Assistant Minister for Defence - Australian Defence Magazine Congress 2014, Canberra

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The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

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27 February 2014

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with pleasure that I address you today and follow the opening presentation delivered yesterday by Minister Johnston.

The Australian Defence Force is a small but very potent military that has delivered a disproportionate effect upon every battlefield on which it has fought.

And, it is because of you, Australia’s defence industry that this effect has been and will be achieved.  It is industry that brings capability to our war fighters.

But before I begin, I would like to congratulate all the winners from last night’s ADM awards, particularly the Anti-Ship Missile Defence project office, in conjunction with BAE Systems, Saab Systems and CEA Technologies. To have your hard work and diligent efforts rewarded in this fashion is most fitting. All of these people represent the very best from what is an impressive achievement by both the Defence Materiel Organisation and you, Australia’s defence industry.

I would also like to thank the Australian Defence Magazine for convening this congress. Over the years it has grown in significance and provides an invaluable opportunity for Government and Defence leaders to address industry.  Importantly, the congress also allows you in industry to get your point of view across. This is a healthy interaction for all involved and is an opportunity I personally welcome.

And on a personal note, I wish Katherine Ziesing (editor) all the best while she is on maternity leave.

Today I would like to speak to you about a significant capability program.  One that will be a flagship for Defence, to ensure an essential capability for future land operations – LAND 400, the Land Combat Vehicle System. I will then cover the importance of science and technology, and how you in industry can work in partnership with DSTO and vice-versa.

Land 400

LAND 400 is one of our most significant capability programs when measured in terms of impact on the ADF’s war fighting capability, acquisition budget and complexity.

It will acquire deployable armoured fighting vehicles to provide improved precision firepower, high levels of survivability and tactical mobility compared to existing systems.

The new vehicles will replace our in-service armoured personnel carriers, the Australian-Light Armoured Vehicles and other combat vehicles that have insufficient protection for emerging and future threats, such as engineering-type vehicles.

LAND 400’s importance cannot be understated.  As the Chief of Army said at the Lowy Institute last week, the project will bring significant combat weight to the Australian Defence Force.

While we may not know now where the potential future flash points and conflicts will be, we do know that there will be a requirement for vehicles that have high levels of protection.  Integration with LAND 200 will be key.  We need vehicles that will be able to communicate and interact with all capability elements – on the ground, in the air, and on the sea.  And vehicles which have a growth path as developments mature and new technology becomes available.  The vehicles must have a growth path for development and their future.

To provide a better picture of the LAND 400 program, it has been devolved into a logical architecture consisting of four distinct capability elements, based on three Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) fleets and an overarching collective mounted close combat training system.

The first element will be for Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles; the second will be for Infantry Fighting Vehicles; whilst the third will be for Manoeuvre Support Vehicles.  All three elements will be supported by a fully integrated training system.

Defence will apply a fully integrated approach to the project to ensure that we are going into this acquisition with both eyes open.  An Integrated Program Team (IPT) was established in 2010 to design and manage all aspects of the Land Combat Vehicle System project, and is preparing all documentation for GovernmentFirstPass consideration later this year.

The IPT has representatives drawn from the Defence Materiel Organisation, Capability Development Group, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and Army.

The IPT has confirmed that market available vehicles currently exist to satisfy the requirements of LAND 400. This information, gathered through a Request for Information, was also used to inform the LAND 400 cost model.

Unclassified versions of the User Requirement and Concept of Operations have already been released.

The IPT is not new – it is one of three stand alone integrated program teams in Defence at the moment. The others are AIR 6000 New Air Combat Capability (Joint Strike Fighter) and SEA 1000 (Future Submarine Program).  That gives you a feeling for the scale and indeed the importance of LAND 400.

As you would no doubt be aware, one of the requirements for the vehicles under LAND 400 is that they must already be in service with another defence force.  The Government has learned from previous projects and is determined to ensure the selected vehicles are of a military-off-the-shelf design.

But – and this is a big but - just because the Government will be mandating the vehicles are military-off-the-shelf, it does not mean that the vehicles will be simply imported into Australia.  There are very significant Australian industry components in the LAND 400 project – potentially more than in any other major project in the current Defence Capability Plan.

Both Minister Johnston and I will be lobbying very strongly for the vehicles to be either manufactured or assembled here in Australia.  And it is here that I am looking to both you in industry and State Governments to get together and look at creative ways of constructing competitive tenders once the project has received FirstPass approval later this year.

There are many ways that industry and government can work together for the long-term benefit of our Defence Force.  By working together, it encourages research and development, which generates growth, knowledge and promotes Australia’s competitiveness in what is a competitive international marketplace.

I, Minister Johnston, in fact this whole Government are very supportive of Australian industry.  No doubt you will be familiar with our election commitments and of being committed to Australian industry.  Of having an effective and sustainable capability for the ADF, and to use Australian-made equipment wherever possible.  To give Australian business every opportunity to compete for Defence contracts.

