It reminds us of how we have fought together in the past – when so many gave so much for us all – to secure the freedom that we enjoy today – and it underlines the importance of a strong defence to underpinning a prosperous peacetime – for all time.
And there is no doubt that Australia is a prosperous nation – now entering its 26th year of uninterrupted growth – set to take the record for the longest period of economic growth of any major advanced economy, with 3 per cent growth forecast for next year.
A terrific record, achieved despite the global financial crisis, reversal of the commodities boom and political change.
But Australia has redoubled its efforts in the face of adversity and – as the Prime Minister set out last week in his speech to Australian business leaders - the Government remains strongly committed to returning the budget to balance, growing and diversifying the economy and increasing defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP.
And we at BAE Systems remain strongly committed to Australia.
For more than 60 years, we have purposefully worked to create a unique domestic capability in Australia that is today an integral part of a stronger, more sovereign Australian defence and security industry.
Proud of our position as the leading Australian defence and security company and privileged to support and protect those who protect the nation, our achievements have been delivered by our Australian workforce, from more than 25 operations around the nation, in partnership with Australian companies - large and small – academic and scientific institutions.
The fruits of our joint endeavours are considerable.
- Delivering and sustaining a significant sovereign defence and security capability in the air, at sea, on land and in cyberspace.
- Investing in technology and innovation to constantly advance capability.
- Developing the skills of our people and future generations to create a pipeline of talent.
- Partnering with Australian industry and actively transferring skills, expertise and knowledge in a drive for continuous improvement.
- A truly great history of real achievement.
And looking forward, we are committed to continuing to work with the Commonwealth Government to strengthen Australia’s security and enhance its national defence capability – a vital task in an uncertain and turbulent world.
Warm words however need hard facts to support the rhetoric – and today, I am proud to be here to launch an independent report that details our contribution to Australia.
This report puts numbers to the contribution we make to the economy and evidence for our argument that a sovereign defence industry underpins prosperity for the nation.
The report – researched and completed by Oxford Economics – shows that in Australia, we are doing just that.
The key finding from this report was that our operations here delivered $1.3 billion dollars of economic value for the country in the last financial year.
It also shows that over the same period we sustained over 7,500 full-time jobs – reflecting our highly skilled workforce as well as the jobs we support across our supply chain and the broader economy.
And our investment in high technology equipment and high calibre people delivers leading productivity – 40 per cent higher than the national average.
But while delivering value today is important – so too is investing in the skills and technologies needed for the future.
Over the past five years we have invested nearly ½ billion dollars in capital expenditure – in Research and Development – in improving the skills of our people – and the Australian community.
Importantly, we spend over four times more per employee on Research and Development than the Australian economy average.
In Australia, we employ some of the world’s most highly skilled and talented people. Nearly two thirds of our workforce are either engineers or highly trained technicians and last year, we invested $4.5 million dollars in training to ensure the continued development of our workforce and create opportunities for the next generation.
So there is no doubt we have built a great partnership with this country with great people.
And it is important that we build on the partnership by applying our advanced technology capability to support technology development in Australia.
To do this we partner with academic institutions and Australian industry – from SMEs to major companies - to develop new technologies to give our customers a capability edge and stimulate further innovation and commercial opportunity.
We have some outstanding examples of this philosophy in practice:
As Australia’s most experienced over the horizon radar and systems partner, we have worked closely with the Defence Force to develop the JORN system – maintaining and upgrading this unique Australian capability over 35 years. A technology so effective that key elements have been exported to the US.
Looking to the future, we want to continue this work with the ADF and move to the next generation of technology, extend the operational life of the program and further increase the potential of the export market. An all-Australian team maintaining sovereign control over this critical asset.
Similarly, working with the Defence Science and Technology Group, we developed the highly sophisticated Nulka missile decoy - Australia’s most successful defence export – with work now underway to develop the next generation of this unique Australian capability.
It’s a device that lures the missile away from its target by hovering above the water line and emitting an electronic signature that makes the missile “think” it’s the target.
The program is worth over A$1 billion to the Australian economy and has the potential to deliver enduring benefits to the balance of trade.
And hot off the press, BAE Systems will be a lead provider of global sustainment services for the F35 JSF aircraft through a significant repair hub here in Australia – a huge prize won in tough competitive conditions.
Now – staying ahead of the competition requires continuous improvement.
It is about doing things better – to ensure military assets and services are available, reliable and cost-effective for our defence force – and we are doing just that here in Australia.
And as a truly international business, in many cases we can draw on our international capabilities and expertise to help expand Australian capabilities.
In the Land 400 campaign to develop the Army’s new combat reconnaissance vehicle – we are collaborating with BAE Systems Hägglunds and Patria - two of the world’s most respected designers and manufacturers of military vehicles. We will transfer technology, design, manufacture and sustainment skills and knowledge to Australian industry and produce the vehicle in Australia to secure and retain in-country capability and economic benefits for decades to come.
Our Global Combat Ship design - the most modern frigate available internationally – has been down-selected for Australia’s next generation of complex warships – the Sea 5000 programme. While we have had to respond to a major decline in naval shipbuilding following the LHD programme, including winding down our Williamstown shipyard, we have retained our sovereign capability for maritime sustainment and the knowledge and experience of many skilled engineers, tradespeople and technicians across Australia.
We can and will deploy this workforce to assist in helping Australia deliver a national shipbuilding enterprise, whilst also drawing on our experience in the UK where we are seen as the premier warship builder.
So in summary I would say this – we are proud to play a vital role in Australia’s national defence and security – we are committed to ensuring the quality of work remains of the highest standard.
We will continue to invest in our people, advanced manufacturing capabilities and new technologies to underpin our competitive edge and contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity and most of all – we look forward to continuing our role in this country – in the spirit of lasting partnership.