2017 Magna Carta Lecture

21 Nov 2017 Speech

Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to deliver tonight’s 13th annual Magna Carta Lecture.

It is always timely to be delivering a speech about the abiding parent document of our western democracy.

I share the view put by the High Commissioner about the fundamental nature of the Magna Carta. It is without peer in establishing the principle that everyone is subject to the law. It guaranteed the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.

As a former law student, in subsequent legal work and through 25 years in the Australian Parliament, I have had a career-long commitment to the basic principles of the Magna Carta.

I regard the cut and thrust of daily political exchange as a necessary part of our tradition even if it is not all that appealing to many observers. The steadfast foundation established by the Magna Carta enables this political sparring to happen safely, because of its roots in the rule of law.

None of my colleagues in the House of Representatives – not even the most recalcitrant members of the Opposition – would dispute its foundational contribution to the principles of justice and fairness.

800 years on, the Magna Carta renders inappropriate the rush to judgement that so often mars contemporary debate, especially on Twitter.

For Australians fortunate enough to visit Australia’s Parliament House – and I go there quite a lot – the Magna Carta has a physical and current expression.

As most of you would know, one of only four surviving copies of the 1297 Inspeximus issue of the Great Charter is displayed in our Parliament House.

In 1952 Australia invested a significant sum – twelve thousand five hundred pounds sterling was a lot of money then – to buy this document from the King’s School in Somerset. The other copy held outside the UK is at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

I am fortunate to often walk by this impressive display at Parliament House.

It inspires me on every occasion to maintain what we strive for in that building.

It also engages thousands of young schoolchildren from the cities, the small towns and the bush, who visit it on their trips to the national capital.

It will not have escaped you that another founding document, the Australian Constitution, is at the centre of national attention in Australia at the moment.

I propose not to offer any detailed insights into that tonight, and I trust that you will see this as an evening off, rather than a disappointment.

But I will say this.

It does not escape any student of our constitutional democracy that there will be a lasting legacy from these current events, a silver lining if you wish.

And it will be that a great many more people, especially those who are not always being taught to reference our history, will be more aware of the foundational importance of the Australian Constitution. By extension, they may even decide to revisit other great founding documents of our civilisation – including, inevitably, the Magna Carta.

This can only be a good thing.

These are the documents that secured people’s rights in the time that they were written yet they continue to fortify us, and indeed guide us, to this day.

The Magna Carta also has more tangible historical, and contemporary, value, in the relationship between our countries.

It is an inherited underpinning of the deep familial and social and cultural relationship between the United Kingdom and Australia, through thick and thin.

When nations share the same historical, cultural, and legal foundations it is far easier to build and maintain mutual respect and trust, and remain much more than just allies.

The Australian Government works closely and often with the UK Government and through the High Commission there and here, to maintain this relationship.

We seek out opportunities to share policies, ideas and answer challenges – the way we have shared losses and victories throughout our joint history.

My portfolio of Defence Industry provides natural ground for such cooperation.

Since becoming a Cabinet Minister I’ve made several formal trips to the UK. I have always taken the opportunity to further cooperation, and to build new and productive partnerships between us.

In July of this year Australia and the UK undertook the inaugural ministerial defence industry and capability dialogue. It is supported by a joint senior defence forum, and promotes collaboration on Australian and UK platforms, industry and innovation.

Since then I’ve visited my counterparts in the United Kingdom, and recently had the pleasure of hosting in my home city of Adelaide, the Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin.

We shared the announcement of a capability study into Australian CEA Technologies’ CEAFAR radar and its suitability for the British warship, the Type 31E.

The radar is already in-service with the Australian Navy. The UK study will begin early next year.

CEA Technologies is based here in Canberra and it designs and manufactures advanced phased array radars for our Navy’s eight Anzac Class Frigates.

This is part of our Anti-Ship Missile Defence Upgrade Program and was announced recently as our Long Range Air Search Radar replacement.

CEAFAR radar is also mandated for Australia’s Future Frigates.

Through the UK study the British Government will look at the feasibility of fitting this cutting-edge Australian radar on to future British warships.

The importance to both nations of a strong, sovereign defence capability and defence industry cannot be overstated. Nor can the value of such cooperation.

The UK has one of the world’s strongest defence forces and most vibrant defence industries.

Australia has an advanced defence force with the capability to defend our nation and to support our strategic interests in our region and globally.

We also have many world leading industry capabilities.

But for us, introducing and operating a much more complex, fifth generation force is a giant leap. And it is a major opportunity for Australian industry.

The Turnbull Government’s 200 billion dollar investment in defence capability and industry over the next decade is ambitious, unprecedented and vital.

It triggers the greatest peacetime renewal of defence capability in our history.

Australia’s defence and economic fortunes are ineluctable. As the fourth line of our national anthem says, our home is girt by sea.

We rely on the oceans around us for our security and also to carry our billions of dollars in annual exports, by sea, to markets in our region and yours.

The Turnbull Government’s investment program will establish a world-class defence industry in Australia.

It will set us up with certainty and direction for a century. It will embed defence industry as a permanent fixture in our economy and create thousands upon thousands of Australian jobs.

