Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of BAE Systems plc
A few weeks ago we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – the war to end all wars as was the hope of the time.
A feint hope – for 20 years later World War II broke out – with devastating effect. In some ways 1945 is often considered the end of the last major conflict.
But since that time we have witnessed more localised fighting for territory and power – Korea – Vietnam – the Gulf – Syria – the Balkans – Afghanistan – a near miss of global conflict in Cuba.
All against the background of the ebb and flow on a cold war between East and West – and increasingly today – a cyber war where the enemy is less visible and the weapons in the ether – potentially more powerful than missiles in the air.
Throughout all of this – Australia – however remote geographically – has played a vital role in committing troops and equipment in the pursuit of just causes and the preservation of peace for us all.
Looking back – there is no doubt that the Australian Defence Force has made enormous sacrifices for this country – and has demonstrated time and again – that it takes a truly collaborative effort between all our armed forces – and our defence industries – to protect us all in the face of hostility.
And in that same period BAE Systems has been here – working hand in glove with Australia – to help provide the defence equipment and services it has required – by drawing on the resources – ideas and innovative skills of a truly global company.
Sadly – there is no doubt that we are in a time where the risks are increasing – where aggression is growing – where nationalism is rising – and the threats are escalating.
No one can ignore these risks – and here in Australia – it is evident that your government is clear in its commitment to protect the people it serves.
The last Defence White Paper was released in 2016 – and given the challenges that Australia and the region faces – I am sure that consideration has already started to prepare the grounds for the next White Paper – which will map out the strategic considerations and expenditure for the decade ahead.
And things are changing – like many governments – the defence programme of today must deliver not just a weapons capability – but a sovereign capability – bringing prosperity – jobs – intellectual property and security to the nation.
‘Made in Australia’ is the message for all potential partners of this government – and it is a message that has guided the principles that have been the foundation for how we have worked in Australia for the past six decades.
And the need for a strong domestic capability has never been greater – as increased instability in the Indo-Pacific region grows.
As the Chief of Defence Force – General Angus Campbell said – “It is a vibrant extraordinary community of nations – all bound by connectivity of maritime trade and the flow of wealth into what is now 60% of the world’s population – and the majority of the world’s economic activity.”
And there is no doubt of the strong position Australia holds in this important area. Rising standards of living – low public debt – and an affordable welfare state are all a part of a great success story.
A country growing for 27 years without recession – cumulative growth three times that of Germany – where median income grows four time faster than America – and public debt percentage is half that of the UK.
And whilst rich mineral assets have helped – sound policy making has been an important part of the formula.
But the shadow of other nations continues to be cast over the region – projecting strength with military might – building islands as military outposts – claiming territorial rights in open seas – conscious of the success of neighbours – and determined in their pursuit of growth.
And it is against this background that Australia must work with its allies to protect its vital trade routes – reinforce its regional powerbase – and police those waters with vessels that are cutting edge in technology – and ferocious in firepower.
And it is to that end – that the selection of the BAE Systems Type 26 design to be built in Australia as the Hunter Class frigate is so important.
It is a vessel that has the latest anti-submarine warfare capability – and will form the backbone of the Royal Navy, Australian Navy and potentially other 5 eyes nations in the years to come.
Built in Adelaide – it will contribute an estimated $17billion dollars to Australia’s GDP over the life of the contract – sustaining – at peak – some 6,300 jobs and provide Australia with intellectual property – a domestic industry and an export opportunity – never previously enjoyed in this country.
And in delivering these commitments – BAE Systems will help fill the gap left by the decline of other industries – like the car industry – but more importantly – it will provide a foundation for the training of young people in skills and technology that will underpin their future – and hone Australia’s competitive edge.
Today – STEM based roles make up 60% of our Australian workforce – but world demand is expanding for these skills and the talent pool is shrinking.
That’s why our $4million dollar commitment each year to apprenticeships and training is not just in our own self-interest – but in the nation’s interest – and why our productivity is more than 20% higher than the national average.
As a company we will maintain this commitment – government – defence industry – academia – all working together in lockstep – to ensure we have the skills we need today – and are match fit for the demands of tomorrow.
Of course – defence in all domains – continues to evolve at a rapid pace.
Under sea with a new generation of submarines – in the sky with the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.
And in the ether with an invisible and deadly cyber threat.
And looking forward there will be a need for all our weapons to operate in a network and integrated manner – across land, sea, air and cyber.
Weapons – increasing in accuracy – limiting collateral damage.
Platforms built for stealth – defying detection.
Manned and unmanned working together in harmony – a man in the loop – always in control – but a swarm capability linking men and machine with technology at its core.
In all of these areas – BAE Systems is at the forefront and remains in partnership with Australia – growing over the last 65 years from trialling the first generation air defence missile system at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia – to today.
Where we have over 3,200 employees – contributing over $1billion dollars to the Australian economy – through participation in key defence programmes – Joint Strike Fighter – the Jindalee over the horizon radar network – cyber security and now the Hunter Class frigate.
As Chairman of the company – I want to emphasis – we are appreciative of the trust that has been placed in us – to participate in these programmes – and determined to deliver.
We are a business deeply rooted here as an Australian company – proudly led by an Australian – Gabby Costigan – an ex serving officer in the Australian Military – who will now serve her country again – by delivering the most advanced warship of its kind in the world.
Designed and developed by BAE Systems.
Made in Australia – by Australians – for Australia.