**E & OE Check against delivery**
Well, thank you very much Paul for that warm introduction and good morning to everybody. Welcome to a very, very special day for everybody here, for our nation, and also for the state of South Australia.
We have many special VIP here today, in fact everybody here today is here because you are very special to this project. But in particular, I’d like to acknowledge the Ambassador of Spain, his excellency Mr Manual Cacho – welcome; Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, Chief of Navy; Mr Tony Dalton, the DEPSEC of National Naval Shipbuilding; the CEO of Navantia, Ms Susana de Sarria Sopena – welcome; and also, probably to the happiest man on the planet today, to the Commanding Officer of NUSHIP Sydney, Commander Ted Seymour. Welcome to you all.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains, who are the traditional custodians of the land where we are celebrating this joyous day for us all. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. But also, as Minister for Defence, I acknowledge all of the Indigenous, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women – particularly those in the Navy – who have served our nation with such great distinction in times of peace and in war.
Well today, ladies and gentlemen, marks the delivery of the third and final Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer. This is the end of the Air Warfare Destroyer program which also marks the formal beginning of continuous shipbuilding here in Australia. This is significant for Australia. And this is significant to each and every one of you who are here today, because you have all been on the 13 year journey - to get to this day.
This is, quite simply, an outstanding achievement for the Department of Defence. It is an outstanding achievement for the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance and its partners including ASC, Raytheon Australia, Navantia and the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group. On occasions like this, we also need to remind ourselves, and indeed remind all Australians, I think, of three things.
Firstly, of our Navy’s critical role in our nation’s defence and security. And secondly, of our collective journey through the Air Warfare Destroyer program and also significantly, of today – looking forward – to the many lessons we have learnt along the way. And thirdly, of just how capable the AWDs are, and what a magnificent job they have already started doing on behalf of the Navy, and of our maritime capability.
In October last year, at the Sea Power conference, I spoke about how the Department and the Government can find ways to break free of the shackles of historical legacies so that we are able to deliver capability in new, collaborative and more far more agile ways. That challenge still stands today, but the milestones set the scene in this project for the way forward.
Today our Navy is very, very busy. On average, it has 20 ships at sea any given day, and last year, it made over 200 port visits to 32 nations and also participated in over 30 exercise and operations. Last year, Indo-Pacific Endeavour alone saw five ships visit seven countries, with 1,100 ADF personnel aboard for five months.
Since the early 1990s, we have frigates regularly deploying to the Middle East to assist providing security and stability in that region that is so important to our nation. Right now, one of our magnificent frigates, HMAS Toowoomba, is participating in the International Maritime Security Construct to support the free passage of civil maritime flows through the Strait of Hormuz.
And most recently, sorry I get a bit emotional when I talk about Operation Bushfire Assist, the part that our ADF played in assisting our own nation. Navy brilliantly provided essential support to thousands and thousands of Australians in dire need, and also wonderfully, so many of their pets.
Hundreds of personnel, three ships, MRH-90 helicopters and a great deal of skill, of compassion and goodwill. And as I was able to thank the Senior Leadership Group of Navy last night, many, many thousands of acts of kindness that will never, ever get picked up in our official statistics or reports.
On behalf of all Australians, Navy pursues two central goals. Firstly, protecting and advancing Australia’s national interest. And secondly, to keep commercial and merchant vessels safe in a potentially hostile environment, and we need high-technology ships with advanced air warfare capabilities. And to do these roles, Navy platforms, by their very nature, are complex and they are large.
Building these platforms, integrating the combat systems, installing the weapons systems and then delivering the full capability takes decades – in the thinking, the designing, the planning and the doing.
The AWD construction started five years after we finished building the last ANZAC frigate. Even a gap of a few years, as we found, meant we lost much of the skills and expertise developed during the frigate build. An important lesson that now underpins our commitment to the continuous Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.
