Address to Team Defence Australia in Kuala Lumpur
17 April 2018
Address to Team Defence Australia in Kuala Lumpur.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you very much, Admiral. To you, to Andrew, our High Commissioner here in Kuala Lumpur. I’m sorry I haven’t got a microphone and my voice is a little husky after quite a bit of travel the last few days. Thank you all, firstly, for being great ambassadors for our country. Obviously, your government is 100 per cent behind a push into defence exports, because on 29 January, Malcolm Turnbull and I released our first ever Defence Export Strategy. I'm sure many of you have studied it. It’s $80 million - the first time we’ve ever put any real money into a strategy around defence exports. It’s a grants program to support small and medium enterprises. A defence advocate who is David Johnston, who I announced just before I left, he used to be the Minister of Defence. A Defence Exports Office, bringing together all the people in Defence. The different groups who are operating on exports as effectively as they could, but they’ll operate even better, now together in the Defence Exports Office. So, it’s a real attempt at moving the dial on Australia's capacity to have exports.
And why do we love businesses like yours? We love businesses like yours because you’re bringing other people's wealth back to Australia and making sure our economy grows. You create jobs in our home country, and for your own benefit, see through the peaks and troughs of the domestic demand, which is the Department of Defence and the Australian government. We know that if you can win export contracts all around the world that you'll be able to be better Australian businesses. You'll be able to invest more of your profits in your business. Because almost all of you are small and medium enterprises, that's what you do. When the government gives a company tax cut to small and medium enterprises, you tend to take, I’m sure, a little bit for yourselves, pay your staff a little bit more, and think about how you could reinvest in research, development, equipment, infrastructure whatever it might be, to make a smaller business a bigger business, and then a medium-sized business, and then make the contribution that you want to make to Australia and our national security and to our economy.
So, it's great to have over 20- about 27 exhibitors here at Team Defence Australia. It’s great that Prime Minister Najib called in and saw this exhibit, but more importantly, put an imprimatur of approval on Australia as a market and Australia as a partner. I had significant high-level meetings today with the decision makers: the Chief of the Army, the Chief of the Navy, the Chief of the Air Force, the Chief of the Defence Force, and the Minister for Defence. And as Minister for Defence Industry, I can do a couple of things. I can focus the minds of Australian business, government; the industry in general, but also, I can be a point person - a punctuation mark if you like - for those kinds of meetings that mean that I can repeat to the people who make decisions the names of really important Australian businesses that are trying to break in to the market here in Malaysia, or the UAE; if it’s the IDEX trade show, or the United States if it’s air, sea and space. Whatever it might be. And that’s what your government in Australia has now brought together for a couple of years. We’ve got the structure. We’ve got a really good structure around the White Paper, the Integrated Investment Plan, the national shipbuilding plan, the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, the Defence Export Strategy.
I’ll soon release the Defence Industrial Capability Plan, which puts even more meat on the bones to the areas that we want to have our own sovereign capabilities, our own priority areas. And we put the money aside, $ 200 billion, to build up the capability of our military over the next 10 years, and now it's really over to industry to take all the opportunities that we are giving industry to make the most of what the government [indistinct] put as a structure, and put the money on the table. And we will help. That's the purpose of the Defence Industry Policy Statement. It’s the purpose of the Next Generation Technology Fund, the Defence Innovation Hub. I think I can say with absolute confidence is there’s never been a time in Australian defence industry history that the government has done more work thinking strategically about what we need to do, actually put the money on the table, and is prepared to work with industry in a way we perhaps have never done before. And we are seeing the fruits of that focus, that laser like approach to this.
The combat reconnaissance vehicles started two and a half years ago with 5 per cent Australian industry content. When we announced that Rheinmetall was the successful bidder a couple months ago, that was now at 55 per cent of acquisition, out of $5.2 billion, and 70 per cent out of the life of the project at $15.7 billion. So, that’s real money going into our economy, creating more jobs.
So, I want to say thank you all for making the trip to be here and I’ve seen quite a few of you, actually, around the world at similar conferences. So- and we’re all starting to get sick at the sight of each other, I’m sure, after a few of these days and a few of these conferences. But thank you all. I regard the industry and the government as partners, sharpening the same sword together and working closely together. I don't regard industry as the enemy, or as pains in the neck, when they contact me or my office. I give out my card and I do read my email and I collect your cards because I want to hear as much as possible about what's going on and what we can do to help.
But I want to hear as much as possible about the things we can do to help, the opportunities that there are in the market, so we can share those back with the Defence attachés, with Austrade, with Team Defence Australia, with the Defence Export Office and make the most of every opportunity that’s available to us. So, thank you all very much.