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The Hon Melissa Price MP
Minister for Defence Industry
Minister for Science and Technology
13 June 2019
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Good morning, everyone. Thank you for that warm welcome.
It’s great to be here for the opening of the Defence Science Centre — a fabulous new addition to Western Australia’s science and defence industry scene.
Over the coming years and decades, this centre will help forge connections so that universities, industry and Defence are working together …
… working together to boost WA’s participation in Defence business …
… working together to provide the technologies of the future …
… and working together so this state is even stronger — and more competitive — when it comes to research and development.
Today’s opening isn’t a first, mind you.
This Centre follows in the footsteps of research networks in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales — ones that are already enjoying success.
In Victoria, for example, the Defence Science Institute is working with RMIT University to help a small company develop a new type of aircraft …
… one that combines fixed-wing and rotary characteristics.
It’s an idea that’s already winning awards — and the company has been selected to participate in the Mass Challenge Accelerator in Boston.
But while this Centre isn’t a national first, it is a first for WA — and it certainly has the goodwill, and the backing, to succeed as well.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Defence Science and Technology Group, has provided $250,000 for the Centre’s first year. And in addition to this support, it also has the WA Government behind it — something I want to acknowledge.
And you know what else this Centre has? Enthusiasm.
We’ve seen the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Murdoch and Edith Cowan all sign up.
They did this because they believe in the vision that this Centre promises. Because they believe in WA, and what it can offer.
This is, as you all probably know, my home state.
I know it well. I know its many strengths, and I know that we’ve always had a proud defence history — a history that we’re continuing to build upon today.
WA is home to numerous defence bases: from the RAAF Base Curtin and Yampi Training Area in the north, down to Campbell Barracks, HMAS Stirling and Irwin Barracks right here in Perth …
There are thousands of Defence personnel based here, including one-fifth of the Navy’s trained personnel …
And there’s a thriving local defence industry: Civmec, Blacktree Technology, Hofmann Engineering and Phoenix International Australia among them.
Of course, this makes sense.
WA is, after all, Australia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean. We are at the strategic centre of the Indo-Pacific. And that geography will only grow in importance in the years ahead.
That is something that I, and my colleagues in the Morrison Government, understand well.
It’s worth pointing out that, in addition to myself as Defence Industry Minister, the Prime Minister appointed another proud West Australian, Linda Reynolds, as Minister for Defence.
Clearly, he understands WA’s importance to Australia’s defence, and its potential.
During the election campaign, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will spend $1 billion to build three Navy vessels, two mine-warfare support vessels, and one hydrographic vessel at Henderson Shipyard.
I’m very much looking forward to being part of the team that delivers on this. And, of course, these commitments sit alongside the various other activities the Government has been engaged in over the last several years.
So allow me to — briefly — unpack some of them for you, and what they mean for WA.
As everyone here, I’m sure, appreciates, we are determined to unlock the nation’s innovation potential …
… and help to drive cultural change towards innovation and research.
This Centre is part of that — as is the Next Generation Technologies Fund that helps fund it.
The Fund is all about creating new ways for defence industry, academia and publicly funded research agencies to work together.
It’s focused on eleven themes — such as space, cyber and medical-counter measures — and it’s leading to some exciting activities happening.
Earlier this year, for example, Perth hosted the Emerging Disruptive Technologies Assessment Symposium: an event that examined disruptive space systems in the future.
Not only did it see WA’s universities, in partnership with Defence Science and Technology Group, co-host the event, but it also saw some of the big issues and ideas — the ones that will shape the decades ahead — explored right here.
That’s something worth getting excited about.
Of course, the innovation pipeline also includes the maturing of technologies into potential Defence capability — something that’s happening through the Defence Innovation Hub.
Since launching about two-and-a-half years ago, the Hub has awarded more than 80 contracts — valued at around $125 million — and another 12 Special Notice contracts worth around $10 million that focus on specific challenges.
And, in a win for our small-and-medium enterprises, most of these contracts have gone their way.
That’s the beauty of the Hub: it levels the playing field.
We know that good ideas come from anywhere — WA is putting forward its share, as the contracts with Techventure Investments and L-3 Oceania show.
So that’s what is happening on the innovation front.
But WA also has, as we all know, a huge amount of naval know-how — and the Government’s tapping into that in a number of ways, too.
We’ve committed more than $1.5 billion for the redevelopment of Henderson and HMAS Stirling, including …
… $367 million so that HMAS Stirling’s infrastructure is modernised, such as its wharves, power, water and security systems …
… $300 million to support Offshore Patrol Vessels …
… around $200 million for the Navy’s new replenishment vessels …
… and $670 million for the new Hunter Class Frigates.
Taken together, these will be a huge boost to WA industry, and help it go from strength to strength.
The Government is also supporting small-to-medium enterprises — the hard-working businesses that are crucial if we’re to meet Australia’s capability needs.
For instance, the Centre for Defence Industry Capability — or CDIC — has received $230 million in funding until 2025–26.
Essentially, this works as a ‘front door’ for industry: offering up assistance so businesses are in a better position to build capability and capacity.
Over the last couple of years, the Centre has approved 92 applications for advisory and facilitation services from SMEs here in WA …
… and 33 WA-based companies have received Capability Improvement Grants with a total value of close to $1.2 million.
What’s more, 350-or-so WA SMEs have received advice and support from the CDIC Advisory Services team through outreach and networking events so they can grow their businesses — as well as deliver locally, nationally and, hopefully, internationally.
Finally, it’s worth saying how the Government is working with big industry partners.
Earlier this year, we launched — here in Perth — our Defence Policy for Industry Participation.
This will put in place new requirements that will open new opportunities for competitive Australian industry participation …
… both at the local and national level.
Additionally, last year we announced the Local Industry Capability Plan pilot program — a program that means local industry will always be considered for, and have the opportunity to compete for, Defence projects.
And WA is already set to benefit from this program.
The Campbell Barracks redevelopment, for example, has seen 90 per cent of packages awarded to local industry, and that number is even higher — 100 per cent — for the HMAS Stirling redevelopment.
Let me finish by thanking you, once again, for inviting me today — it’s an absolute delight to be here.
This Centre represents ideas, and collaboration, and the future. It offers a vision that we can all get excited about and back.
And that’s exactly what’s happening.
What’s more, this Centre is just one part of the hive of activity that’s happening across WA …
… a state with so much potential …
… and so much to offer Australia in so many areas — particularly when it comes to defence and defence industry.
So thank you, everyone, and I very much look forward to seeing what this Centre delivers in the years ahead.
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