Speech to the G'Day USA Defence Industry Dialogue, Washington DC

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The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

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media@defence.gov.au

(02) 6277 7840

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14 October 2022

Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Distinguished Guests,

Friends of Australia All,

I’m delighted to be here at the G’Day USA Defence Industry Dialogue.

This is the eighth annual Dialogue – with a hiatus last year due to the pandemic.

While we are still living with COVID-19, can I say how wonderful it is to be able to meet in person.

This is my first visit to the United States as the Minister for Defence Industry in the new Australian Government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

I know I speak for all members of the Australian Government, including the four Ministers in the Defence portfolio, when I say we bring leadership and energy to our new roles.

For my part, I’m setting out to do a couple of things.

Firstly, to work in partnership with industry to deliver and sustain the capabilities the Australian Defence Force needs to meet the strategic challenges we face.

And secondly, to grow the industrial sector that Australia needs to support the men and women of the Australian Defence Force.

These are challenges I’m excited to take on.

I’ve seen first-hand the amazing capability of Australia’s Defence industry.

I want to help it grow even further and take those capabilities global.

I begin from the sure and certain knowledge that Australia has no more important ally than the United States.

The ANZUS Treaty is the central pillar of Australian foreign and defence policy.

We stand together in the cause of a free and inclusive international order governed not by the principle of ‘might makes right’, but by rules that respect the sovereignty of all nations.

Time and again, for more than a century, Australians and Americans have united in common cause.

This year we mark the 104th anniversary of the Battle of Hamel, when American soldiers fought alongside Australians in the trenches of northern France.

They were under the command of the great Australian general, Sir John Monash.

Monash planned the battle to last 90 minutes.

It was won in 93.

There are lessons for us today in the story of how they fought and how they won.

Tanks and aircraft were then new technologies.

On their own, they had failed to win battles, much less win the war.

But when coordinated in a strategy that combined artillery, armour, infantry and aircraft …

With troops who fought with courage and conviction…

They carried the day at Hamel and helped turn the tide of the First World War.

As the Australian strategist Mick Ryan has observed, technologies alone do not provide military advantage.

It is how people combine technology with ideas and new organisations that can provide a decisive advantage.

Then as now, our alliance and partnerships give us a competitive edge.

Then as now, supply chains are critical.

They are invisible in the photographic record of the Battle of Hamel.

But the supply chains that delivered Mark Five tanks from Britain – and that manufactured Lewis Guns designed in the United States – were crucial to the victory at Hamel.

Then, as now, industry plays a critical role.

You support our sailors, soldiers and aviators by commercialising new and innovative technologies.

You deliver and sustain the critical capabilities that the men and women of the Australian Defence Force rely on.

Deputy Prime Minister Marles and I talk a lot about the partnership between Defence and industry.

That’s because it’s so important.

We’re committed to giving the ADF the capability it needs – and many of you here are essential partners in this endeavour.

Time is of the essence.

Since 1945, Australia’s defence planning has been based on an assumed ten-year strategic warning time for a major conventional conflict.

Australia’s Defence Strategic Update, released two years ago, noted this warning time had rapidly reduced.

To be frank, the challenges to stability and prosperity are real. They continue to mount.

An intensifying strategic and geo-economic contest …

Increasing military modernisation and grey-zone activities in our region …

The return of war in Europe …

The climate emergency with its inevitable impact on security and stability …

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

The Australian Government is committed to strengthening our ability to uphold peace and stability in our region.

That is why the Albanese Government is committed to spending at least 2 per cent of Australian GDP on Defence.

Including to equip the Australian Defence Force with capabilities like long-range and precision strike weapons, offensive and defensive cyber, and area denial systems.

We are committed to AUKUS …

Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have a proud history of working together, along with other allies and partners, to protect our shared values and uphold the rules based international order.

We are working closely with our AUKUS partners to accelerate development of advanced defence capabilities where they will have most impact – both for deterrence and for our operational effectiveness.

This includes Australia’s planned acquisition of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, the first initiative announced under the AUKUS partnership.

We have been working closely together as the 18-month period of consultation, and the pathway to acquiring this important capability, is taking shape.

As part of this historic program, there will be significant opportunities for industry involvement, both domestically and internationally.

As Deputy Prime Minister Marles has said, we need to develop the industrial capacity to build a nuclear-powered submarine capability in Australia.

At the end of this process, the AUKUS partnership should have moved from having four shipyards capable of manufacturing nuclear powered submarines, to five.

We also need to add to the combined industrial capacity of the three AUKUS nations to ensure a timely, ongoing supply of nuclear-powered submarines.

This will result in significant opportunities for Australian businesses to contribute to supply chains in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

We have also initiated a Defence Strategic Review, with two eminent leads in the former Australian Minister for Defence, Professor Stephen Smith, and the former Chief of the Defence Force, Sir Angus Houston.

Both are well known to many of you here today.

