Several new ministers have been sworn in as part of the new Labor government, including Pat Conroy, who will take over as defense industry minister.
Mr. Conroy will be responsible for the defense industry, international development and the Pacific, hinting at the role the industry can play in consolidating diplomatic relationship building.
Richard Marles, in addition to his responsibilities as deputy prime minister, will be responsible for the defense portfolio. Former shadow defense industry minister Matt Keogh of Western Australia will take on the veterans affairs and defense personnel portfolios.
This trio of ministers will be of vital importance to Australia’s security interests. Given the experience of all three ministers in relation to defense matters, they are well positioned to assess the context and address the challenges, building on the work of their predecessors.
As discussed in a recent business news column with Mr. Keogh, Labor is aware of the challenges across the industry and has plans for each one. This includes the National Reconciliation Fund to create jobs, a force posture review to assess security vulnerabilities, the establishment of the Australian Strategic Research Agency to foster future technologies, as well as major veterans issues affecting pensions. and employment of veterans.
Of interest to the business community is the challenge of increasing the participation of Australian industry. This goal must be met in a context of heightened geopolitical tensions that calls for greater depth of capability and the latest technologies.
Seasoned defense industry professionals will be tempted to think that this desire for more capacity at faster speeds will lead to prioritization of off-the-shelf and turnkey solutions from major multinationals, bypassing much of the defense industry. local defense in the process.
I am inclined to believe that this is no longer the case, that our urgent desire and need for more capacity can be enhanced and achieved with industry.
The avenues and support for innovations to be recognized by the defense sector or major contractors are better than ever, albeit with some frustrations.
Most of the major majors have offices in Australia and are really committed. While the turnkey trend is still prevalent, core companies, by the nature of their industry immersion, are more likely to engage with local partners to help deliver results or introduce innovation.
Skills shortages across industries support deeper supply chain engagements by prime contractors with local industry, as do justified concerns about supply chain sovereignty and security.
Defense agencies, as well as state and federal agencies, are strong, well-resourced, and eager to help.
And yet, there are still issues for Mr. Conroy to address, given the aforementioned context.
Defense acquisition needs ongoing review. From the perspective of equipping and supporting the Australian Defense Force, the time between identification of needs and delivery must improve.
The outgoing minister, Melissa Price, made strides to shorten the Australian defense contracting staffing and processes (ASDEFCON), projecting a saving of 12 months from what was an average of 48 months. Thirty-six months is still too long in a high-tech critical demand sector and ASDEFCON itself may need a rethink.
Large work packages can often leave smaller companies on the sidelines, so extra efforts to encourage prime contractor involvement or to break those work packages into smaller, more questionable elements can pay off.
In a highly competitive skills market, it is important to continue to position the defense sector and defense industry as a top career choice. This ties in closely with additional work on defense and political culture, women’s mentorship in defense and industry, and indigenous participation policies.
While not directly connected to the defense industry, international diplomacy also presents opportunities for improvement, and the industry can play its part in knowledge sharing and skills initiatives with neighboring allies.
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the outgoing minister, Mrs. Price. The entire industry appreciated his sincere passion for paper and his desire to see the industry do well.
In addition, significant thanks are due to outgoing ministerial staff members for their support of the industry. While ministers retain a role in parliament or transition to private sector roles on boards or as highly regarded advisers, politically aligned staff members may find themselves temporarily unemployed.
While the industry has consistently requested your help of late, I trust that you will feel comfortable reaching out to the industry for help in the next phase of your career should the need arise.
• Kristian Constantinides is the General Manager of Airflite and President of AIDN-WA; the opinions expressed are solely his own