This is nothing new to my side of the political divide.  Even in Opposition, I, with the support of my colleagues, advocated and encouraged the former Government to mandate that the Australian Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform and Army’s iconic Slouch Hats both be manufactured in Australia.  I am proud to have driven this important policy and you should take it as an indication of my future intent.

We are committed to working with Australia’s defence industry to avoid production troughs by co-operating closely with companies – both big and small – to provide consistency, continuity and a long-term focus for the purchase and sustainment of defence capabilities.

I encourage you to come to me to talk about what impediments there are to business.  It is an open invitation to come and talk to me.  I am unashamedly pro industry.

The relationship between Defence and industry must be open and consistent.  It must be characterised by unambiguous lines of communication, consistent goals, priorities and risks – all of which are clearly articulated and mutually understood.

It is here that I want to strengthen and sustain Defence’s relationship with industry throughout the whole procurement cycle.  Significantly, to encourage a very high level of participation by Australian industry.

Next week, I will be travelling to the Victorian city of Geelong to review first hand some of the opportunities that you in industry can bring to this project.  And here is an open opportunity for me to come to you to reinforce the political will to get this project moving.  I am happy to come to you to talk about the project where ever you need me.

Importantly, an Australian Industry Capability strategy for LAND 400, which will ensure opportunities to involve Australian industry are maximised.  That Australian industry is able to effectively and efficiently support the Land Combat Vehicle System during both the acquisition and sustainment phases of the Program.

I look forward to reviewing your creative approaches to meeting this very important capability for Defence.

Science and Technology

This is a good opportunity to move into the other very important area of my portfolio responsibilities, Science and Technology.

A modern defence force is increasingly reliant on advances in technology. The Australian Defence Force is no different, perhaps even more so given our small population and expansive territorial interests.  If we are to maintain a capability advantage, we must exploit science and technology.

Maintaining such a technological edge allows our warfighters to ‘punch above their weight’ by matching their military expertise with the right technological tools to create a highly potent and capable military force.

This task of exploiting science and technology in support of Defence is the responsibility of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in close partnership with the rest of the Department of Defence and specifically with Army, Navy and the Air Force, the Defence Materiel Organisation, and the Capability Development Group.

DSTO’s partnership with the Department of Defence will  ensure it remains a capable, competent and accountable organisation that is clearly focused on supporting our Defence and national security challenges and priorities.

A critical first brick in DSTO’s foundation is establishing a Defence science and technology strategy that will guide and coordinate the collective effort of the organisation.  To this end I wish to compliment Defence and in particular the current Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Alex Zelinsky, for establishing a clear vision and strategy for DSTO as outlined in the DSTO Strategic Plan 2013-18 published last year.

The Government supports the strategy’s aim of seeking to harness DSTO’s strength of being a valued adviser on science and technology to the Defence and national security communities.

DSTO will deliver this outcome by being a collaborative partner in leveraging world-class science and technology capabilities found either within Australia or overseas.  They will also create strategic alliances and partnerships with industrial and academic sectors either within Australia or internationally when needed.

I also want DSTO to strive to be an innovation integrator by working with the rest of Defence and our national security community to ensure that scientific knowledge and technological best practice is applied to deliver practical and innovative capability outcomes.

DSTO continues to demonstrate its valued and long standing contribution to Defence and national security of our nation and leads the world in research fields such as hypersonics, over-the-horizon radar and aircraft structural integrity, to name but a few.

This demonstrated level of science and technology expertise will be drawn upon in meeting the challenges and opportunities arising from such emerging technologies like robotics, advanced military communications, cyber security and computing.  It is in these areas that our future ADF warfighter stands to benefit most from DSTO’s research and partnership efforts.

I would also like to compliment DSTO’s initiative and Dr Zelinsky’s personal efforts in revitalising DSTO’s linkages to our academic and industrial sectors.  I have met many times with Dr Zelinsky in the first six months of this Government and he has highlighted DSTO and Defence’s efforts to establish a program of strategic science and technology alliances with leading Australian companies and research agencies including:

  • IBM Australia;
  • Australian Submarine Corporation;
  • BAE Systems Australia;
  • Boeing Defence Australia;
  • Lockheed Martin Australia;
  • Northrop Grumman Australia;
  • Thales Australia;
  • Saab Australia;
  • the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); and
  • the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

This program aids the development of in-country industry capabilities, tailored to meeting Defence’s requirements while providing industry with exposure to DSTO’s research base and the exchange of information in clearly defined areas.

Such strategic alliances are inline with the commitments the Government made at the last election to support Australia’s defence industry.  Ensuring that our Australian industrial and research agencies have the opportunity to apply their own considerable expertise in creating and exploiting science and technology advances in partnership with DSTO, is a key step in taking a whole-of-nation perspective to our national security and Defence.

While I look forward to seeing more Australian companies establish strategic alliances with DSTO, I am particularly interested in witnessing the first small to medium enterprise that enters into such an agreement with DSTO.

I would now like to take this opportunity to announce the appointment of Mr Chris Jenkins to the DSTO Advisory Board.  As you would be aware, Chris is the current Chair of the Australian Industry Group Defence Council and CEO of Thales Australia.

