The government said the international defence export market is very competitive and external factors might stop this target being reached.
Ultimately the Defence Export Strategy isn’t about achieving a certain ranking – it is about building up defence industry to achieve the government’s strategic objectives.
“Becoming a top 10 global defence exporter is a stretch target but it is an indication of what we aspire to achieve,” it said in a series of government talking points.
These talking points were prepared by Defence and released following a Freedom of Information application.
It said reaching that target would require a significant increase in defence exports over the next decade and all tools available to government would be used to help achieve success “by focusing and prioritising resources and programs through the Defence Export Strategy”.
The government released the new strategy at the end of January, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying this was an ambitious, positive plan to boost Australian industry, increase investment and create more jobs.
“A strong, exporting defence industry in Australia will provide greater certainty of investment, support high-end manufacturing jobs and support the capability of the Australian Defence Force,” he said.
But the stated target of elevating Australia into the top 10 of world defence exporters in a decade raised some eyebrows.
When the strategy was released, Australia ranked 20 in the world’s top 25 defence exporters according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), although its latest figures indicate a rise of one place to 19.
Reaching the top 10 would require a very significant but unquantified increase in defence exports.
The talking points say there is currently no strong information baseline established to comprehensively quantify Australian defence exports.
Defence could put current exports at no better than around $1.5-2.5 billion per year.
Under the new strategy, the Australian Defence Export Office will seek to build a better picture of defence exports as well as assess the effectiveness of the new measures.
It will draw information from Austrade, export permits, industry and other available government exports data.
“Establishing a clear systemic means to measure defence export outcomes will be an early priority,” it said.