approved 35 projects – worth more than $6 billion – and we’re not done yet, there’s more to come in the next few weeks.
Some of the projects we’ve approved this year include:
• New Romeo SeaHawk Naval Helicopters;
• A new missile defence system for our Anzac frigates; and
• 101 more Bushmasters
This has also been a year of reform.
This year the Minister for Defence and I announced 42 reforms to improve the way we purchase, maintain and dispose of military equipment.
Last week we issued a progress report on their implementation.
A dozen have now been fully implemented. Implementation of the rest is underway.
In 2011 we’ve also delivered a lot of new equipment to our troops.
In Air Force:
• 24 new Super Hornet fighter jets have been delivered - under budget and ahead of schedule;
• Three of our five new Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft have been accepted – and the final two will be accepted next year;
• And we took delivery of our fifth C17 heavy lift aircraft this year – and we are considering an order for a sixth.
• The Anti Ship Missile Defence System on HMAS Perth has proven very effective and we’ve decided to roll the system out across the rest of the ANZAC fleet;
• The first AWD blocks have been shipped here to Adelaide from Melbourne; and
• The HMAS Choules has been purchased and arrived in Western Australia yesterday.
Perhaps most important of all – in Army we have delivered a lot of new equipment to protect our troops in Afghanistan:
• New lighter combat body armour and a new combat uniform;
• Longer range machine guns;
• Upgrades to our Bushmaster vehicles in Afghanistan to make them even safer; and
• We have installed a counter rocket system at Tarin Kot (and at a number of our forward operating bases) to warn troops of rocket attacks. So far this year they have provided advanced warning of 23 attacks.
It has also been a year with plenty of challenges.
A good example of this are our amphibious ships.
When Cyclone Yasi hit North Queensland in February we had no amphibious ships available to help.
Now we have two - next week we will have three.
The Minister for Defence and I made no secret of our disappointment with our amphibious ships – and we have taken a number of steps to rectify the problem.
In April we purchased the RFA Largs Bay from the British Government and next week she will be commissioned HMAS Choules – named after Claude Choules who died in May this year after having served in the Royal Navy in World War I and then the Royal Australian Navy in World War II.
We have also done a lot of work on HMAS Tobruk to get her back to sea – and we have leased the commercial ship Windermere to provide extra support this cyclone season.
To ensure this never happens again we also commissioned Paul Rizzo - a Director of a number of major Australian corporations including the National Australia Bank and Malleson Stephen Jacques - to provide us with a plan to improve the maintenance and sustainment of our Naval fleet.
He provided this to us in July – and we are now implementing it.
Good progress has been made here.
But there is still more work to do.
The same is true of the Air Warfare Destroyer project.
Earlier this year problems emerged on this project.
We’ve responded by re-allocating construction work in the shipyards.
That re-allocation is now complete and it is expected to cut delays by up to 12 months.
We have also successfully remediated a number of projects on the Project of Concern list.
At the start of the year there were 12 projects on the list.
There are now nine.
This shows the system is working – it’s fixing problem projects.
More projects are expected to be in a position to be removed from the list in the next twelve months.
Still a lot of work to do
Across the board we have made a lot of progress, but we’ve got a lot more work to do.
We have the big challenge of improving the reliability and availability of our Collins class submarines and the equally large challenge of planning the next generation of submarines that will replace them.
Over the next 15 years the Australian Defence Force will replace or upgrade up to 85 per cent of its equipment.
The biggest challenge we face is building and maintaining the skills to do this work – people like you.
The future submarine project, for example, is expected to require hundreds of companies and thousands of workers - many based here in South Australia.
A lot of them will be engineers.
I’ve made it clear to Defence that I want skills to be the next step in our reform plan.
That’s why I’m very happy to be here today to launch this Master of Systems Support Engineering degree – set up through a partnership between BAE, SAAB Systems, ASC, Defence, RMIT and the University of South Australia.
I am certain it will play an important role in developing the skills we need for projects like the future submarine.
As you know, just like the steel that protects our soldiers in Afghanistan - the things we learn, develop and invent on that project may save the life of someone else, somewhere else, still yet to be born.
We have a lot to look forward to.
Media contact: Korena Flanagan – 02 6277 7620