Address to the National Defence College, New Delhi, India

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17 January 2018

Good morning. I’m honoured to be here today at the National Defence College.

I am keenly aware of the important work you do in preparing the defence and national security leaders of the future.

This is my second visit to your exciting country – my first was in 2015, in my former role as Minister for Education and Training.

I have many fond memories of that visit to New Delhi and Mumbai – of being engaged with your political leaders including Prime Minister Modi, your educational institutions and your policy bodies.

I recall how the trip added to the people-to-people links between our two nations, how naturally our dialogue flowed because we have so much in common.

In fact, in a generous application of personal goodwill, I was lucky enough to be joined on that trip by someone very well known in India – Australian cricketing legend and former wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.

Adam joined me for a day of education meetings in his role as our education ambassador to India. A position I created and appointed him to, as our first education ambassador.

It all went remarkably well, especially when crowds of excited students turned out to touch base with our touring party.

I briefly imagined my profile in India had somehow shot through the roof, thanks to the many Australian education stories that were appearing in the national press.

Alas, the students were not there to see me, at all, but were keenly interested in rubbing shoulders – quite literally – such was their enthusiasm - with my travelling companion Adam. I was merely in very good company!

And that was symbolic really.

Australia and India have shared a long history of friendship, on and off the cricketing field - one anchored primarily in shared democratic values, in joint respect for the rule of law, in many strategic interests and last but not least, those things we share culturally.

It is perhaps little known, even in our own countries, that we have been supporting one another for over a hundred years in the cause of peace and a rules-based order.

This may not be very long, perhaps, in Indian terms – but for us it is foundational – it goes to the very beginnings of Australia as a nation, and was forged on the battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

An estimated 15 thousand Indian soldiers served alongside the ANZACs and other allied troops on the beaches of Gallipoli, where they played, I might add, an utterly vital role.

India counted losses of up to 1400 dead and 3500 injured from the conflict. Australia suffered even worse.

India’s indispensable Mule Corps was critical to survival for many allied soldiers in that dreadful battle and was deeply respected.

Without Indian support, many would not have made it through the horror. No wonder so many became personal and lifelong friends.

Australians will remember India’s lost soldiers on Anzac Day this year, 103 years on.

Since then, Indians and Australians have fought side-by-side in many major theatres – in the Middle East, in Malaya, Singapore and North Africa in World War Two.

Now, as two modern nations bordering the Indian Ocean, we are jointly invested in other things, with our mutual interest this time focussed on new and different defence and security challenges.

These days we look particularly to maritime security and regional stability, to freedom of navigation within our sea-lanes, to freedom of overflight and the safe conduct of lawful commerce.

We confront together the greatest security challenge of our time –countering the scourge of terrorism that besets our region and our world.

Our shared strategic engagements include AUSINDEX, the joint maritime exercise that was held successfully in the Bay of Bengal in 2015.

This exercise is due to be repeated off Western Australia in coming months, and will be conducted every two years.

AUSINDEX underscores the spirit of cooperation between the Australian and Indian navies.

To date, this modern bilateral defence engagement has been most closely evident in the maritime domain.

But now we look forward to a new dimension in our defence relationship, with India’s participation in this year’s multilateral aerospace event, Exercise PITCH BLACK, to be held throughout July and August.

The cultural, educational and sporting ties, that so consistently maintain and underscore trust and cooperation between us, facilitate such joint endeavours.

It is a phenomenon that plays out in many ways – in security, in commerce, defence and defence industry, and in the formation of joint policy initiatives and agreements.

The Australia-India Framework for Security Cooperation that was signed by Prime Minister Modi and former Prime Minister Abbott in 2014 is a significant advancement of the relationship.

This bilateral defence engagement framework progressed considerably with the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to India in 2017.

It advanced the framework and underscored our intention to further strengthen our defence relationship, to which the National Defence College makes an important contribution.

Your role now goes back five decades to 1966, to when Australian students first studied at the College.

Among College alumni we can count Australia’s current Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

Last year’s Australian representative Captain Simon Bateman, will now go on to become Australia’s Defence Advisor to India.

This year, Group Captain Mark Larter will represent Australia at the College. 

In turn, Australia is proud to host Indian officers at our own Defence institutions, including the Australian Command and Staff College and the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.

In his address to this College last year, Prime Minister Turnbull outlined the basis of our enduring defence ties and shared strategic interests.

He restated Australia’s commitment to ASEAN and the East Asia Summit and endorsed our trilateral arrangements and relationships, including with Japan.

The Prime Minister also talked about the most exciting item on my own Ministerial agenda, the modernisation of the Australian Defence Force.

I’d like to add to that today and share some insights into the scale and ambition of this renewal.

It is regionally significant.

It is relevant to our relationship with India.

We are investing 200 billion dollars over the next decade to strengthen our Defence capability.

Our Defence budget will grow to two per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2020-21 – and it will stay there.

This is about building a sovereign Defence industry for Australia and modernising our force so we are ready for a future full of challenges.

It is a truly national enterprise – the most significant investment in Defence capability in our peacetime history.

It is vital to both our national security and our economic prosperity.

Australia’s economy, like India’s, is tied to the security of our region and relies heavily on the safety of the seas around us.

I know India also has a substantial program to expand its own Defence manufacturing capability as part of the Make in India national initiative.

While we each have different capability priorities, we share the same ambitions, particularly to advance manufacturing and stimulate innovation.

So there are things we can learn from one another.

A sovereign defence industry will enable our capacity to undertake independent or coalition military operations whenever required.

As Australia’s strategic circumstances become more contested, it will allow us to maintain deterrence, respond to contingencies, and to positively shape our region’s security environment.

