Senator Marise Payne has used one of her first major speeches as Defence Minister to highlight the importance of Australian industry in developing and delivering “innovative” defence capabilities.
“The government very strongly supports the principle that we should maximise the opportunities for Australian industries to participate in defence acquisition and sustainment,” Senator Payne told a lunch for senior defence and industry figures during the Pacific 2015 International Maritime Exposition on Wednesday.
“We are also strongly committed to Australian industry that can deliver defence capability that is internationally cost competitive.”
The Minister pointed to Monday’s announcement of the acquisition of 1,100 Hawkei light protected mobility vehicles for the Army to be built by Thales Australia in Bendigo, Victoria as “a great example of how defence and industry to work together to deliver innovative and world class capabilities”.
Senator Payne said the government remains committed to delivering a “fully-costed and externally cost-assured” Defence White Paper and an accompanying defence industry policy, although she did not indicate when the White Paper would be released.
She also affirmed her government’s commitment to the continuous shipbuilding plan announced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in August: “Over the next 20 years the government will invest over $89 billion in the acquisition of new submarines, frigates, offshore patrol vessels and other specialists vessels.
“As part of delivering and sustaining our new naval capability the government is fundamentally reforming the way Australia acquires its naval vessels. The government has committed to an unprecedented continuous build of surface warships in Australia.
“The government’s strategy will transform Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry, putting an end to the boom-bust cycle that has affected it in the past.”
But in affirming the continuous shipbuilding policy of her predecessor Kevin Andrews, she also reiterated the importance of innovation, a key agenda of new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
She said: “Self evidently, a sustainable shipbuilding industry will also generate significant benefits for the wider Australian economy, including through knowledge transfer and innovation.”
The new minister also stressed the importance of the Future Submarine acquisition.
“Submarines are an essential component of Australia’s wider defence capabilities so our Future Submarine must give us a significant capability edge,” she said.
“In due course the government will separately announce the outcome of the Competitive Evaluation Process for the Future Submarine.”