Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has officially launched a new defence business advocacy group, Industry Voice, with a mission to ensure local companies get their fair share from Australia’s record defence industry spend and Sovereign Industry Capability is achieved.
The event was attended by Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and a number of other leaders from Australia’s defence industry sector.
Industry Voice chairman William Hutchinson said, “Our members have turned out in force today because they recognise it is now or never in terms of getting a genuine and enforceable Australian Industry Capability (AIC) policy.
“The federal government has rightly been commended for embarking on the largest peacetime acquisition program in Australia’s history, but we are at risk of seeing the potential benefits to Australian industry slip away. The reality is that the number of purchase orders issued to Australian-owned defence businesses is lower than originally envisaged at this point in the program,” Hutchinson added.
Minister Price expressed the focus of the government and her push since assuming the portfolio posting, stating: “Last year, I completed my one hundred day review of the Defence Industry portfolio. As a result of that review, I identified my five priorities, including:
- Enhance CASG performance delivery to be a ‘strong client’.
- Expand small business access to Defence.
- Increase the number of exporting Australian businesses.
- Build Australia’s skilled defence industry workforce.
- Ensure Defence’s grants, innovation, science and technology programs are contributing to enhancing ADF capability.
“To deliver on these priorities, I have directed the Secretary and CDF to implement a series of action items with the intent of backing Aussie small businesses.”
Mr Hutchinson expanded on the focus of Industry Voice, stating, “It is reasonable to expect that the current design and build of submarines and frigates – along with the other defence programs – will equip Australian companies with the capability to design and build more in the future without the foreign help we currently need.
“However, it is important that Australian-owned enterprises are engaged from the outset of the programs so that we can ensure that the governments’ stated requirements of a sovereign Australian defence industry can be achieved. There are many existing Australian-owned companies, many regionally based, who have proven capability and who have been supplying for many years into previous Defence programs that can compete for workshare in these new programs.”
Expanding on this, Minister Price stressed the emphasis the Commonwealth is placing on supporting Australia’s defence SME community, “We are delivering thousands of jobs right across Australia, opening new opportunities in the defence industry and building new skills and capability to deliver a sovereign defence industry. As the Prime Minister has said, it is a Coalition government that is on the side of Australian workers and small business.
“Our policies are backing small business to help us deliver $200 billion worth of defence capabilities. Small and medium businesses are the backbone of this industry. We need you to succeed. Your success is our success, and this cannot be done without you.
“As Minister for Defence Industry, it is my job to build on our existing policies, and we are on the right path to achieving even greater success. I am taking AIC seriously, and I hope some of the major actions I have explained here today highlight to you our government’s commitment to small business.”