Address at the 2017 Pacific International Maritime Exposition

October 3, 2017



Thank you very much, Chris, Tim, Stuart, and thank you Uncle Alan for the warm welcome to Gadigal country.

Firstly, I want to offer my sincere condolences to our friends in the United States over the shocking and senseless attack in Las Vegas.

There are many of our American friends in the room today who have been watching these events unfold with dread, as, indeed, we all have.

As I said to your acting-Ambassador, Jim Caruso, we stand with you and we mourn with you in this difficult time.

This was a cruel and callous attack on innocent people at a concert.

It was the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.

The latest information is that at least 58 people have been killed and over 515 taken to local hospitals injured.

The Australian Consulate-General in Los Angeles is making urgent inquiries with the local authorities in Las Vegas to determine whether any Australians have been affected by this attack.

Australians in Las Vegas should register on the Smartraveller website and make contact with family and friends. Our emergency call unit is operating and the details are on the DFAT website.

This is a reminder that we must constantly work to stay ahead of the threat, whatever the motives of those who seek to do us harm.

Here in Australia, we've recently released, in August, our new protection of crowded places strategy, to ensure that Australians can continue to enjoy the freedoms they hold dear.

Whether we are going to concerts, attending sporting events or festivals we should do so without the fear of harm.

Thanks to the strong leadership of John Howard more than 20 years ago, and in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, Australia has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world and we remain ever vigilant to maintain them.

Another national gun amnesty has just concluded, and in the first two months, over 25,000 weapons were handed in.

This week, I'm convening a special summit of state and territory leaders to discuss how we will further strengthen and harmonise our response to the threat of terrorism.

We must constantly improve our laws and our techniques to stay ahead of those who seek to do us harm.

There is no place for set and forget in national security.

Again, I offer my thoughts and prayers to the people of the United States. We grieve with the families of the victims. And we wish the injured a swift recovery.

Vice Admiral Chris Ritchie, thank you for your welcome and your description of this great assembly, a veritable armada of admirals from no fewer than 39 Navy’s around the world to Pacific 2017.

I want to acknowledge the many representatives of Australia defence industry here today as well. And of course, my ministerial colleagues, Minister for Defence, the Minister for Defence Industry, Stuart Ayres, the Minister for Western Sydney and other state and territory parliamentary colleagues.

This is a crucially important gathering.

And it comes at a time of enormous investment by my government here in Australia. We are embarking on the largest ever peacetime upgrade to our defence capabilities - a massive ship-building program which will deliver 54 new vessels to tackle the regional and global threats in the decades ahead. We're ensuring our national security while creating the certainty, the jobs and the opportunities that were missing in previous years.

My government's comprehensive Naval Shipbuilding Plan builds on our 2016 Defence White Paper.

Vice Admiral Barrett fairly described the significance of the White Paper in his book, The Navy and the Nation, and I'll quote you to him.

He wrote:

"The Defence White Paper released by the government in 2016 has set the Navy on a new course. Not only has the government redefined the Navy as a system, rather than a collection of cobbled together platforms, but more importantly, it has also repositioned the Navy as a national enterprise. This represents a fundamental transformation in thinking about what the Navy actually is - where it fits in our national architecture and how it relates to the national economic infrastructure."

Well said.

This is an ambitious national program, well beyond what Australia has previously undertaken.

The investment in new naval capabilities is a key part of our commitment to a safe and secure Australia. The first priority of my government.

The investment will also revitalise our heavy engineering and advanced and hi-tech manufacturing industrial capability, and grow and sustain thousands of Australian jobs.

It will see the regeneration of Australia's current naval fleet over the next 50 years.

This is the largest investment in our defence naval capability ever in peacetime and it is at the very forefront of technology.

It will enable the Australian Defence Force to have the capability to conduct independent combat operations to defend Australia and protect our interests in our region, as well as contribute to global coalition operations in support of the global rules-based order.

Importantly, the Naval Shipbuilding Plan will not only enable us to deliver the key naval capabilities identified in the 2016 White Paper, but will also guarantee long-term employment for Australian workers and a sovereign naval ship-building and sustain capability.

This is unprecedented.

Capability, jobs, a sovereign defence industry.

The work continues to be closely and regularly overseen by me and my Ministers, drawing on independent expert advice, including from the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board, headed by the former Secretary of the United States Navy, Professor Don Winter, who is here at Pacific 2017 this week.

The Naval Shipbuilding Plan is an ambitious agenda and we've already delivered on important elements.

On capability, including the commissioning of the first Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Hobart and the selection of France’s Naval Group as our partner for the design and construction in Australia of the 12 future submarines, and also commencing the construction in Perth by Austal Ships of up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats.

On shipbuilding infrastructure, we've committed well over $1 billion to acquiring and upgrading the infrastructure we'll need to fulfil our ambitious ship-building plans.

On the shipbuilding workforce, we have committed to establishing the Naval Shipbuilding College from January 2018, with an initial investment of $25 million, to support workforce expansion and skills development.

