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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 21

(Question No. 4499)

Mr Jacobi asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 September 1986:

(1) What efforts are made to communicate the forward planning requirements of the defence forces for high technology equipment to Australian manufacturers?

(2) Does he regard these practices as effective in enabling Australian manufacturers to undertake realistic and reliable corporate planning?

(3) Is it a fact that sales of an item of new high technology equipment to the Australian armed forces can be a vital step in producing sales to foreign governments?

(4) Does the usual requirement for proven performance in high technology equipment specifications discriminate against Australian manufacturers, if so will he introduce procedures so that Australian manufacturers are given opportunities to tender for this type of equipment on an otherwise equal basis with other suppliers?

Mr Beazley —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Strenuous efforts are made to communicate to Australian manufacturers Defence Force plans for procurement of high technology equipment.

Australian industry is advised of selected major Defence projects via Invitation to Register Interest, Requests for Proposals and Requests for Tender.

Five Year plans for Defence Force procurement of capital equipment worth less than $10 million were recently issued to Australian industry and are to be published regularly.

Subject to experience with this exercise I envisage publishing Defence five year procurement plans for major capital procurements (that is those worth over $10 million). The major projects are, of course, generally well publicised and known to industry at an early stage of their development.

(2) Yes, provided that Australian manufacturers realise and accept that Defence procurement plans are subject to adjustment in response to, for example, changed strategic or budgetary circumstances.

(3) In considering equipment options many military customers take into account whether or not the equipment is used by the armed forces of the exporting country. To this extent operation of indigenous high technology equipment by the Australian Defence Force will facilitate acceptance of that equipment by potential overseas military customers.

On 14 October 1986 I announced a package of measures designed to assist Australian Industry to bid for Defence work and to develop and export military and related products.

(4) The Australian Defence Force, like other competent military forces, may insist on proven performance of high technology equipment for reasons of safety and reduced technical or financial risk. When buying high technology equipment, Defence project officers are required to acquaint themselves with Australian industry capabilities, use suitable Australian products when available and avoid specifying proven products or systems unless that is essential. Defence procurement procedures provide for Australian industry involvement in high technology projects via indigenous design and development, adaptation of overseas technology to Australian requirements, local production of overseas designs and, where overseas equipment like the F/A-18 is being bought for the Defence Force, via offsets, co-production, or Defence Designated Australian work in major overseas procurements.