THE defence and security of a nation is the first order of duty for any national government and in Australia, NSW plays a most important role in that mission. We have more Defence bases and a larger defence industry than any other state. In fact, the defence industry is one of the most important industries for NSW, and a top priority for the NSW government.
The industry is especially important here in the Hunter, the region with largest defence presence in NSW.
The strength of the defence industry supply chain in the Hunter gives this region the competitive edge to feed into Australia’s major air, sea and land projects and the Australian government shares my confidence in this region. Only last month it awarded $300 million in procurement contracts for Williamtown and the Hunter.
This month, Adelaide played host to Land Forces 2016, the nation’s premier land defence exhibition that attracts the leaders in defence technology from around the globe.
One of the most impressive exhibitors was from the Hunter. Bohemia Interactive Solutions was showcasing its new simulator that replicates the experience of a soldier driving an Australian Defence Force vehicle over difficult terrain. The simulator trains our personnel to stay safe in hostile environments. NSW government support for Bohemia dates back to 2014 when we helped it become a foundation tenant at the Williamtown Aerospace Centre.
Defence contributes $5.5 billion to the NSW economy each year and employs 30,000 people. For the Hunter, Defence plays a crucial role in the region’s economy. We want to see that continue, and with the Australian government’s Defence White Paper outlining programs and acquisitions worth more than $195 billion over the next 10 years, it’s vital that the Hunter positions itself to take advantage of the opportunities.
My time at Land Forces was spent promoting our capabilities to the Australian government’s head of Defence acquisitions Kim Gillis, as well as meeting with ‘prime contractors’ like BAE Systems, Northrop and Boeing, who award sub-contracts worth many millions of dollars.
On Monday I attended the HunterNet Defence Conference, the largest of its type in Australia, to meet with local small and medium-sized business operators that fulfill sub-contracts for the major players. Because of the broad range of skills available across the Hunter they are in a prime position to tender for and win valuable Defence work.
The Hunter is the centre of gravity for RAAF fast jet operations and maintenance activities by industry to support the fleet. With the introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft and their presence at Williamtown from 2018, further opportunities will arise for Hunter businesses.
The NSW government is seeking to maximise those opportunities.
As part of our efforts to boost the Hunter’s Defence sector, we’re also supporting the establishment of an Innovation Defence Hub at the Williamtown Aerospace Centre. The University of Newcastle was awarded $1 million to lead development of the hub. In June, I announced the appointment of retired air marshal John Harvey AM to the new position of defence advocate. He is working to grow Defence activities in NSW.
Whether it’s vehicle simulators or jet maintenance, the NSW government is working to ensure the defence industry continues to bring jobs, innovation and diversity to the Hunter’s economy.