Australian Defence Magazine Defence Workforce Participation Summit – Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

Australian Defence Magazine

Defence Workforce Participation Summit

“Building a bridge over the valley of death”

27 September 2012

Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

There is a valley of death.

It exists between the end of the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Program and the start of work on the Future Submarine.

This is what it looks like.

It’s a valley where jobs are lost and skills disappear.

We need to build a bridge across this valley of death.

Last year at this conference I said the Future Submarine Project was the biggest mountain we have to climb – and you can see the size of that mountain there.

It’s the biggest and most complex project we have ever embarked upon. To build 12 Future Submarines we need to build skills not lose them.

If we lose the skills we are building now on the AWD Project it will only make the task of building these submarines harder.

We’ve had valleys of death before.

The gap between the Anzac Frigate Project and the AWD Project is a good example.

It led to a loss in skills and a loss in productivity – and that has been felt on the AWD Project.

It takes a long time to rebuild these sorts of skills. Productivity on the AWD Project has improved, but it has taken time.

We can’t let this happen again. Not in preparation for a project as large and complicated as the Future Submarine Project.

That is why in December last year I announced the development of the Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan.

In May this year I announced Mr David Mortimer AO would head up the Expert Industry Panel to develop this plan.

The Panel also includes:

  • Andrew Bellamy – Austal
  • David Allott – BAE System
  • Steve Ludlam – ASC
  • Tony Lobb – Forgacs
  • Chris Jenkins – Thales Australia
  • Kim Gillis – Boeing Australia
  • Michael Ward – Raytheon Australia Pty Ltd
  • Raydon Gates – Lockheed Martin
  • Richard Price – Saab Systems
  • Gonzalo Mateo-Guerrero – Navantia Australia
  • Paul Bastian – AMWU
  • Graham Priestnall – AIDN
  • John O’Callaghan – AIG Defence Group
  • As well as a number of representatives from other Government departments.

They have been very busy. In the last few months they have met three times:

  • In Canberra in May
  • At Forgacs in Newcastle in August; and
  • At Raytheon in Sydney the week before last.

Their job is to help design a bridge across the valley of death.

The changes that we have recently made to the AWD project have helped. It means the third AWD will now be completed in 2019.

This is the effect it has on the valley of death. It helps to bridge this gap, but there is still more work to do.

Bridging this gap is the job of the team heading up the Future Submarine Skills Plan.

They will present their report to me before the end of the year, and it will then feed into the development of the 2013 White Paper.

Defence Industry Policy Update

Under the Defence and Industry Policy Statement 2010, the Government committed $445.7 million to industry assistance programs over the ten years to 2018-19.

Last year I spoke about a number of our industry programs – including – SADI, the Global Supply Chain Program, the PIC Innovation Program and the Defence Engineering Internship Program.

Today I can give you an update.


More than 100 companies are involved in SADI this year – sharing $8.5 million in training.

We have worked on a number of reforms to SADI to make it work better for the companies involved.

2. Global Supply Chain Program

The Government has allocated $14 million so far to the Global Supply Chain Program to assist Australian companies compete for work with the multinational Defence companies.

In the past 12 months 30 Contracts have been signed valued at $53.59 million.

To date 46 companies have won 174 contracts worth over $460 million with about 90 per cent of the value going to small to medium enterprises.

3. PIC Innovation Program

In May this year I announced a total of $12.1 million for nine Australian-based companies.

This includes:

  • Secure Systems – a West Australian company which was awarded $465,000 to help with commercialising the company’s anti-tamper data storage solution. PICIP funding will be combined with the company’s own expenditure to develop the next generation of portable Silicon Data Vaults.
  • Australian Defence Apparel Pty Ltd (ADA) – a Victorian company which was awarded $4 million to commercialise a new suite of armour technologies. This funding will expand ADA’s capacity to manufacture high quality armoured products at a cost that is competitive in the global market.

Seven of these nine successful companies are small to medium enterprises.

Last year I spoke about the PIC Health Checks.

The findings of six PIC health checks have now been publicly released. These are Combat Clothing, Ship Dry Docking and Common User Facilities, Infantry Weapons, Acoustic Technologies and Systems, Signature Management, and Through-Life and Real Time Support of Mission Critical and Safety Critical Software.

Health checks for High Frequency and Phase Array Radar, Remote Weapons Stations, Electronic Warfare and In-Service Support of Collins Combat System have been drafted and are now undergoing stakeholder review.