It will mean we engage more, and more comprehensively, with important partners in the region, including India.

These all require an Australian-based defence industry that is more capable and more prepared than in the past.

The rapid rate of technological change and the complexity our force requires means our defence industry must be ahead of the technology curve – a big challenge for a country of our size.

Equally, growing the right workforce, acquiring the skills and infrastructure to deliver it and drive innovation matter a great deal.

If we are to operate and upgrade to the capability required for an uncertain future, we must look ahead – well ahead - and be ready to deliver what we need, when we need it.

This program requires an unprecedented level of industry planning and that is what we are engaging right now – while recognising it will take years to mature the defence industry model to where it can succeed.

Australia is particularly proud to be introducing a continuous shipbuilding program – meaning all our future submarines, major surface combatants, and minor war vessels will be built on Australian soil.

This is the largest national project in Australia’s history.

It requires a step change in the way we plan, coordinate, and support our shipbuilding industry.

This is why we see it as a national enterprise – one that reaches across all arms of the Australian Government, across industry, our research and education sectors, and the Australian community.

Australian defence industry is central to the Turnbull Government’s vision for jobs and growth in the Australian economy.

We see a win-win here – delivering the capabilities our war-fighters need, while maximising Australian industry participation and positioning it for growth so it can create thousands of jobs.

We are enabling industry to make the transition to high-tech manufacturing, and to embrace innovation.

This is where Australia’s future jobs will be created – in a sovereign defence industry full of new skills and broader growth.

Though this program, Australian can maintain its position as an advanced economy and be a reliable contributor to regional and global stability.

This strategic positioning of defence industry will take time and requires us to use all the levers at our disposal.

We are maximising Australian industry involvement across the acquisition, employment, and sustainment of defence capability.

We are continuing to promote reform, seek productivity improvements and encourage technology investment.

We are determined to build a defence industry that is world-leading – with more products and services fit for export, both effective and cost effective.

We are seeking a future of sustainability and resilience for our defence industry as one that secures economies of scale and evens out the peaks and troughs of defence demand.

As I noted earlier, our continuous shipbuilding program typifies this approach.

Over the next generation, we will construct 12 future submarines, nine future frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels.

We will provide 21 Pacific patrol vessels for partners in our region.

Fifty‑four vessels in all.

We will end the boom-bust cycle that has afflicted the Australian shipbuilding industry for many years and give confidence to industry and investors.

We want certainty for local businesses and shipbuilding workers.

Success means the realisation of all the strategic, economic and economic advantages to Australia that a national naval shipbuilding and sustainment capability can bring.

Embracing and securing innovation on the scale needed to deliver this capability will not be easy. It is never easy. It takes work.

But if we are to deliver a warfighting advantage we must relentlessly convert breakthrough ideas into practical capability and products.

That means removing barriers and aiding ideas.

The Australian Government has established a new 640 million dollar Defence Innovation Hub.

It channels proposals into a single innovation pipeline for incubation and maturation.

We have added a further 730 million dollars to apply rigorous science and research to many early ideas.

We want game-changers, successes that mean Australian industry can grasp new export opportunities as they appear in defence and commercial markets.

Naturally Australia cannot meet its defence capability needs or build such a defence industry alone, nor would it wish to.

We will work with international partners, including in India, where we need to, for our mutual benefit.

The 2014 Framework for Security Co-operation highlighted defence research and development, materiel interactions and industry links.

I am excited to see this happen through the Australia-India Joint Working Group on Defence Research and Materiel Cooperation.

This forum provides an important mechanism to study each other’s approaches to planning, acquiring and sustaining defence capabilities.

It enables government-to-government transfers and allows us to know more about our respective defence industry and investment environments.

Reciprocal visits between Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Alex Zelinsky, and India’s Director-General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Dr Selvin Christopher are very important.

Through them we will learn how our respective research and development organisations can best cooperate.

Defence industry is clearly an important area of future collaboration for our two countries in so many ways.

Delivering cutting-edge technologies to our respective Defence Forces has enormous potential.

Australian defence industry is already enjoying success internationally with some world-leading capabilities being successfully taken to market.

Thales Australia has exported 1.6 billion dollars’ worth of submarine sonars, air traffic control systems and vehicles.

Its battle-proven Bushmaster Protected Mobility vehicle is now operated by seven countries.

Ferra Engineering has grown into a globally integrated business. Securing work on Australia’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program helped it transition from the automotive space to the aerospace market.

Exports account for over 85 per cent of Ferra’s production in Australia and it has established a number of facilities overseas, including here in India.

A generational renewal of Australia’s defence industry and defence capabilities is an ambitious agenda. It requires a rebuild of our construction and sustainment base. It is a total transformation of our strategic and industrial base.

As India pursues its own substantial defence capability and manufacturing modernisation agenda, we will no doubt face and share many joint challenges.

As we go forward, Australia’s relationship with India will be valued and steadfast.

It will continue to inform how we view our past and how we see our future in our region and our world.

When Prime Minister Modi addressed the Australian Parliament in 2015, the depth and warmth of his reception was apparent to all.

Your Prime Minister was received enthusiastically in four of our cities – with turnouts described by the Australian media as fit for a rock star.

This was in no small way helped by thousands of enthusiastic Indian students and expatriates turning out for some Bollywood-inspired drumming and dancing to greet him wherever he went.

But the Australian people did not overlook his great statement on that visit, in which he said Australia would in future, not be at the periphery of India’s vision, but at the centre of its thoughts. Let me assure you, that clear statement of intent is shared equally by the Australian Government.

Thank you.

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