Defence Innovation Network Event

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Senator the Hon David Fawcett

Assistant Minister for Defence

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  • Mike Banham (Senator Fawcett’s office): (02) 6277 3409
  • Defence Media: (02) 6127 1999,

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16 October 2018

Well ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Minister Blair, Chair of the DIN - Will, thank you for your contribution, i.e. to the DIN, but to defence industry, going right back to the Hornet. We have at least one Hornet pilot here, I can see with Scotty Reeman(*), so you can thank Will for a successful fleet that has been part of our defence capability for many years.


I just want to add a little context. Minister Blair's given us some good details around the DIN, but there's a few things I think that are important for the broader context that this network is working within. One is the concept of change, commitment and capability through collaboration. Change because our strategic circumstances are changing, not only with non-state actors as the conflict in the Middle East draws down. We see that- the nature of that conflict changing, we see things like Marawi in the Southern Philippines; we realise that we need to adapt and shift how we use our capability, what our capability is to meet that? The changes in cyber, the threats to our critical infrastructure. In a broader regime, the threats to the global rules-based order that has underpinned the peace and prosperity in our region for the last six or seven decades is facing a level of threat that we haven't seen for more than a generation at the moment.


So there's a changing context in which all of this is taking place and that's led the Coalition Government to make a commitment of raising our investment in Defence to 2 per cent of GDP. But the difference this time is that unlike previous White Papers, where you ended up with essentially a shopping list of things that you wanted to buy, this has been part of a paradigm shift where we've taken a fundamental look at how we work, and so the First Principles Review which looked at Defence had two key elements that affect your gathering here today. The first is that we've looked at industry and said rather than holding industry at arms length, we need to recognise that industry is actually a fundamental input to capability for Defence, and therefore we need to find ways to partner with industry and make them part of how we consider the development and sustainment of the capability being the people, the doctrine, the whole systems that support our ability to actually defend Australia and its interests.


And secondly, the First Principles Review looked at science and technology and it applied quite a prism to it to say: what does it actually deliver? How do we focus that and make it more responsive and adaptive in meeting the needs of Commonwealth and Defence?


The second part of that was the Defence Industry Policy Statement that came out in 2016, because what that recognised is that Commonwealth has a stake in making sure that out defence industry is viable and effective so that the defence capabilities we rely on are available when we need them; they're not tied up alongside unserved, all full of fatigue cracks or unserviceable. And importantly, they're not only available but they're effective for the role that we have to use them in, for the threat that we're facing in a given scenario. And that the support we need is affordable over the life of time. And so to do that we have a role to actually partner with industry, not just so that they can make things but importantly so they can innovate. Because it's actually the changing ideas about how we do things that give us a capability edge.


Take maritime surveillance. You know, it's probably as important today as it ever has been. You can go right back to 1919: Captain Chapman Clare was a District Naval Officer in Western Australia, he stood up the concept of a coast watch and essentially that was a bloke with a pair of binos [sic] and a Morse or perhaps a radio: fixed- one way of observing the world, a limited amount of communications going back to a decision maker. Fast forward to today, we're about to introduce the Triton, a platform, semi-autonomous, multiple sensors, terabytes of data coming back to decision makers and so being smart and innovative in where do we employ it, for how long, which sensors do we use, how do we prioritise the analysis of that information? Those are the sorts of things that actually give us a capability edge as much as the platform itself. And so that ability to innovate is actually really important, and it's one of the key outcomes of both the First Principles Review and the Defence Industry Policy Statement.


But we can't do that just by ourselves, which is why we've seen that capability comes through collaboration. And the sort of network that we're launching today that fits in with the broader collaboration with industry. So we've stood up the Centre for Defence Industry collaboration, backed it with $1.6 billion over the next decade through the Next Generation Technologies Fund, Defence Innovation Hub. And I take the comments I've heard just today, that we need to make the turnaround a bit quicker on those, so point taken. I'll take that back to Steve Ciobo, my colleague. But those are the ways that we're seeking to facilitate and grow into the future the kind of collaborations that we've seen work really well in the past. An exemplar to my mind - who I note is already involved with the Defence Industry Network here - is the DMTC, the Defence Materials Technology Centre, where we've provided that framework so that universities, governments, large primes [sic] as well as SMEs can come together and share ideas and IPs within a framework that we then facilitate somebody taking that to market, developing it to maturity, but each of the people who've contributed get something from that.


So that's a really important collaboration that we're seeking to build on through our support for things like the DST in particular - the Defence Science and Technology Group - who have vetted people in your advisory council as well as a senior researcher to help facilitate that interaction with industry. More broadly, we're also looking to engage with allied partners: things like the NITB, the National Industrial and Technology- or NTIB- Technology and Industrial Base where the US has recognised Australia as one of their inputs. We need to look not just at how we can make more things as part of the US system, but importantly, we need to look at how we can see US investment in our research and development capability, our ability to innovate, because one of the things that makes us sustainable as an industry sector is having IP that not only gives our forces a capability edge, but it gives us a product that we can then look to export to trusted allies and markets, which then amortises the cost of the industrial base that we need for our own capability.


Importantly - and I recognise the investment the New South Wales government has made here - is that all of this innovation and development has spin-offs in a whole range of areas. Whether it's materials that go through to medical devices or even in trusted autonomous systems. I was at Adelaide University, not long ago, talked to them about some of their work with autonomous systems. And as I looked at their systems that could go into the field and do combat resupply in high threat areas, I said to them why can't you use this in an old folks' home so that somebody who's confined to a wheelchair that is at the moment waiting half an hour to go from their bedroom to the common room can just press a button and be taken safely to a pre-prepared position for them in the common room? They're now working on it. I've set up with one of the aged care providers in South Australia to look at how we spin off some of that thinking to add value to other sectors of our society.


So can I just conclude by saying thank you to both the New South Wales Government, those of you who are directly involved and those who are partnering as part of research and industry; I wish you well. I will try and make sure that grant applications with people like CDIC are turned around a little more quickly. And I look forward to the contributions that you, through your contribution to our sovereign defence industry capability and our Defence Force, will make to peace and prosperity in our region. Thank you.



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