Speech: Australian Defence Science, Technology and Research Summit 2022 Gala Dinner

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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21 July 2022

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, Veterans’ Affairs and the Republic, I also pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served our nation in the past and continue to do so today.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you this evening.

And it is my honour to address you tonight on behalf of the Australian Government, representing the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Honourable Richard Marles MP.

And as you heard during Richard’s video message to help open the Summit yesterday, the Government has a clear commitment to defence science and supporting innovation.  

I want to acknowledge our many distinguished guests and attendees.

In particular:

Dr Cathy Foley AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist;

Professor Tanya Monro AC, Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist;

The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the US Department of Defense;

Dr Stefanie Tompkins, Director of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency;

Dr David Galligan, Director of the New Zealand Defence Technology Agency;

International partners from Singapore, Japan and the Republic of Korea, including Mr Tan, Minister Eom, Dr Jung and Dr Mishima.

And attending virtually, Dr Jaspinder Komal, Assistant Deputy Minister, Defence Research and Development Canada and Dame Angela McLean, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Can I also welcome all senior Australian Defence Force personnel and Defence officials in attendance;

Members of Australian defence industry and our scientific communities;

And representatives from of our trusted international partners and friends.

Distinguished guests, friends all,

This year’s inaugural Australian Defence Science, Technology and Research Summit is being held in the anniversary year of three important innovations in the history of defence science in Australia.

2022 marks 50 years since the Dr Alan Baker and his team began pioneering research into the use of composite bonded repair technology to prolong fighter aircraft life.

It is 30 years since Dr Mark Anderson and his team invented Starlight – a unique, world-first system to allow users of secure computers to access the Internet without compromising their own security.

And it is 10 years since a Defence Science and Technology Organisation team - in partnership with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing Research and Technology, and the University of Queensland – won the prestigious von Karman Award for International Cooperation in Aeronautics, specifically for collaboration on the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program, or HIFIRE.

The key to every one of these innovations was teamwork, collaboration and partnership.

That has been a hallmark of the success of Australian defence science for more than a century.

And that is our template as we explore the art of the possible, to build a more potent sovereign capability over the years ahead.  

On the 21st of May this year, Australians elected a new Federal Government under the leadership of Anthony Albanese.

I am very proud to serve in his government as the Assistant Minister for Defence, Veterans’ Affairs and the Republic.

And very proud to be part of the team delivering on a rock-solid commitment to Australia’s defence.

In my capacity as Assistant Minister for Defence, earlier this week I visited Swartz Barracks and RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.

What a privilege it was to observe the work of the ADF, public servants and contractor workforces coming together to support the Defence mission.

I toured the Army Aviation Training Centre and spoke to the men and women applying simulation and virtual reality technologies to grow the skills of pilots, aircrew, maintainers and ground support staff. This is impressive stuff, providing a safe environment to push the boundaries of people and military capabilities.

I was also briefed on the Air Force’s new Ghost Bat capability – the Loyal Wingman uncrewed autonomous aircraft. This project is the result of a partnership between Air Force, Boeing Australia and many Australian suppliers. This is world leading technology with combat, reconnaissance and surveillance applications.

This innovation in action, directly supporting Australia’s defence and security needs.

And of course, we believe that defending Australia and its interests in our uncertain strategic environment requires sovereign and internationally competitive research and development capabilities.

The Albanese Government has committed to spending 2 per cent of GDP on Defence, including to enhance the Australian Defence Force with capabilities outlined in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

And as you heard from the Deputy Prime Minister during his video message yesterday morning, Labor will establish an Australian Strategic Research Agency, or ASRA.

ASRA will be a research and development agency undertaking pivotal research in breakthrough technologies for defence and national security.

A strong science, technology and research sector is critical to enhance and accelerate capability development.

It enables Australia to be a more potent and capable partner, for example through AUKUS where we’ve made strong progress on emerging capabilities and technology development.

Labor supported AUKUS in Opposition and we support it in Government.

AUKUS will deliver nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, and it will guide accelerated development of advanced defence capabilities where they have most impact – such as quantum technology, artificial intelligence, undersea warfare, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics.

As we move forward with AUKUS, Australia will ensure that we do so in a way that strengthens the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

And we will continue to work with our other international partners to develop the capabilities we all need to maintain our competitive edge.

Right now, RIMPAC - Exercise Rim of the Pacific - is underway in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, and 1600 Australian Defence Force personnel are participating with personnel from 26 countries.

As part of The Technical Cooperation Program at RIMPAC 2022, Australia has demonstrated two Australian precision quantum clock subsystems and a quantum accelerometer subsystem.

And the purpose and value of this technology for Defence is clear.

It is aimed at enabling precision navigation without relying on satellites.

And it is just a first step. 

A more ambitious cold atom inertial motion unit – IMU for short – based on quantum interference of atoms is under development and will be fielded at RIMPAC 2024.

When combined with classical sensors and the next generation of quantum clocks, this will deliver a Quantum Position Navigation and Timing solution.

This is one example of the kind of cutting-edge innovation and commitment that Australian researchers are working on with our partners to create vitally important defence capabilities.

Australia has developed a strong and durable ecosystem of trust, collaboration and cooperation in our defence science community.

Through dynamic programs like the Defence’s flagship strategic innovation program – StaR Shots; the Defence Innovation Hub; the Capability Acceleration Fund and the Next Generation Technologies Fund, Defence is working to break down barriers to accelerate technology development – at scale – while encouraging partnership and collaboration.

Indeed, this Summit is part of that effort.

Just last year, a team comprised of researchers from the Defence Science and Technology Group and Western Sydney University developed a high performance nanocomposite adhesive that enables rapid, high strength patch repairs of military and civilian infrastructure.

The new material, combining carbon nanoparticles and an epoxy resin, can improve the resilience of structural joints and laminated composites used in a range of defence platforms.

That team went on to work with universities in the UK and Australia, as well as industry partners and the Australian Defence Force.

It’s but one example which speaks to our scientific potential as a nation and the prospects for our defence industry.

Across Defence, across our universities, in our start-ups and business communities, people are working together on our most pressing defence priorities and national security challenges.

From small businesses like InfoSect – a small cybersecurity start-up that has grown from two to eight staff, with two more in the pipeline, thanks to Defence funding for its BOGONG tool, which can be used to monitor vulnerabilities in software…

To multidisciplinary research teams in our universities…

To the largest Defence primes…

The Government is committed to backing Australian defence science researchers and innovators with the right investments and the right time …

Because defence science and technology is the catalyst for Defence industry to serve the nation.

Friends, 2022 marks 115 years of Defence science in Australia.

In 1907, Australia’s first defence scientist, Cecil Hake, created a national factory to manufacture the gunpowder replacement cordite in a small building behind Victoria Barracks in Melbourne.

Today the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) is the second-largest publicly funded research agency in Australia …

And the emphasis is on collaborations with universities and industry to ensure Defence scientists have access to the best research ideas across the country and the world.

it is my sincere hope that this Summit helps you form deep and genuine partnerships…

To explore problems from different perspectives…

And to collaborate and cooperate on developing new sovereign capabilities for Australia.

Thank you.


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