Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which me meet and pay my respect to their elders past and present.
There are a number of distinguished guests here today but could I acknowledge:
- ADM publisher Judy Hinz and editor Katherine Ziesing
- Capability and Sustainment Group deputy secretary Kim Gillis
- Chief Defence Scientist Alex Zelinsky
- My very good friend, former Defence Minister Robert Hill
- His Excellency, the Ambassador of Spain Manuel Cacho
- Defence and ADF personnel
- Industry and state government advocates, including John Harvey from my own great state of NSW.
I really appreciate the invitation to be here today Kathryn, thank you very much. I know your delegates feel warmly welcomed so let me add to that and encourage you to enjoy the conference as much as you can. In its 14th iteration, this has become a significant event for Defence and industry each year.
I am very pleased to be here again. This time last year speculation was still very high about the Government’s submarine program, and the country with which we would choose to partner to design this critical capability. It is nice to return with the decision long confirmed and a track record of progress on this critical capability and other major defence acquisitions.
Indeed it’s has been almost one year since the Prime Minister and I released the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program and the Defence Industry Policy Statement.
I remarked back then that, and I quote, “together, these are three landmark documents that for the first time align strategy, capability and resources in developing Australia’s defence.”
“They direct investment in an Australian Defence Force that will be more capable, more agile, and more potent, with a fully funded and fully costed investment program.
“And they transform the Defence-to-industry relationship that is at the heart of delivering capability.”
What we’ve demonstrated over the past 12 months is our commitment to those words through the actions the Government is undertaking to implement those plans. Simply put, we are getting on with the job of delivering the advanced capability our Defence Force will require over the next two decades.
And Defence itself has been undergoing a transformational change. As the theme of this congress fittingly captures, Defence is harnessing a culture of continuous innovation and setting in place the structural, cultural and business process changes required to deliver on the Government’s significant White Paper commitments.
Industry and capability progress
There has been a number of success stories over the past 12 months. Since releasing the Defence White Paper in February last year, 44 project approvals have been achieved, towards $9.4 billion in value. Some of these approvals include the historic capability announcements made regarding our naval modernisation plans. I have been frank that the reform of our shipbuilding industry and implementation of a continuous build strategy is one of the most significant of all the challenges in delivering on our commitments in the White Paper. What we have made is a clear and unambiguous statement that a strong, viable and sustainable sovereign naval shipbuilding industry is a vital element of our nation’s defence capability.
The Government has also made clear its firm commitment to maximise Australian industry involvement in the continuous naval shipbuilding program.
Contract signature with DCNS and signing of IGA with France
Our Government’s historic commitment to build twelve regionally superior submarines in Australia is the largest and most complex defence acquisition Australia has ever undertaken.
This critical investment in our long term strategic Defence capability, which will be in service until well into the second half of this century, will help create a sustainable Australian naval shipbuilding industry.
After years of inaction and delays to this project, the Turnbull government has made the necessary decisions to begin in earnest the design and construction phase to replace the Collins Class. And there is real momentum. In the past 10 months we have chosen DCNS as our international design and mobilisation partner; selected Lockheed Martin Australian as the combat system integrator; and, after several meetings between myself and French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian across the course of the year, signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement with France in December, on his visit to Australia.
There is a steady flow of Australians heading to Cherbourg in France to begin the technical skills and knowledge transfer that are so important to Australia being able to develop a sovereign submarine capability which is at the technological cutting edge.
These concrete milestones – delivered on schedule – demonstrate this Government’s commitment to ensuring Australia has a regionally superior submarine that is sustained by a sovereign capability over the life of the vessels.
There were a number of other major capability milestones reached in 2016.
In shipbuilding we have down selected designs for the Future Frigate and Offshore Patrol Vessels; awarded the construction of the Pacific Patrol Boat Program to Austal in Western Australia; and we are restructuring ASC so that it is best positioned to support the delivery of our historic shipbuilding programs.
In other commitments, we have also undertaken to replace the Army’s night fighting equipment; we are undertaking research with miniature satellites for the Buccaneer and Biarri space missions, helping to build Australia’s domestic space program; and we’re investing $500 million in our electronic warfare support operations.
And in 2017 we will continue to deliver the next generation capability that will underpin our Defence Force for decades to come.
Last November, Air Force welcomed the first of its next generation Maritime Patrol and Response aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon.
