Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for the invitation to be here this evening. Let me first acknowledge that this event is being held on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I also want to thank Paul House for his very impressive welcome to country. I agree with Vince, it was one of the best.
May I acknowledge the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, and the very many distinguished guests who are here this evening, there are far too many to name, as you can see if you just look around the room here yourself. But it is a testament to the importance of this conference and this event this evening that there are so many of you here. Thank you very much for attending.
I’d also like to acknowledge those in the room who are current and former serving members of the ADF and thank you for your service. Now tonight what you’re going to see is a seamless transition from the Senate to the House of Representatives, via the ACT Legislative Assembly it would seem, as Christopher Pyne and I, amongst those who are able to get pairs, those who are not, he will be here from the time the House of Representatives rises, and I have to go to a second event myself. But we are both here and he will I am sure repeat my assurance. We are both very pleased to have the chance to be here this evening because this is a key event on the Defence industry calendar.
And it is all about collaboration between Defence and industry and I am sure that the conference tomorrow will be no different. Ladies and gentlemen, collaboration is absolutely vital to the Defence mission and we see that very clearly and this is absolutely vital to achieving the Defence mission and we see that very clearly in Australian industry’s support for the operation and sustainment of our major platforms and systems. And it is this support underpins the Australian Defence Force’s ability to conduct operations.
Everyone here knows that industry works closely with Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group, with the ADF and other parts of Defence to design, to manufacture, to bring new platforms and capabilities into service. That’s what industry does. That’s why this Government has formally recognised industry as a Fundamental Input to Capability.
What is perhaps not as well-known is the support that industry provides to support capability during operations and in theatre. The CASG provides materiel support to ADF through the deployment of contractors to operational theatres to ensure capability delivery and in theatre sustainment of capability.
In March and April, an integrated team of companies including BAE Systems, Naval Ship Management, Saab, Penske Power Systems, and CEA Technologies worked alongside our Royal Australian Navy personnel to conduct scheduled and corrective maintenance for HMAS Arunta mid-deployment in the Middle East. I visited Arunta in the Gulf at the end of April, just after it had finished its maintenance period. The feedback was fascinating. Sure, there are probably some lessons to be learnt but it was overwhelmingly positive.
The successful coordination and planning and conduct of this complex activity in the Middle East midway through the ship’s extended 9-month operational deployment truly is an exceptional example of industry partnering with Defence to support our current operations. And this is the first time that a Navy Major Fleet Unit External Maintenance Period of this scale has been conducted within an area of operations. I think in fact congratulations go to all of those involved. Those on the ship, those here in Australia, those in the various industry groups represented in the maintenance engagement.
We also have a range of other industry deployed to the Middle East Region, both permanently and as needed, to support and sustain ADF capabilities, and I include a couple of examples:
Supporting Force Protection Electronic Counter Measure capabilities for Operation HIGHROAD and OKRA.
Assistance with the Through Life Support of the KC-30A Air to Air Refuelling capability and having been in and out of their base a few times recently, I know how important that is.
Assistance with delivering and installing the capabilities as part of our ICT remediation project. I got into trouble the last time I described our ICT in a certain way so I won’t do it again, but the remediation project is clearly very important.
Of course, industry and CASG regularly support ADF operations through the Urgent Operational Procurement of Commercial and Military Off The Shelf materiel capabilities for use on operations.
This is – make no mistake – vital support to defence operations. It ensures the ADF can generate the required military response when directed by Government.
We find ourselves now in June 2017. I find it remarkable that it’s over 12 months ago since the Prime Minister and I launched the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program, and the Defence Industry Policy Statement. Not only was it the first time that an Australian Government had released such a comprehensive strategic plan for our nation’s defence, but it also set a clear course for the development of the force we need for a future that will be without doubt more contested and challenging for Australia’s interests.
And we are seeing that strategic contest being realised in many parts of the world and most particularly in our region today. As a government we continue to deliver on our commitment to fund the growth and development of the force we need in the two budgets since the White Paper’s release to meet our commitment to a Defence budget of two per cent of our GDP by 2020-21.
In the White Paper we recognise that our strategic circumstances are changing in ways that require a clear and unequivocal response from Australia about the importance we place on defending our nation and advancing our strategic defence interests in our region and globally.
Importance of Industry
The importance of Australian industry in delivering the Government’s plans is fundamental. The White Paper set out very clearly that we need a force that is capable, potent and agile with the capability to respond to a broader range of contingencies and in an environment where our historical capability advantages would be potentially increasingly challenged. We are seeing that capability dynamism at the fore in our own region. We also acknowledged that we needed a more proactive defence posture with a higher operational tempo at home and in our immediate region.
There are strategic and capability drivers for Defence which apply equally to our requirements of Australian industry and I think it’s worth repeating those tonight
To enable us to achieve defence sovereignty that we seek
To support our ability to maintain technological and warfighting advantage in a rapidly changing environment; and
To implement a more active posture at home and in our region.
The key message then is that we as a government, we as a nation, need Australian industry to be postured and structured to meet the threats and challenges we face today and to be positioning now for the future. That positioning is underpinned by this Government’s very public direction on its long-term investment in Defence capability, backed up by the resources and the commitment to work with Australian industry to deliver it.
Last week at the ASPI conference on Building the Joint and Integrated ADF - and I know some of you were in the room that night as well – I spoke about the need not only for the ADF to further integrate the three services, but also to improve its integration with other government agencies, our international partners, and with industry.
Our Defence Industry Policy Statement set out the key principles for that engagement between Defence and industry and the key industry initiatives in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
We have already made significant progress in building our future defence industry capability. We have given effect to our defence industry policy through the strengthened Australian Industry Capability Program, and we are developing the major policy initiatives that will allow us to better plan and guide our defence industry. It is very much a two-way street.
The Government has also implemented the Integrated Investment Program at a very rapid pace. In fact in 2016-17, the Government has made 62 project approvals, and there are still a few weeks to go. This is a testament to the reforms that Defence has made, through the First Principles Review and the Government’s commitment to ensuring the ADF has the capabilities it needs to respond to the challenges set out in the Defence White Paper. Importantly for many of you in the room tonight, the capability-driven decisions that this Government has made to modernise the Australian Defence Force and to implement our plans exemplified in the White Paper to build our defence industrial base – they will create unprecedented opportunities for Australian industry over the next decade and far beyond.
This is a long-term journey to build and to evolve our capability and our defence industry capability has to quickly advance as well. The nurturing of the skills that we need in five years, in ten years must be happening now; they must be planned and guided. That is our task and it is a national endeavour – it is a national partnership with Australian industry.
The Chief Minister said in his remarks tonight that the ACT, in its appointment of a Defence Industry Advocate, with the engagement of industry within the borders of the territory itself, is taking a strategic approach to its engagement. It is so important and we are very pleased to see that engagement and acknowledge the Chief Minister’s efforts in that regard. This Defence and Industry Conference and Dinner is about recognising our successes and our challenges today and focusing on what we need to do to prepare effectively for the future – all of us. I congratulate all award winners and I hope that you are able to celebrate well this evening because the collaboration between industry and the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group and the larger Defence Organisation is vital to enabling Defence and ensuring the safety and security of our nation.
Enjoy a fabulous evening. Thank you very much.