This will be a comprehensive review of how the ADF is postured to deal with current and future strategic circumstances for Australia and the Indo-Pacific Region.

And it will ensure Australia is an even stronger ally and better partner into the future. 

The sinews of our Alliance are found in the depth and breadth of our cooperation on science, technology, strategic capabilities, and defence industrial base collaboration.

With greater cooperation we can accelerate to form a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.

The depth and trust of our partnership is undeniable.

This is a strategic advantage we can, and should, cultivate.

Australian Defence Industry, including small businesses and researchers, have skills and capabilities that are unique.

Our industry has much to offer in support of US supply chain diversification and resilience.

We seek to complement – not compete with – the United States to address our common challenges.

AUKUS isn’t just about submarines.

It’s an opportunity to form a world leading technological coalition.

But this will require us to work more seamlessly across our sovereign boundaries.

And break down stubborn barriers to technology transfer, information sharing and industry integration.

This is the next frontier of Alliance cooperation.

And I am confident – given all we have achieved together over our history – that we can, once again, meet the moment.

A prime example is the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise that Australia is working to establish right now.

It’s good for Australia and it’s good for the United States … because it will build Australia’s guided weapons stores and deliver a trusted second source of critical munitions supply to the United States.

We can get this done quickly and efficiently – by pooling our expertise and knowledge, and by making it easier for our respective Defence departments and defence industries to work together.

Australia has all the foundational elements needed for a missile industry.

They include:

  • A munitions sector that produces high quality explosives and propellant.
  • Manufacturers of advanced military sensors.
  • Companies producing missile components for existing collaboration programs.
  • And capacity to build rocket motors for both military and non-military use.

Bringing these elements together to build advanced missiles is a serious, long-term endeavour that has the rock-solid backing of the Australian Government.

We will need help from the American Government and from our two Strategic Partners, Lockheed Martin Australia and Raytheon Australia, as well as the many companies in their supply chains.

The Strategic Partners are working with Defence to identify initial options to manufacture guided weapons and their critical components in Australia.

This is about identifying where Australian industry can supplement (not supplant) US industrial capacity; to expand our alliance beyond the battlefield and into the factories.

A tangible example where this interoperability already occurs is the Mark 48 Heavyweight Torpedoes housed in our Western Australian maintenance facility.

These weapons are used by both Australian and US Submarines, without any additional testing or evaluation. A US Submarine can arrive in Western Australia and have those muntions restocked from our supplies.

The Australian Government is committed to developing a robust, resilient and internationally competitive defence industry.

A stronger industrial base makes the Australian Defence Force a stronger deterrent and our country a stronger and better partner.

That’s why the Albanese Government has committed to developing a Defence Industry Development Strategy, which will provide greater detail on our priorities, as well as a clear implementation plan to ensure success.

We have also committed to establishing a new Australian Strategic Research Agency, which will refocus our defence innovation ecosystem and support breakthrough and pivotal research to strengthen national security.

But innovation needs to be commercialised, and our defence businesses need to be sustainable.

That’s where defence exports come in.

The Albanese Government recognises that exports play a critical role.

Not just from a commercial and business standpoint, but also in terms of growing our influence globally.

Australian companies have a strong record of providing capability in US supply chains and directly to the US military.

I know that Rob Scott, President of Birdon America, is speaking to you later today about their success in providing equipment to both the Australian Army and the US Departments of Defence and Homeland Security.

I’m pleased to say that Birdon received financial support from Export Finance Australia, which enabled them to establish their new manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado.

They are delivering good jobs for American workers here and good jobs for Australian workers back home by delivering useful capability to us both.

Another example is CEA Technologies which specialises in the design, development and manufacture of advanced digital radar technologies.

They are based in Canberra, with offices in Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and they have a US subsidiary headquartered in Hanover, Maryland.

CEA supplies both the ADF and the US Department of Defense with its CEAFAR active electronically scanned arrays, with programs including the ANZAC and Hunter class frigates; air defence applications for Army and Air Force; and numerous Range applications.

Friends,

American soldiers travelled in Australian designed and manufactured Bushmasters in Afghanistan.

Australian soldiers have flown in American designed and manufactured Chinooks.

The RAAF takes to the sky in F-35A Lightning Two aircraft constructed with components made in the USA and Australia.

And both of us see the potential for the Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat, previously known as the Loyal Wingman … designed, developed and manufactured in Australia … to make both our Defence Forces more potent and formidable.

Technology and trust – born of a century of mateship – are our strategic edge now, and they will deliver our strategic edge in the future.

As Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry, let me conclude by saying that my key message to you is that I am committed to building a genuine, long-term partnership with industry, large and small, in both our nations.

I am committed to working with you on breaking down the barriers to greater defence industry collaboration between Australia and the United States.

And I am committed to ensuring that the Alliance between our two nations grows even stronger over the years ahead.

Thank you.

ENDS

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