A $2 million review of Australia’s defence innovation system looks unlikely to ever be released after the former Coalition government sat on it for five months and the Department of Defence withholds it from the Albanese government.
Conducted by former Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever in the final months of 2021, it was slated as a “comprehensive review of Defence innovation, science and technology” that would deliver frank findings.
The fast-tracked review by Mr Peever, who led the Defence First Principles Review in 2015, included an examination of around $1.5 billion in Defence innovation funding programs which have had questionable overall impact, as well as Defence contracting and research commercialisation.
InnovationAus.com has confirmed the Peever review was handed to the Morrison government in December last year, but never released or mentioned publicly again by the Coalition.
The three-moth review cost more than $2 million but now looks unlikely to ever see the light of day.
A Department of Defence spokesperson said the Peever review was completed in December 2021 but was still with the Morrison government for “consideration” at the May election, and it would not be available to the Albanese government and Defence Industry minister Pat Conroy.
“The current Government does not have access to the Peever Review, as the review was commissioned by the previous Government,” the spokesperson said.
The department has previously indicated the review would be publicly released.
The office of Mr Conroy declined to comment on the review or whether he would seek access to it, deferring to the Department of Defence spokesperson’s comments.
Former Defence Industry minister Melissa Price launched the review in September last year, promising to shed more light on defence technology funding to get better outcomes from public investment.
“The innovation is being jointly developed with taxpayers’ funds and Australians need to know we are investing their money wisely,” she said when launching the review on September 13 2021.
The AUKUS security pact was announced three days later and the Peever review was never mentioned publicly again by the Coalition government.
The Peever review followed hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into defence innovation programs like the Defence Innovation Hub over decades but only a handful of projects reaching procurement or export levels.
Then South Australian senator Rex Patrick, who uncovered low translation rates from the programs, criticised the lack of planning around them.
“It’s a case that I’m seeing more generally that government looks at success on the basis of programs it announces and the expenditure associated with them, rather than looking at the execution and delivery of the program,” he said in March.
Similar concerns surround Defence’s long term technology funding program, the Next Generation Technologies Fund, after no projects had made it to a procurement or export level outcome in six years.
Former Defence Industry minister Melissa Price’s office was contacted for comment.
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