Opinion Piece - Cutting-edge defence manufacturing capabilities are for the benefit of all Australia’s interests

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The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for Science and Technology

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9 October 2019

  • Published in The Australian, Tuesday 8 October 2019

The most important job we have as the Federal Government is to keep Australians safe. Equipping our Australian Defence Force with the best possible technologies and capabilities is one way we’re achieving this. It means our service men and women have the best possible protection and most advanced capabilities when defending our national interests.

After we were elected in 2013, one of the most important decisions we made was to embark on a record build-up of Australia’s sovereign defence capability. It was clear that after years of neglect, our defence industry was struggling. It was unacceptable. We announced we would invest $200 billion in acquiring and building new capabilities, creating many thousands of new, high-tech jobs and providing more opportunities for Australian businesses to boost their presence on the world stage.

We have made such a strong case about our growing defence industry over the last few years that the eyes of the world are now upon us. In London recently for a major international tradeshow at which I led a record delegation of Australian businesses, the chatter in the halls was loud and clear. Here in Britain, they were talking about our massive defence industry plan. It’s now clear; the big players are sitting up and taking notice of the action down under.

Of the many projects and initiatives we have announced, arguably the most important is the Morrison Government’s $90 billion national Naval Shipbuilding Plan. It is the largest capital investment ever undertaken in Australia’s maritime history, representing a strategic national asset for future generations of Australians. It will create long-term sustainable naval shipbuilding and ship sustainment capability that will serve our strategic and economic interests for many decades. It is key for us to build capability, secure our region and prepare for the future.

As Minister for Defence Industry, it is my responsibility to ensure our significant investments are creating as many opportunities as possible for small businesses right across Australia. It is not just the shipbuilders at Osborne or at Henderson who are winners in this Plan. Small businesses from Darwin to Devonport, from the Gold Coast to Geraldton, can take up the opportunity to be involved in this truly national endeavor.

A key element of the Morrison Government’s investment in our defence industry is innovation. We want our soldiers, sailors and airmen to have the latest, cutting edge products and technologies. So we have tasked our defence industry with developing brand-new, world-leading capabilities. We have high expectations of our Aussie small businesses, with their entrepreneurial drive and passion, and they are not letting us down.

Attending PACIFIC 2019 will be small businesses doing amazing things in the innovation space. Like J3 Seven from Cairns whom we have contracted to explore the development of an unmanned aerial system prototype capable of detecting, sampling and analysing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances. Or GPSAT Systems Australia from Macleod in Victoria who, with funding from the Morrison Government, are developing GPS jamming and spoofing counter-measures to deliver rapid threat detection and geo-location capabilities.

These are the types of game-changing innovations our Australian industry is producing. Our investments here are not only boosting our own capability, but providing an opportunity for these small businesses to partner with our allies and international partners to deliver cutting-edge capabilities for the benefit of all our interests.

Last year we launched the Defence Export Strategy and appointed our former Defence Minister David Johnston as Australia’s Defence Export Advocate. Our target to become one of the world’s top-ten exporters is ambitious, it’s true, but when the benefits of a strong, exporting industrial base are so clear – we make no apologies for striving to be among the world’s best.

My message to the exhibitors and attendees at this week’s PACIFIC 2019 conference is this; be proud of what Australia is contributing to the global defence market. Be proud of our reputation as an innovative, robust and globally-competitive industry. Be proud of our demonstrated record of delivery, and our increasing capacity to evolve.

The big defence companies play an important role here, of course. But the new shining stars are undoubtedly our small businesses. They have proven they’re to be taken seriously and I’m seriously excited about what’s to come. 

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