With knowledge acquisition and transfer, it will transition us to being a defence exporter offering more of our defence industrial expertise abroad.

I am particularly proud of this Government’s 90 billion dollar commitment to a continuous shipbuilding program. We have acted swiftly to end a long and unnecessary hiatus in naval construction.

This is the largest and most complex national project in Australia’s history.

It commits us to a sovereign naval shipbuilding industry and the continuous construction of 12 submarines, nine frigates and 33 smaller naval vessels.

Every single one of these submarines, frigates and smaller naval vessels will be built on Australian soil, by Australians, using Australia resources.

But we cannot go it alone, even if we wanted to. So, where warranted, we will are looking to the UK and other nations for the capacity and technology we need.

Defence industry plays a vital role in Australia’s strategy, capability, and posture.

It readies us to shape security in our region and be called upon across the globe.

It enables us to prepare and mobilise our national support base when we are confronted with significant shifts in strategic circumstances.

The United Kingdom is also embarked on major long-term naval shipbuilding endeavour. It has recently released its own National Shipbuilding Strategy.

This contains many of the same themes as our Naval Shipbuilding Plan, including the importance of a skilled workforce, the development of long-term career options and the need to work intimately with industry and educators to deliver skills and expertise.

Like us, the UK is building sovereign industrial bases and seeking to convert defence innovation into practical defence capability.

Australia will soon release its Defence Export Strategy.

All these plans were in sharp focus at our recent dialogue.

For us, and I’m sure for the UK, a quantum leap in capability means bringing through a new generation of workers and professionals.

They must have the right skills and training if we are to operate and sustain defence industry.

The right workforce will require people with robust knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEM is a keystone of twenty-first century life and a foundation for our futures.

Science, research and innovation are widely recognised as key to boosting productivity, creating more and better jobs, enhancing competitiveness and growing our economies.

The acquiring of knowledge in STEM begins for our children in kindergarten and schools. Our job is to stimulate them and give them an education system that provides it.

Industry must play a part. It is they who will rely on STEM to compete in emerging sectors and transform existing ones.

Such a workforce with specialised STEM skills and high STEM literacy will be the future backbone of industry, jobs and economic growth.

I’m sure most of you tonight are familiar with the forecasts that 75 per cent of the world’s fastest growing professions require skills in STEM.

Yet here in Australia, we have a STEM deficit emerging. We are falling behind global peers in vital fields. We must act to reduce the impact on Australia’s competitiveness, export potential and livelihood.

The Turnbull Government is emphasising this to generations of skilled workers and professionals.

We are encouraging them to orient their education and training now towards defence industry jobs and careers.

The commitment of our education systems is critical to this but stimulating real interest among students in STEM is not as easy as it sounds.

Our Defence Force itself has a key part to play by painting a clear picture.

Defence technology and systems are becoming more complex than ever, and under more challenge.

Cyber threats, once the stuff of spy fiction, are a present danger.

Filling STEM skill gaps to cover all this will challenge our defence establishments.

Yet for defence industry, attracting, recruiting, training and retaining a STEM workforce will be vital, and difficult.

Many other sectors are competing for the same critical skills. This will escalate over the next decade.

There is already a burgeoning demand for skills to support the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

More than 25,000 personnel will be need directly or indirectly for our shipbuilding enterprise.

The naval shipbuilding workforce in Australia is likely to grow to around 5,200 workers by as soon as mid‑2020. More than quadruple this number of workers will be needed in sustainment activities and supply chains across Australia.

The well-documented boom-bust cycle in Australian naval shipbuilding contributed to this situation.

It saw many critical skills lost from industry, as experienced workers, foremen and managers left the sector for more security.

Now, with a continuous build program we must win them back and train anew. There will be plenty of opportunity and many rewards.

By the mid-2020s we will need to increase the outfitting workforce at Osbourne – people like electricians, joiners and carpenters – by more than 1400 people.

We will need to increase the structural workforce; these are the boilermakers, structural welders and steelworkers by more than 1000 people.

We will need to increase management staff by more than 300.

And that is just within the shipbuilding enterprise at Osborne. Growth across the naval shipbuilding sector will be significant.

One company alone, Saab Australia, advises that they will have to increase by nearly 50 per cent, or add an additional 200 staff between now and 2020. These people will be in the software development and project management fields. High quality, high paid jobs.

We are not sitting on our laurels to meet this challenge. The Government has taken key actions to encourage more Australians to consider the opportunity for secure and vibrant career paths in the defence industry.

Earlier this month I launched a nation-wide information campaign called ‘The Workforce behind the Defence Force’.

It highlights our great need for skills and workers in a renewed and reliable Australian defence industry, and how they fit into our defence capability.

I hope you’ve seen the ads on television by now, but if not, do keep an eye out– I’m sure they will be on during the cricket. I will come back to the cricket in a moment.

The campaign’s first iteration sets out to inspire those starting their careers, or looking for career change, to consider defence industry.

It also looks to rally businesses to diversify, grow and be part of it.

