Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Keynote address to the '2008 F1 in Schools national titles awards night', Parliament House, Canberra.

Download PDFDownload PDF

THE HON. GREG COMBET MP Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra

Check against delivery

SPEAKER: Hon. Greg Combet MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement Thank you for your kind introduction.

National Titles Finalists, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to be here in my role as the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement at an event which is important to all of us. Personally as an engineer this is a very happy event.

In my role as the Parliamentary Secretary I basically am responsible for matters concerning the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Defence industry.

The DMO and defence industry exist to support the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The ADF undertakes a range of challenging tasks; some very close to home and others much further afield. Almost 3,750 sailors, soldiers and air men and women are currently serving on operations overseas. It’s not easy work that we ask them to do, but it’s in Australia’s national interests that they perform these challenging tasks. And it’s to their credit that they do it so admirably.

The Government is committed to ensuring that the ADF has the equipment, protection, training and support it needs in order to perform its job effectively and as safely as is possible.

To be able to go on doing just that in the years to come, we need you - the youth of today to become our engineers of the future.

In the next 10 years or so, the Government will spend more than $100 billion replacing or upgrading most of the ADF’s warfighting equipment. This will

include building two huge amphibious ships that will be able to transport 1,000 soldiers, 150 vehicles and 6 helicopters and will be more than twice the length of football field.

In a decade we will begin building at least 6 new submarines. These submarines will be the most complex project ever undertaken in Australia. It is comparable to building a space shuttle, in terms of building a vessel that will sustain a crew for months at a time in a very hostile environment. Add to it the fact that they must sail undetected for months and it’s a very challenging task. In terms of cost it will be the equivalent of building the entire Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Scheme two to three times over.

These are very exciting and challenging projects to work on.

Government will be asking the DMO and Defence industry to play key roles in building these capabilities.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with you…

Well…to build these vessels and all the other equipment needed to ensure that Australia can defend itself we will need thousands of skilled workers. We will need thousands of engineers.

If Australia’s defence industry can’t find these engineers, then more and more work will go to other countries and our technological edge will be eroded.

So what can the Government do to help?

Well, earlier this month the Government announced a $61 million package that will help grow Defence industry’s skills base.

The package contains 14 initiatives designed to: æ expand the pool of appropriately skilled people from which the defence industry sector can recruit; æ enhance work and career pathways in the defence industry sector; and æ grow defence industry capability and productivity.

Part of this package is sponsorship of Re-Engineering Australia. I’m proud to announce that we will sponsor Re-Engineering Australia to the tune of $160,000 a year or nearly half a million dollars over the next three years.

REA is already reaching young Australians in high schools right around the country and, mainly through their Formula 1 in Schools Competition; they are already promoting engineering as a potential career to those students.

This competition is successfully capturing young Australians’ interest in, and awareness of, engineering as a potential career: each of you - the 2008 finalists - is living proof of that.

To get here, you have beaten many, many more along the way. You are - each and every one of you - truly the best student engineering talent in Australia today.

Through this sponsorship, Government will help REA to promote engineering as a potential career early in the educational process. It is the Government’s intention that the sponsorship helps REA increase their coverage across Australian schools.

This sponsorship will be complemented by other parts of the $61 million skilling package. If you decide to study engineering at University, and I would certainly encourage you to do so, we will be offering scholarships where engineering students will be paid $6,000 to undertake a three month placement with a defence industry company.

And if you complete your engineering degree and enter the defence industry we are supporting a Masters of Military Systems Integration and a Masters of Systems Support Engineering. So there is a very rewarding engineering career awaiting you if are interested.

As I said earlier - Australia is facing a critical skills shortage, and engineering is one of those critical skills.

The Government must look, and is looking to the future - and it’s your future.

Make no mistake - you are very important. We need you, and lots more like you, to ensure that as a nation, we will be able to continue to equip and support our troops - and we can only do that if we have a strong workforce of engineers, specialist technicians, qualified project managers and key trades people.

The Government is committed to the education and development of young Australians, so we are very pleased and proud to be able to support not only the good work being done by REA, but each and every one of the young finalists who are the outstanding and undeniable proof of the effectiveness of that work.

Good luck to each and every one of you this evening. You all have an exciting future ahead of you.

Media contacts: Rod Hilton (Greg Combet): 02 6277 4771 or 0458 276 619 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664