All remaining initial PIC health checks will be released by late 2012/early 2013.

4. Defence Engineering Internship Program

You will remember that I announced this program at this conference last year.

This program gives third and fourth year engineering students around Australia with the opportunity to undertake a 12 week work placement with an Australian defence SME.

30 of these placements are available over the next eight months – and many students have already started – including two here in Canberra:

  • Thomas Egan from ANU who started his internship at Sea Box International last month; and
  • Paul Barugahare, also from ANU – who will work with Aerospace Concepts.

As I said last year, if this program works I am keen to expand it.

This is one of the things recommended in the Skills Australia report I am releasing today.

5. Skills Australia

Last year at this conference I also announced that I had commissioned Skills Australia to map out the range and depth of the skills we have, the skills we need, and how best to build them.

Today I can release this report.

It contains 33 recommendations, including:

  1. Development of a Defence Skills Centre of Excellence, that includes the appointment of a Group Training Organisation to manage an apprenticeship program for Defence industry;
  2. Establishment of scholarships and cadetship programs for a range of specialist occupations;
  3. Requiring all companies bidding for Defence projects to submit workforce development plans; and
  4. Further changes to the SADI program.

This is an important report. It will help shape the development of Defence Industry Policy.

Next year we will release a new Defence White Paper, and we will also release a new Defence Industry Policy Statement.

It will leverage off this report from Skills Australia and the report of the Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan.

The Road Ahead

The first recommendation of the Skills Australia report is one of the most interesting.

Recommendation 1.1 encourages us to raise the profile of the Defence Industry as a career option – providing secondary school students with a taste of careers in the Defence industry.

It got me thinking.

After I spoke at this conference last year the next speaker was a young man named Matthew Cruickshank.

Remember Matt? He landed a job in the Red Bull F1 team while he was studying engineering at university.

I remember him saying that he was drawn into engineering because of a program he did at school – F1 in schools.

As part of this school kids design build and race a small balsa wood car.

To win, the teams have to do more than just build a fast car. They have to work together, present their ideas through marketing material, explain their plans to the judges and manage their project well.

Last year the team from Brooks High School in Tasmania won the World Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In late October or early November this year, teams from Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide, Trinity Grammar School Kew and Kyabram P-12 College, both from Victoria, and Engadine High School in Sydney will travel to Abu Dhabi to try and win the world title this year.

I went to visit Engadine in May. Here they are – have a look at this video clip.

I will always remember that little boy who wanted to be a bricklayer and is now thinking of doing something else.

Everyone has that moment in their life that determines the path they will take.

For me it was in a Physics class in high school.

When I was at high school I wanted to be a doctor. I did work experience in my local hospital and in Year 11 I enrolled in Physics and Chemistry – the prerequisites for Medicine.

In my first Physics class the Science Master came in and told the class that Physics was very hard and most of us would fail.

I needed to get at least 90 per cent in Physics to get into Medicine.

So I changed subjects the next day.

My mother worked at the school in the administration office. She still does. When the Science Master found out I had changed subjects he asked my mother why.

She told him, “you said he was going to fail”.

He said, “I didn’t mean him, I meant the rest of the class”.

Who knows what would have happened or where I would be now if I stayed in that class.

The point of the story is one moment, one person, one event can change the course of your life.

I enrolled in Modern History.

History became a law degree and that sent me into politics.

Think about what led you here. Why did you choose to be an engineer? What led you into business? Why the Defence Industry?

For some young people it might be the F1 in Schools Program.

For others it might be a visit to the Avalon Air Show.

The moment they heard the roar of a Super Hornet or a C-17 Globemaster.

Or a conversation they had with a pilot or a software engineer.

That’s why next year I am bringing all the finalists of the F1 in schools program to Avalon.

They will compete there to become National Champions.

They will also take part in a 2-3 day program that will include:

  • Lectures by fighter pilots and the CEO’s of defence companies;
  • The chance to fly in a flight simulator;
  • Demonstrations of ADF capabilities; and
  • Behind the scenes access to the latest military technology.

The purpose is to inspire some of these young boys and girls to come and work with us.

To be part of our future.

Some of the engineers who will work on our future submarines are still at school today;

So are some of our future JSF pilots – and ground crew.

Now is the time to capture their imagination and get them thinking about working with us.

And help us to bridge the valley of death and climb the mountain I talked about before.