Of course, as we have seen, building warships is never easy, and this program, I think I can safely say, has not been without its challenges. But when this Government saw the problems, we went through a thorough process with many of you in this room to rectify and fix problems. We together turned the project around.
In late 2015, the Government, in hindsight, very wisely, engaged the world renowned management expertise of Spanish shipbuilders, Navantia. We shared the risks and the rewards to resolve the challenges we faced. And as a result, ASC shipyard productivity improved by 45% from Ship 2 to Ship 3 at the end of the program.
But it was in the trades work where the greatest efficiencies were found. Structural steel fabrication improved by around 50% and pipe installation by 35%. The delivery of NUSHIP Sydney is a major accomplishment for the vast Australian supply chain, comprising of more than 2,700 Australian suppliers – the majority of them small to medium Australian business.
Now, of those many, I’ll just pick out two today who I know are with us today – Greg Taylor, where are you? Welcome Greg. Greg, of Taylor Brothers, he made, his company made 170 crew compartments at your factory in Hobart – thank you and welcome Greg.
And we’ve also got David Heaslip – where are you David? Welcome, and you’re from Century Engineering. David and his team oversaw the manufacture of over 5,700 products in their factory at Elizabeth, here in South Australia.
Indeed, as we’ve heard already, over 5,000 skilled Australians have worked directly on the AWD program, mainly here, but also across the country. And many thousands more have been involved in the program throughout the supply chain process. From welders and fabricators in this shipyard, to the engineers and the project managers in the systems centre, to the far reaching supply chains. All of your work together has got us where we are today.
This is an on-the-ground, compelling example of how industry and Defence can work together and also share benefits. The success of this endeavour depends as much on leadership, science, engineering, design and analytical skills as it does on our determination to maintain long-term focus on this core national enterprise, which is fostering an environment that is cooperative and highly collaborative.
And the result of this is right in front of us, for all of us to see, for the nation and for the rest of the world to see. A sovereign naval shipbuilding capability and a bigger, more advanced shipyard is under construction for the next generation of Hunter Class frigate.
And the AWD program will stand forever as the foundation and exemplar of continuous shipbuilding in Australia. And we will continue to build on this national effort to create a sovereign industrial base for generations to come.
For the ADF, not just for Navy, the Air Warfare Destroyer is simply in a class of its own. They are the most capable ships in our Navy, and the CO has just told me, this is the most capable ship in the Navy, and also in our region. They can provide credible deterrence, scalable response options and withstand counter coercion – an integral part of the Government’s commitment to a prosperous and secure Indo Pacific.
Sydney truly represents both the best of Australian Defence industry and also of naval power. Her motto is ‘Thorough and Ready’. And I have to say, after what I have seen today, indeed she is. She is a generational leap in our air warfare capabilities. Her capabilities, from surface to undersea, to surveillance and reconnaissance, are able to counter multiple threats simultaneously.
She is recognised as one of the world’s most capable naval vessels whose mission is to provide area defence to enable joint and combined Task Group operations, including for land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas, air forces operating in supporting of naval Task Groups and self-protection for accompanying ships against missiles and also aircraft. Sydney, and her sister ships, Hobart and Brisbane, are poised to serve with great distinction and great pride for Navy and the ADF, and of course, alongside our coalition partners.
So in conclusion, HMAS Hobart has already achieved excellent missile firing results in Australia and the US, and HMAS Brisbane last year successfully tested its combat systems in the United States; demonstrating our interoperability with our coalition partners. These are magnificent national assets that will serve us for many generations to come. No matter the strategic challenge, we must have the ability to project our forces across land, sea and air – the Air Warfare Destroyer with its advanced capabilities is a key part of that equation.
So, to Commander Ted Seymour and your ship’s company, make us proud – thorough and ready. I know you will serve with distinction and pride as NUSHIP Sydney soon attends to her most solemn duty – the protection and support of Australia’s national interests and of all Australians. Thorough and ready indeed. Thank you all.