Transcript Land Forces 2016 Conference address

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The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence Industry

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6 September 2016

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you very much, Ian, it’s a great pleasure to be here at the Chief of Army’s exercises for 2016. I would like to acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues, Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Industry from New South Wales, Senator David Fawcett, the new Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee - the joint committee of the two parliaments - my parliamentary colleague Richard Marles, who is the Shadow Minister for Defence and Mike Kelly, who is recently return to parliament in the Seat of Eden-Monaro.

Well thank you very much for the opportunity to present today reasonably informally the Government’s plans for Defence and Defence Industry. Obviously we face a very different landscape today than we did nine months ago or even a couple of years ago, because now the Government has committed a dramatic amount of money - $195 billion – to investing in our defence capability over the next ten years. So in February the Government released the Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program and the Defence Industry Policy Statement. All three of those documents work together.

The first two outline Australia’s national interests, its international interests, its overall strategy and what we’re trying to achieve. Second to outline what infrastructure we need, how we’re going to deliver it and when we’re going to deliver it over a period of time and finally the Defence Industry Policy Statement which is designed to show how we can build defence industry capability in Australia to build a domestic defence industry that we can rely on to actually deliver a high quality capability that’s required of a sovereign nation that wants to be a significant regional player and also to do our part internationally as part of a – as a partner in operations when we find [indistinct] allies and our partners.

So the Defence White Paper has changed the landscape. Unfortunately while I don’t want to be political especially in front of my partisan colleagues, under Labor spending on defence did drop to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the lowest level since 1938 so the Defence White Paper makes it very clear we intend to get 2 per cent of GDP by the early 2020s and we believe that we’ll get there faster than that. The Defence White Paper outlined $195 billion of new spending on investment in platforms. Over $90 billion of that is in naval shipbuilding.

So we will build over the next several decades 54 new vessels: 21 Pacific patrol vessels to give to our allies and partners in the South Pacific and near North Australia; 12 offshore patrol vessels; nine future frigates; 12 submarines and we’ll attempt to do as much of that work as possible here in Australia and that means building significant defence industry capability and the Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program and the Defence Industry Policy Statement covers all the surfaces, covers things like bases, ranges, equipment and platforms for the army, the navy, for the air force, how to maximise a roll out of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, and I will soon be travelling to the United States to press our case for being a maintenance and sustainment hub for the Joint Strike Fighter Program here in Australia for the Asia Pacific. We’re more than just the engines and the frames and [indistinct] the same time I will travel to the United Arab Emirates to talk to them about Austal’s bid for their catamaran contract which is worth about a billion dollars, which is the first time I’ve publicly announced that today. So, I will be a very proactive Defence Industry Minister.

My role is to make these things in the Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program, and the Defence Industry Policy Statement happen. There is a great deal to do. All the services are affected, almost the entire defence structure is affected, and by the time we finish this particular national endeavour we will be in a much stronger position to defend our national interest to influence international interests, particularly in our region. And that number one goal, of course, is a rules-based international order and for Australia to play its role as a partner, we actually have to have the defence capability when the United States or our other allies and our partners ask us to be a part of operations or part of defending international interests and the international rules-based order.

This has been made much easier, of course, by defence industry becoming one of the fundamental inputs to capability which was a decision made not so long ago. It gives great ballast to the Defence Industry Minister, who can argue that decisions that we make as- like the recent ones that I announced today about things like electronic warfare and the air refuelers and other decisions that we’re making, need to have a domestic defence industry aspect to them and, of course, the other aspects are the things that I have to implement starting with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability here in Adelaide, will help build defence industry capability. That’ll be assisted by the next technology- Next Generation Technologies Fund, which is $730 million, designed for the DSTG to actually help find new technologies, either their own or others in the market and develop those into products or services that we can then ourselves and, if possible, export.

The Defence Innovation Hub, which will be used to promote those technologies and also take those things to market and encourage the defence industry to increase its capability. So, over the course of the next year or so, we have to set up the Defence Innovation Hub, the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, which will be soon announcing the co-chair with Keith Willis (*) and the rest of the board will follow on soon after that and that will get underway and the Next Generation Technologies Fund, having met with Alex Zelinsky yesterday, it’s very clear that that is well in hand by the DSTG. So, these things are all working together, they are a big endeavour.

I’m told that Defence regards having to make 20 significant decisions as a big year in terms of taking a program right through, the National Security Committee, right through to the cabinet, until it’s announced and the state will implement it. For us, over the next 12 months, we have to make 69 significant decisions to keep on schedule. So my number one worry in defence industry is keeping on the schedule, making sure that we achieve what we promised we will. It’s a very ambitious program.

Now, a lot of people here from 22 countries around our region and beyond. They are watching Australia very carefully to see whether this is an ambition that is- that we can achieve. I’m very confident that we can achieve it. It’s very important that we do, because the national security is every Government’s number one priority.

Australia has been deeply engaged around the world for decades, and in fact we’ve been in constant operations for 20 years this year. We pride ourselves on being able to contribute when we’re asked to do so, and that requires cost and expenditure of the taxpayers’ funds to build that capability, and so our national interest is served by having a strong Defence Force. This is more than just words. Obviously politicians have said that for hundreds of years, but this Government for the first time has announced a continuous naval ship build so we’ll always have a sovereign shipbuilding capability. That will of course be part of the maintenance and sustainment capability into the future too, which we want to be able to do ourselves for decades to come.

These are significant changes, for the world is much more uncertain today than it was even a few years ago, even a few months ago. There are significant challenges in our region. There are other countries in the world who are wondering about what the future will bring in terms of the international order, and for Australia to play its role, we have to have a sovereign defence industry capability which plays into our ability to take part with its Army, Navy, or Air Force in operations or pressing our interests in Asia and around the world, as we are right now in the Middle East, in Iraq.

So we should all be very proud of what our Defence Forces have achieved now going back over 100 years. I know that we are. I’m a fifth generation Australian. Only yesterday, you’ll be surprised to hear, I was in the GPO, and for the first time in my life, I looked up at the Honour Board for the First World War casualties, and two of my great-uncles, Thomas and Octavius, were etched on the marble at the GPO here in Adelaide on King William Street. I’d never known they were even part of the GPO. So my family have been involved in- one of them died in Gallipoli on the first day, sadly, and one died at Pozieres, and he was never found. But I did find Great Uncle Patrick’s grave when I visited Gallipoli this year. So I, as much as any Australian, have a story to tell about our involvement in defending our nation. My father was in Korea. I’m deeply committed to building a defence industry capability and then providing that through my Defence Forces so they have the best platforms in the world to defend our nation and to have international reach.

I did enjoy my portfolio in Education and Industry, but I have to say, I like to see things being made. I like to have- I like to be able to touch and feel what the Government is achieving. The Australian public are very much the same. This is a program that if we get it right, will make our country proud. It will create new jobs and growth in our economy and it will create new capability to make us a better partner and ally and to make our country more able to be defended by our Defence Forces.

So thank you for what you do, and thank you very much for visiting our country and visiting the Chief of the Army’s exercise of 2016, and I hope you get a great deal out of this and the wider conference of Land Forces 2016. Thank you very much for having me.


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