I welcome Chris’ appointment and look forward to our discussions on how DSTO and Defence can best capitalise on Industry’s expertise and experience.  I am particularly interested in seeing how industry, Defence and DSTO partnerships can readily recognise opportunities arising from both emerging technologies, and scientific research, and rapidly commercialise them for market gain.

I am personally committed to seeing DSTO and Defence working in close partnership with both industry and our universities.  I am also keen on seeing the next game changing technology outcome to be delivered from our collective Australian research and development efforts.

I ask you to consider what is our next ‘JORN’ over-the-horizon radar or ‘NULKA’ missile decoy like capability outcome.  What will be the next such developments which are being worked on by our DSTO scientists and industry partners?  How do we ensure that it becomes another success story for our nation and our warfighter?

When I refer to our warfighter I also mean that we must never forget that science and technology also focuses on bringing real capability enhancements to the ‘core unit’ of the ADF, namely the individual soldier. Initiatives such as ‘Diggerworks’ are an excellent example of how a close partnership between DSTO, Army, DMO and industry can result in real capability improvements for our soldiers and for the ADF, being realised quickly and effectively.

S&T contributions to the Land Force

Science and technology has an important contribution to make to the protection and performance of the soldier, and is a top priority for Army and a top priority for me.

Providing soldiers with the best possible equipment for their role demands a balance between how the technology helps the soldier to complete their role and the burden it places on them.  Diggerworks is an excellent example of our collaboration together.


Diggerworks is the collaboration between DSTO, the Defence Materiel Organisation, Capability Development Group and Army.  The result is a team of experts in science, technology, combat warfare and procurement all focussed on improving our soldiers survivability, which I have seen on my visit to Diggerworks late last year.

Diggerworks supports an evolutionary acquisition process — buying less, more often — and is responsive to the changing needs of the soldier through the development of the next iteration of combat clothing and equipment.

Through Diggerworks, it has been possible to field combat system enhancements in a much more rapid and responsive manner.  We have bought less but more often.

Diggerworks is developing or assessing a range of new technologies throughout this year, including version 5 of the Tiered Body Armour System Soldier Combat Ensemble; soldier worn gunshot detection systems and integrated power systems; sleeping systems; and alternative cooking systems and fuels.

Diggerworks is a great story of collaboration.  It has established strong and continuing collaborative relationships with external organisations such as the CSIRO, industry and the university sectors, and the Defence Materials Technology Centre.

The Defence Materials Technology Centre develops and delivers new materials technologies and manufacturing processes to enhance Australia’s Defence capability.

Diggerworks and the Defence Materials Technology Centre are developing ‘Program 7’. Program 7’s development is focussing on soft and hard armour systems, advanced fabric technologies, and power generation and management.

Industry and university sector contributions to the Defence Materials Technology Centre – Program 7 have included Australian Defence Apparel, Bruck Textiles, Ballistic and Mechanical Testing Pty Ltd, Ventou, Tectonica, MelbourneUniversity, RMITUniversity, DeakinUniversity and the University of Wollongong.

Beyond clothing and equipment, the capability of the Land Force is being enhanced through research into training, education and organisational adaptation. Helping Army to realise its vision of an Adaptive Army, opportunities are being explored to exploit advanced delivery technologies and methods, and the delivery of training for more effective complex decision-making.

The same is true of the excellent research work conducted in Tasmania in soldier nutrition. Nutritional status underpins effective soldier performance and the research collaboration under the Centre for Food Innovation is generating opportunities for further improving the feeding of Defence force personnel and increasing the expertise of Australian industry to create innovative products for a wider market.


As Minister Johnston said in his address to you yesterday, these are challenging times for the Government. 

These are tough times for industry – there are 20 per cent less of you now than seven years ago. But small business is where the future is – you are small, lean and able to react quickly.  You are able to respond to challenges fast. 

I am confident that this Government can reverse the trends of the past five to six years and grow Defence so that the total defence budget is two per cent of GDP within the coming decade.

The Government is also committed to the reform of Defence from a first principles perspective and that savings from this review will be reinvested in our war-fighting capability.

The 2015 Defence White Paper, unlike the former Government, will provide costed and affordable options for achieving Australia’s defence objectives. It will be supported by a thorough review of our force structure.

We are very mindful of the impact on industry of not having clarity and a degree of certainty surrounding intended capability plans. As reiterated by Minister Johnston yesterday, the new ten-year unclassified Defence Capability Plan will align with the Defence White Paper, to bring stability back to the acquisition process.

I am determined to energise the relationship and strengthen the nexus that exists between industry, the DSTO and Defence more broadly.

You retain a central role in working collaboratively with DSTO and Defence to deliver the essential capabilities to the ADF, such as for LAND 400.

The defence of our nation is not a simple matter.  Looking at the audience here today, with your enthusiasm and commitment – I see that we are in good hands.

Let me say that though the future looks bright, there is more that can be done.  And more that can be done together.  Thank you.

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