The Western Australian defence sector ended 2017 on a high, with the confirmation that the majority of 12 new Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Australian Navy will be built at Henderson.
Starting from 2020, WA companies Civmec and Austal will share the construction of these 10 OPVs, creating up to 400 local jobs.
The State Government is now working with the Federal Government to secure investment for infrastructure upgrades at Henderson in order to prepare for the work ahead.
We’re also working with international shipbuilder Luerssen, as lead designer for the project, about its proposal outside of the OPV project to develop a regional shipbuilding hub in WA to capture the significant opportunities emerging in the region.
The OPV announcement provides confidence for the local shipbuilding industry, and the decision to use two WA companies demonstrates the depth of capability within the State.
Beyond the OPV program, in 2018 we’ll be building on the substantial groundwork made last year when we established the Office of Defence West.
Early in the new year, we’ll be establishing two defence working groups, to be chaired by WA’s Defence Advocate, Rear Admiral (Rtd) Raydon Gates AO CSM.
The working groups will focus on industry development, and education, skills and workforce development.
Membership of these groups will comprise peak industry bodies like the Australian Industry and Defence Network WA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, major defence contractors, the State’s major universities, the TAFE sector, and relevant Government agencies.
Engagement with our universities has been an early priority for Defence West, with a focus on creating a ‘Team WA’ approach to attracting research and development opportunities, in consultation with both the Commonwealth and industry. We are positioning the State to be a significant contributor to the Cooperative Research Centre on Trusted Autonomous Systems, among other upcoming programs.
In the first half of 2018, we’ll also be releasing the State Defence Industry Strategy, which will outline the priorities and opportunities for WA Defence industry, as well as the Government’s approach to attracting further investment from both national and international sources.
A number of activities which feed into this Strategy are already well-advanced, including a local capability survey of the WA defence sector which took place in December.
The Office of Defence West will be focusing upon WA industry capability across the six capability streams identified by the Federal Department of Defence.
Most importantly, as WA’s first Minister for Defence Issues, I am focused on increasing and improving the level of communication and collaboration between the State and the Commonwealth.
This communication feeds into the broader need for a properly planned and executed national approach to developing and sustaining a globally competitive defence industry sector.
Through the work of last year, and our plans for the year ahead, Western Australia is set to have a voice in the national conversation.
It’s an exciting time to be the Minister for Defence Issues in WA, and the ideal time for a publication to be launched which is dedicated to telling the stories and raising the profile of our local defence industry.