National Convention Centre, Canberra
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Thank you very much Mark for the introduction.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet — the Ngunnawal people — and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I acknowledge my federal colleagues here tonight – both from the Senate and the House.
I also want to recognise and thank all current and former service men and women here tonight.
Congratulations to the Australian Defence Magazine, Tony Fraser and CASG, but mostly – congratulations to tonight’s award nominees.
Two months ago, I took the reins as Minister for Defence Industry —
As the Prime Minister has said, my job is to ensure the generational job-creating projects we’re bringing through our $200 billion investment in defence capability are delivered on time, on budget, and ‘on spec’.
Being ‘on spec’ means that Australian businesses get opportunities – and I intend to hold major contractors to account.
And, let me say, I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the many fantastic businesses that make up our defence industry – it’s great to see so many familiar faces here tonight.
It’s wonderful tonight to see the achievements of our ‘Workforce behind the Defence Force’ and be able to recognise your outstanding contribution to build a stronger, more resilient and internationally competitive defence industry.
It’s a privilege to get up each day and deliver more jobs for Australians and more opportunities for small businesses.
Back home, my electorate of Durack spans a large chunk of regional and remote Western Australia – some 1.6 million square klms.
Some of you may know it’s a beautiful part of this country – but it’s also home to more than 17,000 small businesses.
And I’m a passionate advocate for every single one of them.
And I’m a passionate advocate for all of you, too — for Australia’s entire defence industry.
While tonight’s a celebration of the award winners and nominees — and I congratulate all of you — it’s also a celebration of how far the industry’s come.
When this Government, back in 2016, released the most comprehensive defence white paper in Australia’s history, we knew something had to change to achieve our ambitious plan.
Importantly, we needed to change the way we work with you.
We had to make it easier for you to work with Defence — and, in particular, for small businesses to work with Defence.
Big-name companies have always had an important place in our defence industrial base, and they always will.
But we had to make it easier for innovators and small companies to succeed in the industry, too.
Because if we want a stronger defence industrial base to ensure our nation’s defence capability, we need to maximise the involvement and success of Australian small businesses.
Since 2016, we’ve delivered a long list of initiatives to grow the industry and unlock its potential.
Like supporting smart ideas through the Innovation Hub
Like connecting Australian businesses with export opportunities
Like the CDIC providing the ‘front door’ to Defence
This is a new era for Australia’s defence industry — and we’re starting to witness tremendous success.
Right now there are more than 3,500 small businesses operating in the defence industry.
That’s 3,500 businesses who identify as being a defence industry business – there are many more who are not what people would call “traditional” defence businesses.
My job is to identify and grow that army of small business and to let them know about the significant opportunities to contribute to the build-up of our nation’s sovereign capability.
To date the Innovation Hub has invested more than $130 million in smart Aussie ideas — 85 per cent of which has gone to small businesses.
That’s great news — though, I must say, I’m not surprised.
Small businesses are often the source of the biggest ideas.
But I want to see even more — I want us all to harness the cutting edge potential of Australia’s defence industry so our Australian Defence Force has the best capability on offer.
So whether you’re a global defence company or a small Australian business, the Australian Government’s creating opportunities for you to get involved in the sector.
We want to prepare the industry for the future — to make sure you’re successful in five, ten, fifteen years from now.
And that means doing more to help you succeed on the global stage — and creating a highly-skilled workforce.
Today, young Australians aspire to careers in construction, retail, healthcare… the list goes on.
But I also want them to consider a career like yours.
We need to educate parents, teachers and young people about what that career might look like — what great opportunities are on offer.
Greater success beckons if we work together. Your success if our Government’s success.
I encourage you to create work experience and internship opportunities for students, and access to mentoring and networking.
In the years ahead, we must attract the right people to this sector.
We know Australia’s defence industry can be a world leader.
We want to support you to get there.
There’s no doubt our defence industry agenda is ambitious, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want it any other way.
My job now is to identify and remove road blocks so that together we can deliver on our plan.
If you take one thing away from my speech tonight, please make sure you use Australian business at every opportunity.
Small business really is the backbone of our economy; the job creators.
Let me finish by thanking you for the tremendous work that you all do to grow our nation’s Defence capability.
Your work contributes to the strength of our economy, and the security of our nation and region.
I look forward to working with you to achieve even greater success.
Thank you, and congratulations. This is your night — enjoy it!