WA Indo-Pacific Conference

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The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for Science and Technology

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12 August 2019

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Thank you for the warm introduction.  It’s a pleasure to be here today.

And thank you to those of you who has lasted to the end of a very full and fabulous day’s program, not quite the midnight shift, but as a 16 year member of the Fremantle Football Club, I can cope with being almost last – we are a resilient mob.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet — the Noongar people — and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge my federal colleagues, Governor Beazley, international visitors and senior Defence members.

And – I acknowledge and thank all current and former service men and women here this afternoon.

I’m very pleased to be speaking to you today as a proud Western Australian Minister for Defence Industry, and indeed the second Western Australian federal minister from the Defence portfolio to address the conference today.

How good is WA!

I have long held an interest in defence matters and really noticed the renewed energy in this sector across the State.

As is increasingly self-evident, security is of critical importance.

Earlier today, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds reiterated the increased importance of the Indo-Pacific, along with the Government’s unprecedented $200 billion investment in defence capability.

A key part of delivering on our record investment is my portfolio of Defence Industry.

Two months ago, I took the reins as Minister for Defence Industry —

As Prime Minister Morrison has said, my job is to ensure the generational job-creating projects we’re bringing through our investment in defence capability are delivered on time and on budget.

And as an ex-construction Lawyer - I also like to add - “AND on spec”.

On spec includes the requirement for Australian local content in our contracts with major contractors.  To ensure all Australian businesses get opportunities.

And, let me say, I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the many fantastic businesses that make up our defence industry and creating the partnerships to deliver on our commitments.

I’ve met with cabinet makers, engineers, scientists, shipbuilders, tradespeople, industrial designers and mechanics – just to name a few.

All of these people and businesses are contributing to our defence industry, and all of them are benefitting from the Morrison Government’s record investment in our sovereign defence capability.

We are setting the pathway to grow the workforce across Australia – creating thousands of long-term jobs in the process.

We are building Australia’s defence industry to be resilient, sustainable and internationally competitive. 

And my focus is laser sharp to ensure Australian industry involvement in the acquisition, operation and sustainment of Defence capability – and WA is key to our vision.

Western Australia has a proud and thriving local defence industry. 

As I’ve said, I’m a proud West Australian and I’m very pleased that WA is seizing the opportunity with both hands.

Our State contributes significant capability to safeguarding Australia.

It has a diverse industrial base, and expertise in critical defence skills.

It also has a strong track record in research and innovation.

Our Government is making sure WA has a critical role in the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

Workers in WA are building:

  • Ten of our new 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels
  • 21 Pacific Patrol Boats
  • One hydrographic vessel, and
  • Two Mine Hunter Vessels

Workers in WA are delivering:

  • Significant capability upgrades to the Navy’s ANZAC-class frigates, and
  • Sustainment and maintenance of the Navy’s Collins-class submarines

This means more jobs for western Australians — more long-term jobs — and a stronger economy.

I can assure you, I want to see more Aussie projects delivered by Aussie workers using Aussie components — with some good old Aussie know-how and ingenuity.

To achieve this, we need more highly-skilled workers and this is why the Morrison Government is investing in upskilling WA’s workforce.

One of the ways we’re achieving this is through the Naval Shipbuilding College, which is building Australia’s future naval shipbuilding workforce.

The Naval Shipbuilding College is finding and training trade-qualified, job-ready workers and apprentices to truly be the workforce behind the Defence Force.

They will make sure locals have the right skills — at the right time — to help industry deliver Australia’s sovereign naval capability.

Together, we are building the skills to be used around Australia, across the Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

But the Government’s $200 billion investment in defence capability is more than just Naval shipbuilding.

We are ensuring the Australian Defence Force has the capability it needs – including superior aircraft and new armoured vehicles.

Delivering combat capabilities like the 5th generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the world-leading Boxer Combat Reconnaissance vehicles.

But also delivering for Australian companies – with more than 50 directly sharing in more than $1.3 billion in F-35 production contracts.

And over 1,450 jobs across Australia by building and supporting the Boxer vehicle with Australian steel and Australian supply chains.

Today – we announced over $3 billion of investment in cutting edge equipment for Australia’s Special Forces.

Key equipment such as body armour, roping and climbing systems, as well as medical search and rescue  - are great opportunities for Australian companies to continue to provide the world’s best equipment to the world’s best Special Forces.

The Morrison Government is investing in the skills of the future.

Earlier this year, we released the Defence Industry Skilling Strategy.

Part of this strategy is establishing the National Defence Industry Skills office.

