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The Hon Melissa Price MP
Minister for Defence Industry
Minister for Science and Technology
9 November 2021
Hello and welcome,
There has never been a more important time for the Submarine Institute of Australia to hold the Submarine Science, Technology and Engineering Conference.
This year’s conference theme asks a critical question about home-grown undersea technology.
“How can Australian Academia and Industry provide a capability edge?”
It’s critical because gaining and retaining that edge will help protect Australia and promote security and prosperity in our region.
This is exactly why I commissioned an independent review into Defence innovation, science and technology – to help ensure the Australian Defence Force has access to the most cutting-edge capability in the world.
This review will examine the Defence organisation in its entirety, to establish how it can more effectively deliver home-grown, innovative capabilities for the men and women of the ADF.
Right now, the Defence organisation, its programs and the thinking behind those programs is outdated and based on an old understanding of our strategic circumstances.
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update was very clear that our strategic circumstances have deteriorated, and that there are countries who would seek to do us harm.
This update and our Force Structure Plan outlined a new direction for Defence’s strategy and for our capabilities, and Defence innovation must change with it.
We must project military power and deter actions against us.
And we do that by driving innovation in Defence, industry and academia, to give us an edge.
That’s why former Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever is leading the review.
I want a frank, independent assessment of what is needed to deliver this.
If positive changes are needed to strengthen Defence and Defence Industry, then changes will be made.
In the same way, we’ve moved to strengthen our security arrangements through the AUKUS partnership with the US and the UK.
As you well know, the Morrison Government has decided to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.
This is a great national endeavour that will have a generational impact on our defence force, our defence industry, and all who work within them.
I understand the decision to discontinue the Attack class program has been taken industry on a new course.
And I know this has created some uncertainty for Australian businesses and the workforce.
But I want to assure those workers and businesses that I have their back.
That is why I directed Defence to establish the Impacted SME Support Cell.
This cell will help affected SMEs identify other opportunities that they have set themselves up for by increasing their competitiveness.
The cell will help SMEs compete for future work not just in the shipbuilding domain – but also across the wide array of Defence programs the Morrison Government is investing in.
We must also ensure that critical skills are retained in the shipbuilding sector in Australia and are not lost because of this decision.
That is why we are partnering with ASC to manage and implement a new Sovereign Shipbuilding Talent Pool.
We have a solid commitment to find a role within that pool for each and every skilled shipbuilding worker affected by this announcement.
The Talent Pool will provide affected workers with options to be re-deployed…
They’ll have the chance to work on current and new ASC programs, such as the Collins LOTE…
There’ll be placements with overseas shipbuilders or Government organisations within the US or the UK…
There will be placements in other Defence programs…
There will be the chance to provide specialist advice and support “above-the-line” to the Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce…
And there will be opportunities for workers to undertake further learning and development, which may include funded tertiary education in specialist areas such as shipbuilding, physics, and nuclear power.
All of our Collins Class Submarines will undergo Life of Type Extension, with each needed to be maintained right up to the 2040s.
We will be building nuclear powered submarines in South Australia.
And there will be significant opportunities for Australian industry involvement in this program right across the country.
Our businesses and workforce have the capability to deliver strong results for this program and I am determined to maximize their involvement and know-how wherever possible.
As a three-ocean nation, Australia must have the most capable submarine technology available, and the workforce and businesses to support it.
I wish you all well at this year’s conference.
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