Address to the 2023 ASPI Conference 'Disruption and Deterrence'

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The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

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14 September 2023


I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people as traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on and recognise any other people or families with connection to the lands of the ACT and region. 

As the Minister for Defence Industry, 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. 

My former Parliamentary colleague Gai Brodtmann, now Chair of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Council.   

Senior Leaders of the ADF and APS. 

Members of the diplomatic corps. 

Distinguished guests. 

International visitors. 


It is my pleasure to join you today for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference “Disruption and Deterrence.”  

Deterrence has always been implicit in Australia’s defence policy, and disruption has become ubiquitous across almost every aspect of the economy and society. 

The intersection of the two is where great challenges lie.  

In a world where our strategic circumstances have become more challenging, we are retooling our conception of deterrence to make it fit for challenges we face.  

As Prime Minister Albanese has said, the Government is investing in capability and in relationships. 

Strengthening Australia’s deterrence and our diplomacy. 

Australians are peaceful people. We have no territorial ambitions.  

We are deeply committed to diplomacy and the rule of law.  

Our preference will always be to deter conflict and resolve differences through peaceful means.  

However, technological disruption is the new normal that we have to contend with.  

With new capabilities emerging, we have to invest in a focussed way … and we have to speed up the innovation and acquisition cycles, to deliver credible deterrence over the short and long term. 

Defence industry, and the Australian industrial base, will be central to answering this challenge. 

The Defence Strategic Review took a comprehensive, long view about what exactly Australia needs to do to generate a credible deterrent effect.  

Working out what we need to be able to create, build, maintain and sustain in Australia is central to this effort.  

Developing, mobilising and protecting the right innovation ecosystem is also vital.  

In a world where the challenges to stability and prosperity are continuing to mount, we not only need to do this right, we need to do it fast.  


The recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review are the “what” of Australia’s defence planning, and the Defence Industry Development Strategy will be a big part of the “how.”  

The Strategy will establish the framework and principles for the direction of defence industry policy.  

It will detail a clear plan for implementation. 

It will cover workforce. 

It will set out more targeted Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities. 

It will cover reforms to procurement and include mechanisms to improve security within defence businesses.  

Importantly, it will articulate the strategic rationale for a defence industrial base. 

We need to think about our industrial base in the context of our most cutting-edge capabilities. 

We need to think about it in terms of how collaboration with our partners is delivering us superior capabilities that we could not make alone, like the Joint Strike Fighter, which is made up of different components from different countries. 

And we need to think about it in terms of AUKUS.  

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


First and foremost, we are focused on the delivery of conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines as outlined in the pathway announced by Prime Minister Albanese with President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak in March this year.   

Conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines will help deter threats to our security and contribute to the economic and regional stability of the Indo-Pacific. 

Acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines will require a transformation of Australian defence industry. 

This alone will result in $30 billion dollars being invested in Australia’s industrial base and there will be massive infrastructure upgrades and expansion amounting up to $18 billion.  

$6 billion will be invested in Australia’s industrial capability and workforce over the next four years alone.   

We will need to grow the combined industrial capacity and supply base of the three AUKUS nations to ensure the timely, ongoing delivery of this capability.  

We are rapidly scaling the education and training for the development of our workforce to meet these needs.  

This includes the Skills and Training Academy we are co-designing with the South Australian Government. This will ensure we are ready to build and maintain our own submarines.  

We are working on opportunities for Australian suppliers – not just for Australia’s submarines, but to contribute to the supply chains of the US and UK.  

A genuine partnership between the federal Government, the states, industry and unions will be critical to growing the defence industrial base we need. 

AUKUS is about expanding the industrial base and building robust and resilient supply chains for all AUKUS partners.  


There are many things to learn from the war in Ukraine. 

It is tragically obvious, but always important to acknowledge that Putin’s illegal and unjustified war is taking a horrific toll on the innocent.  

The conflict also underscores that we are living in the age of missiles, and for Australia to effectively deter armed conflict we have to acquire, build and sustain a missile arsenal of our own.   

The ADF must have the capacity to deter through denial any adversary’s attempt to project power against Australia through our northern approaches. 

That means one of our top national defence priorities is acquiring long-range strike systems and manufacturing longer-range munitions in Australia. 

Both are necessary to generate the deterrence we need.  

Long Range Strike will give the ADF the ability to target with greater reach than ever before. 

It will maximise deterrence and give us more response options to any threat that emerges. 

Long Range Strike that is underpinned by cutting edge technology and close cooperation with our allies and our partners will provide a potent deterrent effect.  

You could see that cooperation in action during the firepower demonstration at Shoalwater Bay back in July.  

Australian and United States personnel were joined by personnel from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Germany, France and New Zealand for an incredibly complex, multi-domain strike exercise, synchronising actions across the domains of land, maritime, air, space and cyber. 

The Exercise included a demonstration of HIMARS, the land-based, long-range, surface-to-surface High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. 

HIMARS has proven to be a hero of the war in Ukraine, and the Government will invest $1.6 billion to more than double the number of HIMARS launchers being acquired by the ADF. 