The scale of our ambition for Australia’s future naval capabilities demands a truly whole-of-nation response.

And we are achieving great things thanks to our strong partnerships across state and territory governments, industry, and Australia’s education and training and research and development sectors, each of which will have important roles as we continue to advance this national endeavour.  And it truly is a national endeavour, that we need everyone, including our political opponents, to get behind if we are to succeed. And succeed we must – to keep Australians safe.

This morning I am pleased to announce the latest step in the recapitalisation and renewal of our Royal Australian Navy and the implementation of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

The complex threat environment that our Navy will face in the future, we need the best capability for our Future Frigates that can deal effectively with contemporary threats, both over and under the water.

A capability that can ensure we can share information on those threats with other ADF units and assets and with our allies and partners, including the US Navy. A capability that is able to be upgraded to meet emerging threats. And a capability that can be supported and further developed through close ties with Australian industry.

The Naval Shipbuilding Plan represents a change in the way government procures naval capability, and this needs to include combat management systems.

Previous governments have taken the approach of tendering the combat management systems for each individual ship. This has resulted in multiple combat management systems across the fleet, increasing training and sustainment costs. This has also made it difficult for Australian industry to invest in the long-term, in what is a high-tech, cutting-edge industry.

That approach was short sighted and we consider it no longer in the national interest.

We have resolved to take an enterprise approach to combat management systems for Australia’s Navy.

After more than 50 studies and lengthy analysis we have decided, based on the ability to meet our capability requirements, to mandate that Australia’s Future Frigates will have an Aegis Combat Management System.

This decision will maximise the Future Frigate’s air warfare capabilities, enabling those ships to engage threat missiles at long range. A number of states, notably of course, North Korea, are developing missiles with advanced range and speed. We must have the capability to meet and defeat them.

Just as importantly, this will be complemented by an Australian tactical interface, to be developed by SAAB Australia, which will manage the non-Aegis systems like the Australian developed Nulka missile decoy and – critically – the cutting-edge phased array radar, developed by Australia’s CEA Technologies.

Where the high-end warfighting capabilities offered by the Aegis system are not needed for other future ship projects, Australia will mandate a single combat management system. And that combat management system will be developed by SAAB Australia.

This will include mandating that the Offshore Patrol Vessels will contain a SAAB Australia-developed combat management system, and that an Australian tactical interface will be developed by SAAB Australia for the Air Warfare Destroyers when we upgrade the Aegis system as is planned in the Defence White Paper.

Taken collectively, these decisions will likely amount to an investment of more than $1 billion in the future development of Australia’s naval combat systems and radars. It is expected that these decisions will support hundreds of jobs across CEA, Lockheed Martin Australia and SAAB Australia.

I am proud that Australian industry will benefit from this longer-term enterprise strategy.

It guarantees a long-term sustainable Australian combat management system industry, which is integral to my government’s shipbuilding plans.

We are equipping our Navy to meet the threats of the future, and to do it with the best technology in the world.

In particular, SAAB Australia will be able to invest knowing that it has a significant role to play in the delivery, upgrade and sustainment of ship combat management systems in Australia for decades to come.

Further, the selection of SAAB Australia to develop the Australian tactical interface for the Future Frigates will help provide for sovereign control over world class technologies including the Australian designed and built CEA phased array radar.

The selection of Aegis as the combat management system with Saab Australia's interface strikes the right balance between capability considerations, US interoperability, commonality with the Air Warfare Destroyers and Australian industry involvement.

The early selection of a combat management system for the Future Frigates is part of the government's strategy to de-risk the start of construction in 2020 - it does not impact on the selection of a combat system integrator, which the three tenderers will still each select.

Our decision to take an enterprise approach to our Navy’s combat systems will ensure that Australians remain in control of these vital technologies and we will continue to develop and innovate in this high technology area of capability.

Taking an enterprise approach to future naval combat systems is a demonstration of our commitment to a vibrant and innovative Australian defence industry for the long term. It will ensure that Australia has an enduring capability to build and maintain our combat management systems and maintain a high level of interoperability with the US Navy and other allies and partners.

The decisions I have announced this morning will mean that we will be providing the absolute best capability to our Navy, and the best way to keep our future sailors safe in an increasingly challenging region and world.

Across Defence, my government has now provided the certainty you have sought and deserved. We are delivering on our commitments, providing the investment and funding for decades. And in our partnership the expectation on the industry leaders in this room and beyond is to deliver the work on time, on budget and with thousands of high tech and well-paid Australian jobs for generations to come.

And you should be proud not only to tell Australia about it, but to advocate our success stories to the world. This investment and our partnership will not just keep Australians and Australia safe. It will not just develop and sustain Australia's defence industry and jobs. It will also ensure we are internationally competitive and winning work around the globe.

For those visiting Australia for this conference I warmly welcome you to Sydney. I trust you will all make the most of the opportunities that Pacific 2017 has to offer.

Thank you very much.


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