Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned to Christopher Pyne to deliver the defence industry plank of the re-elected Coalition government’s economic plan that is intended to drive growth in advanced manufacturing and technology nationwide.
The announcement of a dedicated minister is seen in some quarters as recognition of the importance of the defence industry, and a means of facilitating collaboration between industry and Defence with the aim of delivering capabilities for the ADF.
And it has also been noted that the appointment of Pyne as Minister for Defence Industry will allow Senator Marise Payne to concentrate on the important task of managing Australia’s military commitments in the Middle East, and elsewhere, in the role of Minister for Defence.
However, some observers have raised serious concerns about the potential consequences of the move to split the Defence portfolio.
It is worth repeating the observation made in the First Principles Review that leadership churn (and budget uncertainty) is one of the ‘critical root causes’ of the organisation’s complacency, and that high turnover of ministers does not enable effective leadership of change to occur.
“What we are doing in the defence industry is completely transformational,” the Prime Minister said when the reshuffle was announced.
“This is a big change, a big reform, and it requires additional leadership and additional oversight; additional advocacy and drive, and that is why we have two great Cabinet ministers.
“Marise Payne is an outstanding Defence Minister, and we have in Christopher Pyne someone whose energy is perhaps legendary, and he will need all of that to ensure that these projects are being delivered.”
The newly appointed Minister for Defence Industry has certainly been keen to show that he is ‘hitting the ground running’.
In his first major meeting since assuming the new role, Pyne discussed the Future Submarine program with Christophe Lecourtier, Ambassador of France to Australia, emphasising the federal government’s commitment to working with France and DCNS, after the French naval shipbuilding company was selected as the preferred international partner for the design of the submarine.
And having met with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and senior Defence leaders and staff during a visit to Russell Offices in Canberra, the South Australian MP headed off to Western Australia on his first trip interstate in the job to discuss shipbuilding and other programs.
Pyne dropped in on ASC West, Austal, BAE Systems and Civmec, as well as meeting with representatives of the WA state government.
“This is a gigantic and very complex set of projects which will transform Australian advanced manufacturing; it is building a substantial defence industry in Australia, the benefits of which will go right through the economy,” Turnbull told the ABC.
“Australians are entitled to expect us to be seen, in three years’ time, to be delivering on that.”
And that is why the member for Sturt has been appointed as the Minister for Defence Industry.
After all, as the t-shirt says, ‘Pyne delivers’.