Australian Defence Information and Electronic Systems Association Annual dinner

Department of Defence

***E&O check against delivery***

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to be invited to this year’s Annual Dinner.

This is my first time attending this dinner as Minister for Defence Industry, so it’s wonderful that we can come together despite the challenges posed by COVID.

I would like to thank the Chair of the Australian Defence Information and Electronic Systems Association Board, Kylah Limmer, and her team for organising tonight’s event.

I would also like to acknowledge the many distinguished guests here this evening from the ADF, Defence and industry and thank you for your service to the defence of our nation.

COVID-19 has hit our economy and forced us to change our lives in more ways than one.

We have all had to adapt, and change the way we do business, to give us the best chance to recover and ultimately bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As many of you will know, that’s why I have placed such a huge focus on supporting Defence industry last year.

We brought forward billions of dollars of payments; took steps to improve service delivery to the industry; and we’re now working to cut red-tape.

But I know we still have more to do.

You have my promise, that in 2021, I will continue to have a laser-focus on helping the Australian defence industry to grow further.

We have world-class innovation in our sector. Innovation that is breath-taking. But which also breathes life into building sovereign capability and Australian jobs.

In 2020, I developed and implemented the Five Pillars approach to supporting defence industry.

In 2021, I’ll be exploring new areas. Like working closely with industry to help streamline access to the Defence Industry Security Program.

And I’ll have more to say on that soon.

COVID has also come at a time when we are again adjusting to a rapidly-evolving threat landscape.

One in which new weapons and technologies continue to transform the characteristics of warfare.

Where speed, timely communication and autonomous systems are all the more important.

And one in which the collection, storage, processing and transmission of information and data is crucial.

Companies, like many in this room, who are focused on defence information and electronic systems in Australia, are an important sovereign capability.

But, we need to enhance our partnership with you.

In 2019 I identified that strengthening AIC needed to be one of my top priorities.

It was essential that we implemented substantial change with a new and improved AIC contractual framework across all of Defence, and an Independent AIC Audit Program.

In addition to this, we needed to improve the way we engaged and supported industry.

Information and electronic systems is one the most promising sectors for furthering this goal.

We want to see Australian industry involvement maximised to the greatest extent possible.

The more capable our information and electronics sector becomes, the better the outcomes for Australia’s security, economy and workers.

That is why the Morrison Government is supporting your sector.

Through investment in our Defence infrastructure, software applications, Defence gateways and our electronic and information warfare capabilities.

We have allocated $15 billion dollars to information and electronic systems over the next decade.

And $7 billion towards our Space capabilities, to transform the way our ADF operates in Space and the joint force.

  • We’ve given financial certainty, despite the economic challenges of COVID;
  • We’re building a new front door to Defence via the new and improved CDIC – which is on track to be launched in the next few months;
  • We’re enhancing the direct communication between industry and Defence;
  • And we’re increasing support to industry via our grant and innovation programs.

The foundations are laid.

There are substantial opportunities for Australian businesses to contribute to information and electronic systems projects, especially in the near term.

Here are just three examples:

  • There’s phase six of the LAND 555 project, which is providing Army with vehicle-mounted electronic warfare capability;
  • There’s the Modernisation of Maritime Electronic Warfare program, which is supporting naval platforms with advanced electronic warfare equipment;
  • And there’s Joint Project 9102, which is modernising Defence’s satellite communications.

Often when people think about information and electronic systems, it is the technologies that often get more attention rather than the people who build and operate them.

It is those skills, and the ability of the workforce to deliver something so important, that is true Australian capability.

That’s why we need to build on this and promote the skills in electronic warfare across the country.

Developing expertise within Australia is no longer a nice to have. It is crucial to our sovereign capability.

That’s why we are partnering with academia and industry.

We have established a Professional Electronic Warfare Training, Education and Research agreement with Flinders University.

I’m thrilled to see that students can now elect to study a Bachelor of Engineering – specialising in Electromagnetic Systems and Security.

The first classes for this new Bachelor’s degree start this year.

It will produce job-ready electronic warfare specialists for Australian industry.

How good is this for Australian jobs, in such an exciting and growing industry?

Looking ahead, Defence’s relationship with industry and academia is only getting stronger.

This is particularly the case on major capability projects in the areas of:

  • Signal and intelligence collection and processing;
  • Offensive and defensive cyber;
  • Phased array and high frequency sky-wave radar;
  • And space and terrestrial communications equipment.

With our $270 billion dollar commitment to Defence capabilities over the decade, 2021 will be another year in which defence industry can draw confidence – especially in your sector.

The Defence Spectrum Office and Information Warfare Division will continue to grow our capabilities, providing significant opportunities to engage with industry on projects.

So tonight, I give you this commitment:

I will ensure the relevant groups within Defence continue to build on their engagement with this sector, that you are being supported by Defence through our various support programs, and that the opportunities for you are clear.

Thank you for the work that you do.

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