Address to Land Forces 2022 International Land Defence Exhibition

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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: 0404 648 275

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4 October 2022

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

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, 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.

I understand this stretch of the river by Kurilpa Point was a traditional meeting, trading and hunting place for generations of indigenous peoples .

And Army has a proud history of Indigenous service that continues to this day.

Land Forces 2022 takes place at a critical time.

The challenges we face continue to mount.

The return of war in Europe.

The most complex set of strategic circumstances that we have faced since the end of the Second World War.

Persistent grey zone challenges.

The climate emergency.

And enduring impacts from the pandemic, which are driving inflation, supply chain shocks and deglobalisation.

These challenges require Australia to increase our resilience, expand our capabilities and harden our defences.

That is why the Albanese Government has commissioned the Defence Strategic Review.

To consider force structure, force posture and preparedness, and investment prioritisation, to ensure Defence has the right capabilities to meet our growing strategic needs.

Its delivery will be supported by the Government’s Defence Industry Development Strategy.

The Strategy will set out the framework, direction and principles underpinning the direction of defence industry policy and initiatives for the foreseeable future.

The Government is committed to building a highly capable, productive and internationally competitive sovereign defence industry.

We’re making up for lost time.

We can’t waste a moment.

And we can’t achieve the capability and posture we need without a partnership with Defence industry.

That is my message to the more than 700 exhibitors at Land Forces 2022.

Many of the companies attending Land Forces are working in partnership with Defence, through the Innovation Hub, to develop cutting edge, sovereign defence capabilities.

Over the past six years, the Defence Innovation Hub has invested around $250 million across 128 projects to develop innovative technologies for the land domain.

These partnerships are primarily supporting micro, small and medium sized Australian enterprises to develop home-grown solutions.

Small businesses like SiNAB – developing a prototype Joint Terminal Air Controller training solution.

Or the $3.7 million contract with Cubic Defence Australia to create a deployable waste-to-energy system using microwave energy to convert waste into biofuel.

And a $1.18 million grant to ECLIPS Logistics to develop a ruggedized and deployable water treatment plant for the processing and reuse of wastewater in the field.

Nupress Tools, and Denfendtex are great examples of Australian SME’s that are exhibiting here at Landforces this week.

Both NuPress and Defendtex will be supported by Team Defence Australia next week at the AUSA tradeshow in Washington DC.

But previous practices will not be enough as we confront changing strategic circumstances, we must also heed the pandemic’s lessons.

We need a more imaginative, whole-of-nation approach to defence industry.

As a key election commitment, Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy is developing a new Defence Industry Development Strategy to realise this.

Because we can’t just grow the size of the ADF.

We also need to expand the defence industry workforce.

To deepen skills and capacity for advanced manufacturing and cutting-edge technologies, like those we’re pursuing through AUKUS.

And to enhance our resilience to sustain major capabilities.

Because what’s the point of buying the best equipment for our sailors, soldiers and aviators if we can’t maintain or fix it here at home when crisis occurs?

All of this means new jobs.

Secure, long-term jobs for Australian workers.

It means new long-term investment in Australian defence industry firms of all sizes.

A stronger sovereign defence industry makes our nation more secure and our economy more robust.

The Albanese Labor Government is deeply committed to realising this.

Our nation and defence force needs you.

And we believe in your potential.

Another opportunity that is sometimes overlooked relates to climate change.

Climate change – especially extreme weather events – is a threat to our capability, critical infrastructure and supply chains.

The Albanese Government recognises climate risk and is taking action.

That’s why last month, we enshrined Australia's emissions reduction target of 43 per cent and net zero emissions by 2050 in legislation. 

Defence also has a part to play. Defence is the Commonwealth Government’s largest energy user and landholder.

There is more work for Defence to do, but this work has started.

For example, at Exercise Pitch Black, the Air Force’s flagship multinational exercise, Defence committed to building two solar farms at RAAF Base Darwin and Robertson Barracks in the NT.

These systems are designed to provide up to 40% of each base’s power requirements and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 140,000 tonnes per year.

Realisation of Defence’s plan for renewable energy generation and storage across the Defence estate, will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the Commonwealth Government.

The innovation opportunities here for industry are significant.

At the Chief of Army Symposium in August, I launched a prototype Electric Protected Mobility Vehicle – an electric-powered Bushmaster.

The diesel-powered Bushmaster is built in Australia, and it was converted to electric right here in Australia too – at 3ME Technology in Newcastle in New South Wales, with a team of Army engineers.

Not only does the prototype electric Bushmaster generate zero carbon emissions, it accelerates up to four times faster than a standard Bushmaster, is almost silent and generates a much reduced heat signature.

Of course, this is only a prototype. The challenges of range, charging and performance in contested and challenging environments require more work. But it is important that this work has started, and it is being undertaken here in Australia.

Given we are here in Brisbane, I’m also going to mention that Defence has recently signed the contract with Queensland company NIOA for Tranche 1 of the Lethality Systems Project, LAND 159.

NIOA is working with several sub-contractors to acquire, deliver, integrate and support new weapons systems including sniper rifles, pistols, shotguns, personal defence weapons, and fighting knives for Australian soldiers, sailors and aviators.

Also in Queensland, we recently announced a $2.63 million contract with BIA5 to allow it to continue developing an innovative electronic trip flare device which could assist our soldiers to effectively secure and guard areas on the modern battlefield.

Another example is a contract with Outlander Solutions, using modern gaming technology to develop a battlefield command, control and situational awareness software system, using artificial intelligence to graphically represent the common operational picture.

If successful, this could reduce cognitive burden and visualise real world operational scenarios for Defence capability.

As this Conference gets underway today, fierce fighting continues on the other side of the world in Ukraine, as they seek to repel Russia’s illegal and unjustified invasion.

Ukrainians fight with strong support from Australia, including more than $385 million in military assistance, because it is only by ensuring such tactics fail in Ukraine can we deter their future employment, in Europe, the Indo-Pacific, or elsewhere throughout the world.

The return of land warfare to Europe is a sobering reminder of the importance of a sovereign land warfare capability.

On Friday, the ABS released figures estimating that Australia’s defence industry contributed almost $9 billion to the economy in 2020-21.

The Government wants that contribution to remain strong and we want the industry to thrive.

With more than 750 exhibitors here over the next three days, Land Forces 2022 is a timely opportunity to think about that.

To deepen existing connections.

To start new conversations.

To build a stronger sovereign defence industry amidst the toughest strategic environment Australia has faced in over seventy-five years.

Thank you. 

ENDS

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