Defence Industry and Innovation Day, Australia House, London - Welcome address

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The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for Science and Technology

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9 September 2019

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Thank you, David [David Watson, Austrade Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner], for that introduction, and a warm welcome to you all. 

Thank you, Matt [Matt Anderson, acting High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom], for that wonderful welcome to Australia House.

I’d also like to acknowledge:

Agent Generals representing a number of State Governments here in London, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, Mr David Johnston – the Australian Defence Advocate, senior officials from the Ministry of Defence, and senior Australian Defence officials.

It’s wonderful to see so many shining examples of our Australian defence industry here today.

I’m very pleased to be in London this week leading a record delegation of 60 Australian companies who’ll be attending tomorrow’s Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) Tradeshow.

This is the largest delegation we’ve ever taken to a defence tradeshow overseas, and it’s a testament to Australia’s thriving defence industry.

Many of the companies here are small businesses – displaying the type of Aussie ingenuity and know-how we’ve come to expect from our defence industry.

We expect out-of-the-box ideas and ground breaking research, because innovation drives defence capability.

We expect this, because we need this.

As our strategic environment becomes more complex, our need for a defence industry that can support a more capable, potent and agile Defence Force – and meet the challenges of tomorrow – becomes greater.

As today’s discussions will highlight, the question of how nations innovate their defence forces is one we all have to grapple with.

In Australia, we know that a strong defence industry will be crucial to ensuring the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can support our strategic interests.

That’s why our Government is investing a record $200 billion to not only modernise our defence capability, but build a broader, more integrated sovereign defence industry.

As the Minister for Defence Industry, I’ve been charged to ensure our many small businesses are afforded every opportunity to work with the larger defence companies to deliver this new capability.

Small businesses are not only the backbone of the Australian economy, but the source of our biggest ideas. 

But we knew that to take our defence industry to the next level – to unlock its potential – we had to make it more accessible to these companies.

Maximising the involvement of small busines helps us create a defence industry that is robust, resilient and internationally competitive.

Australia produces top-shelf niche technology, opening the door for Australian companies to tap into competitive export markets and emerge as suppliers of leading defence technologies.

Ensuring Australian businesses are export-ready is one of our top priorities. 

That’s why I’m pleased to announce today the first recipients of our Defence Global Competitiveness Grants – 13 Australian small businesses who will share in nearly $2 million of funding to build their export capability.

Two of these small businesses are here with us today.

Craig International Ballistics – from Queensland’s Gold Coast – is using its grant to adapt its existing range of composite body armour systems to meet the needs of international markets and customers, and is already enjoying success in the UK.

Last June, it signed a joint venture with UK-based company Cooneen Protection Limited – a partnership that has resulted in Craig International Ballistics being shortlisted to submit a tender response to the UK Ministry of Defence with an estimated value of $100 million.

This is a fantastic example of how small Australian companies can produce world-class innovative defence capability, and how our international partners can leverage that.

Another of the grant recipients here with us – Melbourne’s DefendTex – will use the grant to scale-up their Moorabbin facility, and position themselves for opportunities they want to pursue in new overseas markets. 

Providing financial assistance and practical support to Australian small businesses to access global markets, helps these businesses expand. And of course, when they expand, they are creating new jobs and opportunities for Australians back home. 

This week I will remind our international industrial partners that Australia not only values our engagement – we are strengthening it.

One example is the UK acquisition of the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

The E-7 Wedgetail has one of the most advanced air-battlespace management capabilities in the world.

Australia’s experience in operating and maintaining the Wedgetail presents an opportunity to work with the UK to deliver this capability to the Royal Air Force. 

Working together enhances capability development, interoperability, training, and offers the potential for sharing future development and sustainment costs.

And of course, the E-7 commitment provides opportunities for industry collaboration. 

To date more than 200 Australian companies have contributed to the Australian Wedgetail acquisition and sustainment.

This figure highlights that when it comes to defence industries we simply cannot work in silos.

But that’s exactly why we’re here in the UK, attending today’s innovation symposium and tomorrow’s DSEI event.

It’s about creating connections, fostering new ideas and driving innovation.

Team Defence Australia – which will be at DSEI in the coming days – will be there showcasing our capabilities on the international stage and identifying export opportunities.

Our agenda is ambitious – it always has been – and through a strong, sustainable defence industry, we can respond to security challenges and meet our strategic objectives together.

I believe in our potential – and I know that if you join us at tomorrow’s tradeshow, you will see the best of what Australia’s defence industry has to offer.

Thank you.

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