Presentation of the 2012 Essington Lewis Trophies
Old Parliament House, Canberra
(check against delivery)
Can I just make a few acknowledgments to Vice Admiral Peter Jones; and to Mr Warren King.
It’s been a great pleasure working with you over the last few months, and I’m very, very pleased you’ve been officially recognised as the CEO of the Defence Materiel Organisation.
I’d also thank Judy Hinz and Tracy Yaffa for their sponsorship of this event. It’s been a very fine evening.
I’d like to also acknowledge Innes Willox, the new CEO of the Australian Industry Group.
It is a particular pleasure to be able to present these awards tonight, the Essington Lewis trophies. It’s fitting that they are awarded.
I have had the opportunity to actually look at Essington Lewis’ history.
Most of you who know me may know I have an interest in historical matters.
Mr Lewis was concurrently what we might call today the CEO of BHP, and the Director General of Munitions, from 1940 to 1945. He was simultaneously the Director General of Aircraft Production from 1942 to 1945.
So if Warren has any complaints about work-load, I’d refer him to Essington Lewis’ records.
Now of course, all that’s very fine, but I might say that his greater historical claim to fame was that he was the first man in the world to own an Australian-made car.
It was delivered to him the night before the formal release of the first Chifley Holdens – the FX Holdens – for sale to the public.
I’m led to believe that General Motors Holden tried to give him the car as a gift, but he refused to accept it. He actually insisted on paying for it.
So right from the start, he’s a firm believer in a sustainable Australian auto industry.
Now as I say, it’s no coincidence. Essington Lewis was probably one of the most powerful industrialists in the country of his day. Without his support, we would not have the Holden.
There were many nation-building projects that were very much bread and butter for Essington Lewis.
When BHP was on its knees in the 1920s, he stepped in and became very important in ensuring its ongoing success.
He of course played his role in building our industrial capabilities in the Second World War.
Yet he was no romantic idealist. He was a practical, down-to-earth person of high ambition.
He simply believed that this was a country that could be great. And if it could be done, he was a person who was prepared to put his shoulder to the wheel to see that it was done.
He had the courage to dream large, and the initiative to act upon it.
As a Government, and I’d say to you as a defence community, we are called to act in the same way.
So these awards are in fact a testament to the people who have the courage to do hard things.
The firms we honour tonight, whether they be winners or finalists, they stand proof to that claim.
So I take the opportunity in advance to congratulate all these firms, and all those who have been part of their success – people working in government, in the industry and in the research community.
I know their legacy will be great for this country.
Thank you very much.
Note: For further details about the award recipients see: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/02/22/minister-for-defence-materiel-awards-recognise-defence-and-industry-leaders/