Together, we are helping industry, government and other stakeholders ensure that defence industry has the skilled workforce it needs in the years ahead to achieve our ambitious plans. 

Later this year, I will host a national defence industry skilling and STEM summit to bring together key stakeholders and the Defence Industry Skills Office. 

As Minister for Defence Industry it is a key priority of mine to create pathways for Australian students to find and pursue careers in our defence industry.

We must do more to attract more people to defence industry. With a skilled workforce we can grow our small businesses in the defence industry.

Here in Western Australia, through the Schools Pathways Program, we’re encouraging students to develop the science, technology and engineering skills for the future — skills needed in the defence industry and beyond.

We’re highlighting key subjects, with the hope that students will enrol in them at school and, later, pursue a career in Australia’s defence industry.

As well as more students, we also want to see more small Australian businesses in the defence industry, too.

To create and sustain a stronger defence industrial base, we need to maximise the involvement and success of Australian small business.

There are many opportunities here in WA and I encourage you to look at the Government’s broader investment program for opportunities which your business can take advantage of. 

Some local success stories so far include:

  • Sea to Summit: Providing outdoor equipment, including sleeping bags, hydration packs, sleeping mats and rifle-bags, to State and National security organisations, and exporting to European defence markets.
  • Blacktree Technologies: Providing communications solutions to the Australian Defence Force.
  • AVI: who are designing, manufacturing and supporting customised equipment for critical communication systems.
  • International Maritime Consultants: Who are providing naval architecture advice and design services.
  • Total Marine Technology: Who are building Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), and exporting them to Brazil.

The Morrison Government is also helping small Australian businesses connect with global Primes — and with great success.

Under the Global Supply Chain Program, Australian small businesses have won more than $1 billion in contracts.

Western Australian businesses account for 13 per cent of that — 13 companies have won contracts totalling $131 million.

Local company, Orbital, is a great example.

It’s currently working with Insitu, a Boeing Subsidiary, exporting drones for the Scan Eagle in the US — an unmanned aerial vehicle used for reconnaissance.

And I want to see more Australian businesses exporting overseas – because trade creates jobs.

WA businesses are particularly fortunate in this area.

Not only do they have champions in myself and Defence Minister Reynolds, but also in the Australian Defence Export Advocate — David Johnston.

Since the Australian Defence Export Office opened last year, David has done a tremendous job advocating for Australian defence businesses, both at home and overseas.

Can I say – WA businesses really are well positioned to export their products.

I’m pleased to hear that there are six WA companies who are showcased in this year’s Australian Military Sales Catalogue. That’s a jump from just two last year.

WA is also contributing in the innovation space, and I encourage more WA businesses get involved with the Defence Innovation Hub.

The Defence Innovation Hub is working closely with businesses across the country to turn good ideas into advanced capability for the Australian Defence Force.

So far, it has awarded two contracts to Western Australian companies, totalling $3.1 million.

One of these contracts is with L3 Oceania.

Who is currently developing technology that has the potential to extend and enhance the acoustic surveillance capability of a submarine.

This is particularly useful in contested waters.

It’s also a great example of how WA contributes to national and regional defence.

Another area where WA contributes greatly is research.

Western Australians are, rightly so, incredibly proud of our universities.

I’m pleased to say, all publicly funded universities in WA are working with Defence.

They’re working with us to better understand areas such as surveillance, space situational awareness and the undersea environment.

I know WA wants to be the forefront of cutting-edge defence science and innovation.

Here in WA, the Centre for Defence Industry (CDIC) – the ‘front door’ for many companies –

Is helping small businesses improve their capability so they can take advantage of opportunities in the shipbuilding supply chains.

To date, 34 contracts, with a total value of more than $2 million, have been awarded to WA businesses to improve capability - to be defence industry ready.

Defence West complements the work of CDIC, supporting WA’s defence industry and promoting our capabilities both nationally and internationally.

Working with state government agencies like Defence West is important in delivering a stronger, more resilient and internationally competitive defence industrial base.

The new Defence Science Centre, which I helped open in June, is a great step toward achieving it.

I expect big ideas and ground-breaking research to continue to come from this side of the country. In fact, I’m counting on it.

WA is positioning itself to play a critical role in national and regional defence, and I support this 100%

It is a state with so much potential and passion…  

… with a strong entrepreneurial and enthusiastic spirit. 

I look forward to working with the people, businesses and government in WA, as we continue to deliver the Government’s $200 billion investment in defence capability.

It is your work which contributes to the strength of our economy, and the security of both our nation and the region.

Thank you.

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