But this powerful new maritime surveillance and anti submarine warfare platform is just the beginning when it comes to exciting new capability for Air Force.
I am pleased to confirm today that Australia will take possession of the first of its 12 EA – 18G Growler electronic attack aircraft later this month. Aviation enthusiasts, should you wish, will have a runway-side view of this cutting edge aircraft when it arrives at the Avalon Air Show at the end of February. The Growler, which will have a critical role disrupting enemy radar and communications, will complement our existing fleet of Super Hornets and ultimately the Joint Strike Fighter.
Indeed, I can also announce today that both of Australia’s Joint Strike Fighters, currently based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, will travel to Australia later this month.
This is the first time one of Australia’s Joint Strike Fighters has visited our continent and provided a first-hand look at our fifth generation fighter aircraft.
As you are all aware, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered a review of the JSF program with the aim of reducing costs retaining maintaining capability. As Secretary Mattis has said, the F-35 is critical for the United States and for its allies’ air superiority.
We look forward to the outcomes of the review. The US Government negotiates on behalf of all partner nations, so Australia will share in any realised cost reductions.
Australia has four pilots in training in the US and Australian officials are part of the operational test and evaluation program, giving us valuable insight into this plane’s capabilities and development.
I’m pleased to say that Australia’s JSF program remains on track to achieve Initial Operating Capability in late 2020 and I am looking forward to seeing the JFS at Avalon.
It’s not just Navy and Air Force that are heading into an exciting 2017.
The final two of the ten pilot vehicles of the Army’s Hawkei have also been successfully delivered. Innovative science and technology underpins the design of the Hawkei to meet the stringent capability requirements of Defence operations.
Built in Thales Australia’s Bendigo factory, the pilot Hawkei vehicles have paved the way for full-rate production of 1100 Hawkeis and over 1000 companion trailers to start next year.
This project continues to be a great example of the tremendous opportunities to develop capability that are available to Defence and industry when we work together.
Indeed, this is the type of collaboration on capability between Defence and industry that the Defence White Paper emphasised is crucial for the ADF to remain relevant in current operations and to meet the strategic challenges of the future.
To maintain a regionally superior Defence Force capable of meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities we face over the coming decades. Our military has to be at the cutting edge of science and technology. The more capable, agile, and potent future force described in the White Paper will only be achievable by closer collaboration between defence and industry.
It is not just in a domestic setting that Australia benefits from close collaboration.
In many cases – as highlighted in the Future Submarine Program – our international partnerships are critical to the sharing of skills, knowledge and information that is integral to our future national security.
With a relatively small population relative to geographic area, Australia can not develop every technology domestically and we must continue to leverage our global partnerships.
From the cutting edge technology that will underpin our next generation submarine, to our Five-Eyes intelligence sharing arrangements and participation in global programs like the Joint Strike Fighter there is no question that Australia’s defence capability and long-term national security is overwhelmingly stronger because of our international partnerships.
Last September I met the Chief Defence Scientists of our Five Eyes nations in Sydney during the 2016 meeting of the Technical Cooperation Program. The approach of our allies is entirely consistent with our own.
In seeking the capability edge, the defence organisations in the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand are all looking to capitalise on the synergies available in their industry sectors and academic institutions.
As you know, this approach is also the catalyst for Defence innovation. I know Defence Chief Scientist, Dr Alex Zelinsky, has spoken already about the Next Generation Technologies Fund and the successful forging of partnerships between Defence Science and Technology, industry and academia. But I’d like to focus briefly on some of the work being done by our defence scientists.
Over the past 12 months, 16 scientists have been deployed into operational theatres, with roles ranging from operational analysis to experimentation on the effects of extreme climates.
Experiences such as that are the sorts of things that enabled our defence scientists to rapidly develop the Redwing suite of counter-IED equipment, which will be familiar to you I’m sure. Over 100,000 of these life-saving devices have now been supplied to the Afghan National Security Forces.
I was fortunate to meet some of the Brisbane team at Micreo, who are one of the companies partnering with Defence on this project. I saw their dedication and the detailed attention that goes to producing this truly life-saving capability.
The Australian Institute of Public Administration also recognised the Redwing products with an innovation award last year. And congratulations go to that team. That partnership is invaluable in the development of a capability-edge.