It highlights that the workforce behind the defence force is skilled and doing interesting things.

Next we will target younger students and small to medium enterprises.

We will point out that studying STEM can lead to work in advanced manufacturing and cutting edge technological fields.

We will say to young people – choose STEM subjects now and lock in your future.

Personally I think it is a very exciting proposition. Carolyn and I are certainly advising our own four, school-age children – two girls and two boys – to consider it in their thinking.

The Government is developing a Strategic Workforce Plan to support the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

The plan is a blueprint for a coordinated national approach to sustainable workforce skills development. The idea is to ensure Defence and industry collaborate closely in meeting the projected demands of the shipbuilding plan.

In March this year, the Government announced an initial 25 million dollar investment in a Naval Shipbuilding College headquartered in South Australia.

The College will provide opportunities for education and training providers across Australia using a ‘hub and spoke’ model. This will draw in existing education and training providers and utilise facilities around Australia.

The College will work closely with the selected ship and submarine builders and suppliers to provide them with the right skills at the right time.

The Naval Shipbuilding College must be industry-driven. So the College will be looking to collaborate with industry on workforce skills curricula.

It will commence operations in January 2018, with a focus on increasing the number of people with key entry-level trade qualifications. The Government will be making further announcements on this subject in the next few weeks.

At an earlier stage of the education cycle we have school pathways programmes and a Defence Engineering Internship Program that offers a 12-week internship in industry.

We are taking a proactive national approach by developing a long-term Defence Industry Skill and STEM Strategy so skills match future capability requirements and support the delivery of the Integrated Investment Program.

I expect to release the Strategy in mid-2018.

At the research end, the 2016 Defence White Paper outlined a program for investing 730 million dollars in game-changing technologies critical to Australia’s war-fighting advantage.

Defence Science and Technology Group has committed to recruiting up to one hundred PhD students over four years under the National Research Internship Program of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.

The internships supported by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, and will see PhD students posted to Defence Science and Technology Group laboratories for around four to six months.

This is about sustaining long term, leading edge science and technology capability.

Some seventy defence scientists are also involved in the STEM Professionals in Schools Program managed by our outstanding scientific research institution, CSIRO.

This helps create partnerships between defence researchers and teachers to bring real STEM into the classrooms of Australian schools.

To encourage women to take up science careers, Defence Science and Technology Group introduced Women in Science Undergraduate Scholarships.

A variety of tertiary student placement programs are also offered to high performing STEM students to work on defence research projects while studying.

The Defence Science Cadetship Program identifies and supports high performing undergraduates and provides a pathway to future priority research careers.

The Defence Graduate Program recently introduced a Research and Innovation stream. Its focus is on recruiting undergraduates from a number of STEM discipline areas.

We have a program to recruit early career researchers in priority science and technology areas. These include Computer Sciences, Autonomous Systems, Electronic Warfare, and Information Systems.

Women in STEM remain a priority, and Defence Science and Technology Group has joined in the Science in Australia Gender Equity Pilot.

SAGE is an international program promoting gender diversity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

The UK has many such initiatives and as our respective national shipbuilding programs develop, I look forward to collaborating further.

At the end of the day, the UK and Australia are family. We share a commitment to global peace and security. Sharing defence technology is a part of that.

We have been through a lot together – on land, on sea and in the air – even in space.

In international relations, we see most things eye-to-eye.

We were moved in equal share on Remembrance Day, 10 days ago, by ceremonies that are as meaningful to Australians as they are to you.

Our shared commitment to global security continues to play out today in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, where once again, we are willing partners.

In our own region, we are working together alongside Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand in the Five Power Defence Arrangements. These make a vital contribution to regional security.

Australia and the UK share interests in commerce and trade. In the light of Brexit I expect this to deepen.

As nations we seek the same advantages for our people. We provide willingly for their health, education and training and their well-being.

Our cooperation in defence capability, in science and technology research and in defence industry, is a renewed expression of this relationship.

Which is all very well, but there are limits to such shared commitment to peace and cooperation.

I refer of course to the Ashes Test Series that will get underway at the ‘Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday.

Somewhat like the Magna Carta, The Ashes are also a reminder of where our respective heritages are anchored, and where the boundaries lie, as it were.

Australians look forward to the Ashes like no other sporting encounter.

Because beating England is our solemn national duty.

Sharing and caring for each other will not be on the minds of many in Brisbane or at any other ground during the series. Deep-seated rivalries and guerrilla tactics are far more likely.

I trust Australia will dispense with England efficiently this time.

I’m hoping that trend will be evident by the time the historic, first-ever day-night Ashes Test is played at Adelaide Oval on the second of December.

Sadly, I shall miss most of it, as I must travel to Canberra on day two for a full week of Parliament.

Thus I look forward to Australia winning the toss, the openers deftly amassing a huge number of runs, or our bowlers hauling a bag of early wickets, before I depart.

But as we all know, when the series is over, and someone’s won, or lost, we will go forward, as though almost nothing has happened.

We will get on with transforming our economies, shoring up our mutual interests in defence industry and global security, and placing our trust in the Magna Carta.

Thank you for having me here tonight.