NSW must develop and execute plans to respond to competition from other Australian states and their shared investment with defence industry to secure defence projects.
Executive chair of the Sydney Aerospace & Defence Interest Group (SADIG) Chris Williams told the NSW Legislative Council’s standing committee on state development that, so far, the state has not worked as hard as other states, nor competed as strongly, to secure defence work.
"In some ways, New South Wales has been a bit too lucky and to date we have not really had to do anything to get our slice of the defence pie," said Williams. "But this position is under siege from the other states that are willing to aggressively co-invest with industry to win work."
South Australia has so far secured up to $86 billion of the $89 billion naval shipbuilding work, while Victoria or Queensland will become home to the build site of the LAND 400 vehicles when the successful contender is named, a project worth in the billions of dollars.
Williams said the recently released NSW Defence and Industry Strategy will only come to fruition with smartly executed plans and if they are in harmony with other states.
"New South Wales needs deliberate, focused operational plans to execute the NSW Defence and Industry Strategy 2017: Strong, Smart and Connected. These plans should leverage national alignment with the other states for the establishment of sovereign industry capabilities. Our advantage as a state has to be the 'Strong, Smart and Connected State'."
The executive chair identified the challenges SADIG and defence industry in NSW has faced as the lack of interest to support defence-related initiatives, but this has changed in recent months since the release of the 2016 Defence White Paper.
"SADIG has ... worked tirelessly on initiatives like the Defence Innovation Network proposal over the past three years. This initiative has potential to provide gap pathways for some of the federal government's $750 million Next Generation Technologies Fund to flow to New South Wales business and industry," explained Williams.
"The challenge we have had until recently was that there has been very little interest or appetite within New South Wales to support industry for leading-edge research-driven initiatives. I think we are at a tipping point where for a small amount of effort New South Wales can realise its vision to be the 'Strong, Smart and Connected State'."
The NSW government is looking to enhance the state's capabilities across the defence industry, which they believe are already advanced.
"New South Wales is a leader in advanced manufacturing, cyber security, aerospace, information and communication technology and many other areas directly relevant to the needs of Defence," chair of the state development committee Greg Pearce said.
NSW has the most defence bases in the country, with more than 80 located in the state.
It is estimated that 26,500 people are indirectly or directly employed by Defence in NSW.