Freshly-minted Defence Industry minister Melissa Price has recommitted government to maximising opportunities for local SMEs in Defence procurement, and to focus on harnessing the innovation potential of the Australian defence sector.
Delivering industry outcomes from the government’s $200 billion defence spending program was a key priority, she said. In fact, Ms Price says she will be a “Deliverer” in the portfolio, rather than a “Fixer,” as predecessor Christopher Pyne famously described himself.
Speaking at an Ai Group defence dinner in Canberra, Ms Price said building innovation capability into the local defence supply chain was a key priority, as well as building better export outcomes for the sector.
Ms Price re-iterated the government’s $730 million commitment to the Next Generation Technologies Fund and $640 million in the Defence Innovation Hub over the ten years to 2025. Both initiatives are aimed at strengthening the Defence department’s tech and innovation focus, and its integration with innovative local suppliers.
“More than ever, industry and Government must work in close partnership to address shared challenges head-on,“ the minister said.
“We must work together to ensure industry can equip itself with the skilled workforce it will require to support a modern ADF and to take advantage of export opportunities.
“The Defence Skilling Strategy released earlier this year, outlined defence industry skills issues will be streamlined into the new National Defence Industry Skills Office,” she said
“Through this office we are establishing a new model of Defence Industry skilling grants for SMEs which will help reduce the barriers faced in upskilling or retraining your people.
“But we must do much more to create our future Defence Industry workforce. We need to educate parents, the educators and young people about what a career in defence industry looks like.”
The Coalition had committed to making Australia a top 10 exporter and Ms Price said the Australian Defence Export Office had put the strategy on the right path to achieving this.
“We need to continue to build the reputation of Australia’s defence sector as a strong reliable partner in exporting high-end and reliable military capabilities,” Ms Price said.
“Australia is already home to some of the world’s most advanced and technologically sophisticated capability solutions; and some of the most innovative and hardworking companies,” he said.
”However, more needs to be done for our SMEs to succeed on the global stage. And I look forward in the weeks and months ahead to hear your thoughts on how we can better assist you in achieving this outcome.”
Minister Price was appointed to the Defence Industry role following the federal election in May, when she was shifted from the environment portfolio.