Central to our international Defence engagement and sharing of skills and technology is of course our alliance with the United States, a matter of some comment in recent weeks. In the 2016 Defence White Paper the Government made it clear that our alliance with the US is our most important defence relationship.
It is at the core of our strategic and security arrangements and defence planning. We will continue to invest in capabilities that enhance our operations with US forces and to prioritise enhancing our interoperability.
Let me address the US-Australia relationship from a Defence-to- Defence perspective.
The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is a close friend of Australia. He has worked with Australian forces on operations in the Middle East. Late last year he visited Australian troops and of course , US Marines in Darwin during a short visit to Australia.
I spoke a couple of weeks ago with Secretary Mattis following his confirmation. Of course I offered my warm congratulations. We discussed some of our shared interests including our efforts to defeat Daesh in Iraq.
Our historical bonds were founded 100 years ago on the battlefields of WWI.
Indeed, Australia is the only nation to have fought side by side with the USA in every major conflict of the 20th and now 21st centuries.
The first time US troops ever fought under a foreign commander was under Australian General John Monash, in the Battle of Hamel on France’s Western Front in July 1918, almost a century ago.
Today Australian and United States personnel work side-by-side to battle violent extremism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is perhaps less well known is that there are more than 600 permanent Australian Defence personnel, scientists and engineers in the United States spread across 31 states and of course the District of Columbia.
Embedded Australians occupy senior positions with the US military, including:
- the Deputy Commanding General US Army Pacific
- the Deputy Director Strategic Plans and Policy at PACOM
- the Deputy Director for Operations at CENTCOM.
These exchanges, these relationships, underscore the depth and closeness of the Alliance, which is based on long standing common values and shared interests.
Over the past 65 years our two countries, no matter which political party was in power on either side of the Pacific, have worked diligently to increase the depth and breadth of the Alliance, and I expect that will continue to be the case well into the future.
Regionally, the United States respects and values our views on, and our engagement in, the Indo Pacific. The presence of United States military forces will continue to play a vital role in ensuring security across the Indo-Pacific and the global strategic and economic weight of the United States will be essential to the continued effective functioning of the rules-based global order.
We also continue to work with the US and our other coalition partners to address common challenges including terrorism, instability in the Middle East and violent extremism.
The threat of terrorism remains a key global security challenge and in the Middle East, this continues to mean tackling the Daesh terrorist threat at its source, in Iraq and Syria.
As we start to move through 2017, it is essential that we keep up the momentum in the campaign to defeat Daesh and to consolidate the hard-fought gains of the Iraqi Security Forces over the past two years.
Stabilisation of liberated towns and cities will be a key focus to ensure that displaced Iraqis can feel confident to return home and to begin rebuilding their lives.
Ensuring that the victory over Daesh is enduring and the Iraqi Government is able to provide long-term security to its people is a priority for the global counter-Daesh coalition.
It is important to note that Australian Forces continue to make a significant contribution in the campaign to liberate Mosul:
- The Iraqi Security Forces Brigades trained by our Task Group Taji as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission have been employed on each of the main axes of the operation.
- Our Special Operations Task Group continues to advise and assist Iraqi Counter Terrorism-Service units in support of the Mosul offensive, and the SOTG has enabled more than 450 coalition air strikes, which are critical to the Counter Terrorism Service’s momentum.
- And our Air Task Group continues to fly in support of operations and has struck over 120 targets in the vicinity of Mosul.
While Australia’s role will continue to evolve in Iraq, as the Prime Minister flagged in his counter terrorism statement last September, we should expect to be there for a while longer.
Destroying Daesh’s so-called caliphate will not completely eradicate the terrorist threat, but it will deny the organisation one of its key claims of legitimacy.
Next week I will travel to Brussels to meet with Secretary Mattis and my other counterparts from the Counter-Daesh Coalition to discuss the next steps in the plan to defeat this terrorist organisation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the capability advantages that we have previously enjoyed in our region are being challenged by increased military modernisation, and so continued innovation in both defence and civil sectors is vital for Australia to maintain its capability- edge.
The Turnbull Government has put down the markers for success in future capability development and we are seeing significant progress since the Defence White Paper’s release.
We certainly have another busy year ahead in 2017.
You’ve had a long list of speakers here today and that’s a testament to the importance of the Congress and the breadth of consideration that you give to the issues in front of you.
I hope that you have found it to be a very productive conference, I appreciate the invitation and please enjoy the rest of your deliberations.