Opportunities exist in global changes

It is relatively easy to see the downside in global changes, but it is also important to acknowledge the opportunities they will bring, Federal Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne has told a CEDA audience.

Speaking in Queensland on defence strategy and capability, Ms Payne said, “we’re moving from what has been a reasonably comfortable and familiar world, to one it seems that will become much more complex and contested, and one where disruptive change may come more quickly than any other time in history.”

“We all I think instinctively feel that the pace of change is speeding up and that some tangible disruptions loom in our futures. From disruption in the media, in transport, in services, that impact on our everyday lives, to those that might have military applications that change the way conflict is addressed.

“One overarching principle is very clear, Australia’s security…Australia’s prosperity is indivisibly linked.

“We know that we can’t shape our strategic environment without significant investment.

“It’s been two years since the Prime Minister and I released the 2016 Defence White Paper which set out a plan for some of the most far reaching changes to defence ever undertaken.

“Early on…the government defence organisations settled on six key drivers shaping the security environment for the future of Australia out to 2035.”

These included:
  • The US China relationship
  • Changes to the stability on the rules based global order
  • Terrorism
  • State fragility including within Australia’s immediate region
  • Pace of military modernisation and the development of more capable military regional forces; and 
  • The emergence of more complex non-geopraphic threats such as in the cyber and space domains. 
“We’re not in the business of predicting the future but what we did do in the Defence White Paper was to craft a strategy that was responsive and adaptable to the changing and more contested environment we could see coming,” she said.

“That strategy has two important pillars: it starts with a more proactive footing for defence. It tasks defence to get out into the region to put significant effort into both building relationships with partners new and old and buttressing the regional and global norms that we know are under pressure. 

“It’s about working together with those partners to limit the prospects of security challenges happening rather than only responding to them when they occur.

“All of this is only credible if its backed up by the second pillar of our strategy: a significant investment in hard power to deliver a more capable, potent, and agile future force.

“As we move into this more contested future, the hard power the ADF is able to deliver will be a critical element of Australia’s ability to have our interests heard and respected. 

“The 2016 Defence White Paper was the first to be fully costed and to include an integrated investment program that rolls together both major platforms and the enablers that are critical for supporting them.

“This serves to ensure that those critical enablers – the ICT systems, the fuel facilities, the modern contemporary bases that enable the men and women in the ADF to do their job effectively aren’t neglected in our capability planning, as I have to say they have been in the past.  

“You can only underinvest in such critical areas for so long before it begins to harm your workforce productivity, harm your morale, and so the Government has set about correcting that.

“The 2016 white paper was the first to have its investment plans assured by external experts from Australia’s leading services providers and it was also the first…to elevate industry as a fundamental input to our defence capability.

“We are investing $200 billion into defence capabilities over the next decade and we see Australian industry playing a core role in enabling a more powerful and capable ADF.”

Ms Payne said there were a number of issues that had haunted the defence industry for some time which are being addressed, including the cyclical nature of defence acquisition which had led in the past to boom and bust across various areas of the sector.

“We want to ensure that the opportunities for Australian industry from this investment are maximised and that the gains are sustainable,” she said. 

“We are working on smoothing out the demands we make of industry to ensure the gains in skill and other flow on benefits are sustained.

“In January, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence Industry and I launched the Defence Export Strategy to build that stronger, more sustainable, and more globally competitive defence industry.

“The export strategy will support more businesses pursue and win international work.

“It’s important to me as well that our investment…isn’t only benefitting capital cities.”

Ms Payne said she was visiting regional locations to visit local businesses who were winning defence contracts and that employ local people.

“When I say that defence is a national enterprise, it means national,” she said.

“The technologies, the processes, the know how we develop in building our defence capability will flow onto other sectors of the economy.”

Ms Payne said this stretched from uniforms, to food and housing as well as transport.

“As we develop the cutting-edge technologies that are available to meet current and future challenges, we will need to collaborate, to leverage the skills and knowledge of research organisations and academia and this will strengthen their prospects as well,” she said. 

“A good Queensland example…is the University of Queensland, which is at the cutting edge of research into hypersonics which are a key interest for militaries around the world. 

Speaking on Queensland defence, Ms Payne said there were over 22,000 defence personnel based in Queensland.

“Queensland is home to many defence industry leaders both large and small…all making a significant contribution to Australia’s defence related economic activity.”

Also speaking at the event was Boeing Defence Australia, General Manager Operations, Chris Smith who discussed Boeing’s role in the defence industry as well as the Australian economy. 

“Our defence business is our largest operational footprint outside the US,” he said.

“We employ more than 3000 people in 38 locations.”