This project is also scoped to procure the Precision Strike Missile which is expected to have a maximum range beyond 500 kilometres.  

In addition to these acquisitions, I recently announced a $1.7 billion dollar investment in three new missile systems:  

200 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States for the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart Class destroyers. 

60 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range missiles from the United States for the Royal Australian Air Force’s Growler and Super Hornet aircraft and, in future, the F-35A Lightning II fighter jets. 

And new Spike Long-Range 2 anti-tank guided missiles for the Australian Army’s Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles.  

Acquiring enhanced long-range capabilities across all domains, to deliver operationally deployable and tactically mobile rapid response, is the essential first capability element of the deterrence equation. 

The second essential element is domestic missile manufacturing, to build up Australia’s defence industry, protect our supply chains and contribute to easing global demand. 

We are also investing in critical enablers like research and development and increasing the local maintenance and expanded storage network to accommodate a larger guided weapons and explosive ordnance inventory.  

The Government’s intent is to commence manufacturing missiles in Australia by 2025.  

We are developing detailed plans to achieve this, beginning with the local production of HIMARS-compatible Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) missiles.  

These highly accurate missiles have been used to devastating effect by Ukraine in resisting Russia’s brutal invasion. 

These are ambitious targets. 

But early planning with industry confirms they are feasible. 

And the United States Government is supporting our ambitions.  

At the Australia–United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) Consultations in July, Australia and the US agreed to deepen cooperation on Australia’s Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise. 

We will do this by collaborating on a flexible guided weapons production capability in Australia, with an initial focus on the potential for co-production of GMLRS missiles by 2025. 

As the AUSMIN joint statement suggests, producing GMLRS missiles in Australia will be a stepping stone towards production of more advanced, longer range weapons in the future.  

Together, we will boost our collective stocks, relieve shared supply chain pressures, supplement US holdings, and expand the combined industrial power of the Alliance. 

In the meantime we are building the industrial foundations and other enablers to underpin an expanded munitions industry.  

To give just a couple of examples …  

Defence has acquired a new Resonant Acoustic Mixer to enable faster, safer high explosive manufacturing and, in due course, rocket motor manufacturing, at the Mulwala munitions factory … 

And we’ve established a new 155 millimetre projectile filling capability under United States licencing at the Benalla munitions factory. 

Australians can be confident the Albanese Government is rising to the challenge of bringing Australia and the Australian Defence Force into the missile age. 


We sell Australia short if we think of ourselves as victims of disruption. 

Don’t get me wrong: Australia’s national security and prosperity is challenged by disruption. 

But we are also disruptors. We have created and are developing leading-edge technologies.  

Australia’s Defence innovation ecosystem has skills and capabilities that are unique.  

For a country the size of Australia, which will never be able to deploy huge armies or navies, technology and science are a critical source of asymmetric advantage.  

The task ahead is to turn disruptive new technologies into game changing capabilities, and to build our nation’s industrial capability in areas of priority. 

That need was clearly identified by the Defence Strategic Review, and accepted by the Government. 

That’s what we designed the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator to achieve. 

ASCA is focused on getting the best and brightest Australian technologies from proposal to prototype to production as fast as humanly possible.  

It is already up and running.  

ASCA’s first innovation challenge, on sovereign uncrewed aerial systems, is underway. 

It will be the first of a series of focused missions aimed at pulling through innovation into asymmetric capability through a new, flexible approach to procurement. 

And it’s doing so through partnerships with industry and universities, uncovering knowledge and making fast progress on solutions – creating the kinds of disruption that will help protect our national security.   

Which brings me to the other kind of disruption we need: the disruption of the politics of risk. 

To deliver what we need, in the timeframe we need, we must embrace more risk in defence capability acquisition. 

We need to acknowledge frankly that we have to take risks in order to thrive in a disrupted world, and to speed up the contracting cycle, and that some of the risks we take won’t work out.  

But we will learn from them and that will inform the next project.  

Of course, government spending must be scrutinised.  

But it also means accepting that we have to do things in a new and different way – to innovate, to link technology development to speedy acquisition – if we are going to create the capabilities needed to help defend Australia. 


I’ve been speaking today about capability primarily in terms of the new platforms, weapons and technologies we need.  

But of course our people – and our partners – are also critical elements for Australia’s defence capabilities. 

Over the past few months, Australians have witnessed some of the most complex and connected military exercises ever seen in our country. 

Most recently, that included training with ships from India, Japan and the United States off the coast of New South Wales as part of the sea phase of Exercise Malabar. 

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force SH-60K helicopter from the Japanese Ship Shiranui touched down on the flight deck of HMAS Brisbane, at the same time that Brisbane’s MH-60R Seahawk practised landings on Shiranui and Indian destroyer INS Kolkata. 

There was so much for Australians to be proud of, as the ADF worked in close partnership with the forces of our regional partners. 

In a changing world, those partnerships are more important than ever before. 

A significant element of the Government’s commitments in defence is to make us a more effective partner to our allies and friends …  

So that together, we can deter aggression and shape the region toward peace, respect for sovereignty and the maintenance of the rules- based order.  


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