Robust, innovative and globally competitive industry is critical to any national security equation – clearly identifying and supporting the strategic industries Australia needs for prolonged national security supports the development of a holistic national security strategy and inherently adds to a nation's power projection and strategic weight.
This realisation was the primary focus of a forum hosted by the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne – particularly as the Commonwealth continues to invest in both Australia's Defence and defence industry capabilities in line with the $200 billion program. The panel of experts included Kate Louis of the AiGroup, Dr Mark Hodge of the DMTC, John O'Callaghan of Defence Victoria, Professor Len Sciacca of Melbourne University and Mike Kalms of KPMG.
Each of the panellists were complimentary of the government's $200 billion investment, recapitalisation and modernisation of the nation's defence capability and were quick to home in on the benefits that both Victoria and the broader national defence industrial base was experiencing as a result of the new focus on developing a truly sovereign, sustainable and competitive domestic defence industry capability.
Louis stressed that while developing a "globally competitive" defence industry was critical for supporting Australia's own defence requirements, the flow on export potential also served to enhance the strategic weight of Australia in both the Indo-Pacific and the global context at a time of unprecedented geo-political uncertainty and turbulence.
The introduction of the Defence Industrial Capability Plan in 2018 outlined the government's long-term vision to "build and develop a robust, resilient and internationally competitive Australian defence industry base that is better able to help meet defence capability requirements" in recognition of the rapidly evolving geo-strategic environment and Australia's changing role in the region.
The plan acknowledges that as Australia builds its defence capability, the nation must also grow its defence industrial capability. By 2028, Australia will require a larger, more capable and prepared defence industry that has the resident skills, expertise, technology, intellectual property and infrastructure to:
- Enable the conduct of ADF operations today;
- Support the acquisition, operation and sustainment of future defence capability; and
- Provide the national support base for Defence to meet current needs and to surge if Australia’s strategic circumstances require it.
Australia's industry participation as a critical part of the global supply chain for major global defence projects like the US$1 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, combined with now global programs like the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail AEWC program, Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle and the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship (to be Hunter Class in Australian service), were cited as potent examples of Australia's industrial capability commitment in developing a capable defence industrial base had played.
However, all of the panellists identified a continuing need for government policy to focus on supporting the long-term capability requirements of the ADF – while also expanding this focus to include closer collaboration between industry, government, academic and training institutions to address existing and emerging skills and talent pipelines to avoid future industrial capability gaps, similar to those experienced during the mid-1990s following the completion of the Anzac and Collins Class programs.
Each of the panellists remained optimistic of Australia's enduring position and the role a robust, globally competitive defence industrial base would play in the long-term future of Australia's industrial and strategic calculations.
The Australian British Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1910, is the leading independent organisation in Australia promoting, fostering and furthering trade and investment between Australia and the UK.