THE HON MELISSA PRICE MP
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY
AI GROUP DEFENCE COUNCIL NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DINNER
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Gadigal of the Eora and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
It is a great pleasure to be here with you tonight as the new Minister for Defence Industry. I would also like to thank the Ai Group for hosting tonight’s event, in what truly is an exciting time for the Australian Defence Industry.
In 2016, the Liberal National Government decided change was needed to empower the Australian Defence Industry and more importantly, the small and medium businesses that operate within it.
Since then, we have witnessed tremendous success. Our plan to invest $200 billion in defence capability and the introduction of our Defence Industry plans has created and supported thousands of Australian jobs.
In his first key-note speech since the re-election of the Coalition Government, our Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Perth on Monday to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry that my job was to deliver this plan.
So, we used to have the “Fixer” – now you have the “Deliverer”.
I intend to use my over 25 years of commercial and legal experience to achieve this. As a former construction lawyer it is in my DNA to push projects to be on time and on budget.
My job now is to identify and remove road blocks to deliver on our plan.
I very much look forward to working with Defence Industry participants to identify ways to improve, enhance and innovate our contractual arrangements.
There are currently 3,500 small and medium enterprises in the Defence Industry – and more than 30,000 people who design, build and deliver on the capability our men and women in uniform rely on each and every day.
As the Prime Minister has said, if you have a go, you’ll get a go.
Our success in the Australian defence industry is the result of SMEs taking every opportunity to have a go. Your success, is our success.
But more needs to be done.
During the election campaign, the Coalition announced:
The construction of three new naval vessels at Henderson, WA – taking our total ship build to 57 vessels, using Australian workers and Australian steel – creating thousands of jobs for decades to come.
The investment of a further $30 million to create a Tasmanian Defence Innovation and Design Precinct – helping to deliver the research needed for Australia’s cutting-edge maritime defence capability.
And we also pledged to deliver a locally-built self-propelled Howitzer artillery system in Geelong – creating 350 jobs in the community.
The Morrison Government will continue to maximise the opportunities for SMEs in these large-scale projects.
We are now at a turning point, and look to the new frontier in the defence industry and need your help.
Maximising SME opportunities
Small and medium businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy and I seek to do more for you in the Defence Industry.
If we want a stronger defence industrial base, we need to maximise the involvement and success of Australian SMEs.
This is why the Government recently announced the Defence Policy for Industry Participation.
The policy extends the benefits of the Australian Industry Capability Program and seeks to maximise opportunities for Australian industry in procurements over $4 million – and $7.5 million for construction.
But my objective is to turn policy into action, that we follow through.
Recently, I announced the Morrison Government’s investment of $680 million for the supply of a new Short-Range Ground-Based Air Defence capability with Raytheon Australia.
This project will contribute to the creation of 100 Australian jobs and approximately one third of the investment directly contributing to Australian industry over the life of the program.
Just last week, I also had the pleasure of attending the Perth handover ceremony of a Guardian-class Patrol Boat to Tonga.
As part of our Government’s $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan, we are investing $340 million in the construction of 21 Guardian Class Patrol Vessels with Austal, creating 500 direct and indirect jobs through the Australian supply chain.
These are the sorts of activities and projects that reinforce the Morrison Government’s broader commitment to SMEs in the Australian Defence Industry and ensure they have a long and stable future.
A key focus for me is harnessing the innovative potential of the Australian defence industry.
As you know, our Government is investing $730 million in the Next Generation Technologies Fund and $640 million in the Defence Innovation Hub. Both are critical to ensure emerging and lifesaving technology is properly resourced, so that one day it may help our men and women in uniform.
Last week, I visited Brisbane-based firm EPE to announce a $300,000 investment via the Defence Innovation Hub. EPE specialise in developing technologies to protect military and emergency response personnel. This investment will help EPE to improve its radar technology used to identify and track IEDs.
This contract is a demonstration of how the Morrison Government’s $200 billion investment over ten years in defence capabilities is helping small and medium sized businesses right across Australia.
As I said last week, our investment in Defence is much more than just spending on big companies. EPE is an Australian SME working to protect and save lives on the international stage. Small and medium businesses are every bit a part of our defence industry as our major players.
I look forward to playing my part to strengthen the partnerships between our major players and our SMEs to ensure the Australian Defence Force is provided the best capability Australia has to offer.
Tonight, I also want to reinforce our Government’s commitment to connect Australian industry to the global market.
We made a commitment to be one of the top 10 defence exporters in the world and we are on the right path to achieving this.
The Australian Defence Export Office is undertaking a range of activities in support of industry, including:
- an increased program of tradeshows and trade missions;
- a larger and more comprehensive Australian Military Sales Catalogue; and
- industry exhibitions held on board HMAS Canberra during port stops in seven different countries as part of Exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour.
And I am pleased to acknowledge the work of the Defence Export Advocate, David Johnston, who is here tonight.
We need to continue to build the reputation of Australia’s defence sector as a strong reliable partner in exporting high end and reliable military capabilities.
Australia is already home to some of the world’s most advanced and technologically sophisticated capability solutions; and some of the most innovative and hardworking companies.
However, more needs to be done for our SMEs to succeed on the global stage. And I look forward in the weeks and month ahead to hear your thoughts on how we can better assist you in achieving this outcome.
A closer partnership
More than ever, industry and Government must work in close partnership to address shared challenges head-on.
We must work together to ensure industry can equip itself with the skilled workforce it will require to support a modern ADF and to take advantage of export opportunities.
The Defence Skilling Strategy released earlier this year, outlined defence industry skills issues will be streamlined into the new National Defence Industry Skills Office.
Through this office we are establishing a new model of Defence Industry skilling grants for SMEs which will help reduce the barriers faced in upskilling or retraining your people.
But we must do much more to create our future Defence Industry workforce. We need to educate parents, the educators and young people about what a career in defence industry looks like.
This is critical if we are to truly create a sustainable defence industry to make the most of opportunities at home and abroad.
This is just one headline challenge we must tackle together on the journey of building a stronger defence industrial base and I will have more to say on this in the coming weeks.
I am proud of how the Australian Defence Industry has grown over recent years, and I look forward to building on the work of my predecessors.
We are seeing innovative Australian companies emerging as suppliers of world- leading technologies.
We have companies forming part of the Defence supply chain that had never before engaged in Defence business.
I thank you all for your efforts and your commitment to the Australian defence industry.
I look forward to working with you to build on these strong foundations and deliver a robust, sustainable and internationally competitive defence industry.