Western Australia’s defence sector would be significantly improved by an expanded Army presence, more joint exercises with Australia’s allies and the establishment of an Undersea Excellence research centre, a new report has found.
The Regional Development Australia (RDA) Perth and RDA Kimberley Security and Defence in Western Australia: An Economic Perspective report comes as many Indian Ocean states increase their defence expenditure, with a focus on addressing maritime security concerns, which it argues will deliver ample opportunities for Australian businesses.
RDA Kimberley chair Graeme Campbell said that the report establishes a baseline for the defence industry in WA.
"In 2016, the federal government released its Defence White Paper and supporting documents that outline national investment commitments over the next 10 to 20 years to enhance Australia’s defence capability for the future," Campbell stated.
"Within Western Australia, RDA wanted to better understand how opportunities across defence and its associated industries could be leveraged in support of this investment to enhance business and job growth for the regions."
25 key recommendations are made in the repor to boost the state's economic growth and stability, as well as improving Australia's long-term national interests.
The report argues, beyond the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), there is a notable absences of Australian Regular Army forces and calls for either the entirety or elements of the 7th Brigade, currently located in Brisbane, to relocate to the west.
Joint naval exercises with France and India are also suggested as "a key component of Australia's defence diplomacy in the Indian Ocean region", along with an annual joint Australia/US special forces training exercise in the north-west of Australia.
"Since the SASR is already based in WA, the provision of such collaboration with Australia’s key ally, which also has economic interests in the north-west, could be organised within a relatively short time frame," the report said.
Security and Defence in Western Australia also calls on the federal government to provide funding to establish a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Undersea Excellence in WA, arguing there is a strong rationale to fund this proposed initiative via a Defence Cooperative Research Centre as the state is the home of Navy’s entire submarine fleet, a mature shipbuilding sector, and the epicentre of Australia’s oil and gas sector.
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The report also looks at how WA can harness and nurture developments in the WA tertiary sector, technology transfer between the defence and resources sectors, and the defence and C4ISR sectors, the establishment of a national space agency in the state, prospects to enhance defence exports, standing up an Indian Ocean Patrol Boat Program, and enhancing both Indigenous and Army capacities in WA.
The full report can be viewed on the RDA Perth website.