Defence Industry: Key To Western Australia’s Post COVID-19 Recovery

17 May 2020
Caption: HMAS Farncombe in the process of docking on the floating dock as part of its routine maintenance. Copyright: © Australian Marine Complex.

Key Points:

  • The WA Government is now in the process of implementing a four-stage roadmap to cautiously ease restrictions for business and the community.
  • In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic the McGowan Government increasingly sees defence industry as a key component of its diversified economic strategy to foster growth and recovery.
  • As such, pending a long awaited Commonwealth decision on the future location for Full Cycle Docking, the WA Government is continuing to implement the WA Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan, and is now also finalising the WA Maritime Defence Workforce Development Plan, all of which cumulatively position’s the state’s defence sector favourably in the post COVID-19 economic revival. 

Western Australians will soon be able to restart many of the activities we have put on hold in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People will again be able to dine out and enjoy larger recreational gatherings, with regional travel restrictions eased, and local sport, fitness, recreation, and community facilities to reopen to the public. These steps are part of the McGowan Government’s four-stage roadmap to carefully ease restrictions for business and the community.

Economic Resuscitation

While these actions represent a cautious, measured approach – they should be a cause for optimism for the WA economy and our defence industry after an uncertain period. WA’s performance so far in limiting the spread of the virus has been second-to-none around the world. It is because of this strong response that we are now able to set our sights on the state’s economic recovery.

Prior to the pandemic, the McGowan Government spent a number of years building a compelling case to secure the Collins class Full Cycle Docking for WA

Our strategic advantages, abundance of skilled workers, investment in training and infrastructure, and the excellent capability of WA businesses has put us in a strong position to win this work.

We have forged a very positive working relationship with Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon.  Linda Reynolds CSC, and Defence Industry Minister, the Hon. Melissa Price MP, over this time, and I have confidence we have presented a strong case in the national interest.

Defence Industry Impetus

As we move towards the economic recovery phase of the pandemic, there has never been a greater need for major, job creating projects in WA. The defence industry is perfectly placed to deliver the local economic activity we need to kick-start our recovery.

With sluggish economic conditions expected in the coming months, governments are expected to have greater motivation to invest in job-creating projects, including Defence work. WA must continue to position itself well to capitalise on these opportunities.

With COVID-19 causing uncertainty for many of our major private sector employers in the north of the state, significant Defence work will provide stable, consistent jobs for our skilled workers. The uncertain environment also presents us with a chance to reposition and reskill parts of the workforce in preparation for increased Defence, construction or sustainment work.

To support this, the WA Maritime Defence Workforce Development Plan is now being finalised – to assist the state to position itself well to diversify the economy and enhance our existing industrial capacity in the face of COVID-19. We are also continuing to implement the WA Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan – showing the Commonwealth we are serious about our vision to develop a robust local industry that is respected, innovative and competitive among the world’s major players.

Way Forward

The important measures the state and Commonwealth Governments have implemented so far have worked to halt the spread of COVID-19. I acknowledge the strong leadership, long hours and hard work of many to achieve these impressive results. 

To those in the local defence industry who have kept working in the national interest – I thank you for keeping people employed and continuing critical defence work in these very difficult circumstances. If there are positives to be taken from recent events, it is clear WA has shown itself to be capable, resilient, reliable and adaptable. The state’s strong performance in these trying times bodes well for our defence industry and the businesses and jobs we support. Please continue to share your stories with my office – and remember Defence West and the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation are there to help as we work together through this period.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s only, and do not necessarily represent the views of WA DEFENCE REVIEW.

About Paul Papalia CSC MLA

Paul Papalia CSC MLAHon. Paul Papalia CSC MLA is the WA Government Minister for Tourism; Racing and Gaming; Small Business; Defence Issues; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests.