Op-ed on our defence industry

18 Nov 2016 Article

Originally appeared on page 67 of The Daily Telegraph on 18/11/2016.

Whether you believed the polling or the media in the lead up to the US election, not many people predicted the outcome.

While the Australian government prepared for both a Trump and Clinton presidency, for the past week and a half we have as a nation been contemplating what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for Australia and what it will mean for our security and economy.

There has been a lot of wild speculation, but early comments from the incoming administration this week regarding a massive expansion in defence spending should come as very welcome news for the Australian economy. The incoming administration has outlined a bold goal to increase spending on the US defence forces by about half a trillion US dollars over the next decade.

To give you an understanding of the scale of this increase, it includes 50,000 more army troops, 70 new navy warships, 100 air force planes and a dozen new marine battalions. A simply enormous expansion.

This presents enormous opportunities for our local defence industry, which is already growing as a result of the Turnbull government’s expansion of spending on military capability — $195 billion over the next 10 years.

Our defence industry has become a national endeavour, assisting in transforming our manufacturing sector into a hi-tech, advanced manufacturing hub and creating jobs.

As a nation we want to use the skills and innovation that characterise our defence industry to form the basis of the smart, hi-tech manufacturing of the 21st century which can be exported to the world.

With the incoming US administration’s goal to expand their military, Australia’s defence industry has the opportunity to tap into that market as an exporter to our biggest ally.

This means jobs for Australians, particularly those who are in manufacturing.

Our stated goal is for our defence industry to be a net exporter. We already have the beginnings of an export market to the US. Austal, an Australian company, has two major contracts with the US Navy.

The first is for 11 littoral combat ships, a contract worth about $US4 billion. The second is for 11 expeditionary fast transport Vessels, with a contract value of about $US2 billion.

Other success stories include Birdon, an Australian firm who recently provided the US Army with cutting edge floating bridges already used around the world.

Australia is well positioned to grasp these opportunities.