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Address to the 10th Annual Land Warfare Conference, Brisbane.

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THE HON. JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

Thursday, 29 October 2008


Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre


SPEAKER: The Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP It’s a great pleasure to address and officially open the 10th Land Warfare Conference.

I welcome all 1,500 of you and thank our co-hosts - Chief of Army General Ken Gillespie and our recently appointed Chief Defence Scientist Dr Bob Clark.

Ken, Bob and their teams have put together something which I’m sure will be highly rewarding for participants over the course of the next few days.

I thank them and their people, and I thank all the sponsors of the event. The support of sponsors is critical to the success of conferences such as this.

The Land Warfare Conference has grown to be one of Australia’s most prestigious Defence conferences. Of course, it challenges our thinking in one of the most important areas of government policy.

It is a vitally important forum for exchanging views and new ideas, fostering collaboration and facilitating an enhanced capability for the land force.

I must say I am impressed with how the organisers of the conference have nurtured the event over the last 10 years.

The conference started out as a small event at DSTO’s Edinburgh facility near Adelaide a decade ago.

The large number attending today speaks volumes for the value you all place on the opportunity the Conference affords for the dissemination of ideas.

The expertise and support of the DSTO is critical to our success in Defence, and the Land warfare Conference is an important part of that equation.

The DSTO helps to ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of military technology development and acquisition.

It’s imperative that the Australian Defence Force is equipped to deal with modern and future security challenges.

While not wanting to pre-empt the Defence White Paper, it is clear Australia’s future strategic environment will demand an adaptable, sustainable and responsive Army that is well-trained and well-equipped.

Of course our most important asset is our people.

Under Ken Gillespie’s leadership, Army is currently re-examining and re-defining how it conducts its force generation and preparation for operations and contingencies.

The Adaptive Army initiative will involve the re-structuring of Army’s higher command and control arrangements to ensure the Land Force is best placed to train, educate and deploy its force elements to deal with a rapidly changing strategic military environment.

The Adaptive Army initiative will better align the Army with the Australian Defence Force’s evolved command and control structures, more efficiently conduct force generation and preparation, while at the same time, mastering the emerging learning disciplines that underpin Army’s adaptive capacity.

This new program will help to ensure that our Army remains a world class force - one highly capable of prosecuting high-end engagements across the whole military spectrum.

But one also capable of undertaking stability and reconstruction activities in both contemporary and future environments.

Producing a highly capable Defence Force takes money, and plenty of it.

That’s why the Government has committed itself to growing the Defence Budget by 3 per cent real over the course of the coming decade.

Despite this commitment, a number of challenges ahead will keep the Defence Budget under pressure.

1. Our future strategic outlook will sound a constant call for more spending.

2. Technology will continue to push capability costs up at a faster rate than costs more generally.

3. Much of our funding growth will, by necessity, be devoted to filling the Defence Budget black holes and remediating both hollowness in our forces and the Defence estate.

This is why I have ordered a savings drive which will hopefully free up $10 billion over the next decade for reinvestment in higher priorities. Of course, the global financial crisis has made this efficiency drive all the more important.

Along with the Defence White Paper and its companion reviews, our savings, spending and organisational reforms are aimed at ensuring every defence dollar spent is a dollar well spent.

But importantly, as demonstrated by Ken’s Adaptive Army initiative, Defence is not marking time while the White Paper and other reviews are being completed.

For example, today I’m pleased to be able to announce a number of key Government decisions which will continue the process of upgrading our Land Forces to meet the challenges of the modern battlefield.

Firstly I can announce that the Government has recently granted First Pass approval to Phase 4 of Project Land 121.

This approval will allow Defence to begin developing options for the replacement of some of the ADF’s 4,200 Land Rovers with a fleet of new generation light mobility vehicles.

These vehicles, which will perform a range of important combat support roles including command, liaison and battlefield re-supply, are designed to operate with our Army combat units in future conflict environments.

In developing options for this project, Australia intends to participate in the Technology Development Phase of the US Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program, which is expected to replace some 60,000 vehicles in the US Army and Marine Corps from 2012.

Joining the Technology Development Phase will provide us with a valuable insight to the US program and the technologies that will be available for future vehicles. It will also give us a say in the testing of Australia’s requirements in

the US program.

Parallel to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program, Defence will also engage with Australian industry to explore other options to provide protected light mobility vehicles.

A final decision on this project will likely be made in 2010.

Together with Phases 3 and 5 of Land 121, Phase 4 will see the replacement of the ADF’s entire field vehicle and trailer fleet.

And I’m pleased to announce that later this morning I will participate in a signing ceremony to give effect to a contract between Defence and Mercedes-Benz for the delivery of the first vehicles under Project Land 121.

This contract, worth $350 million, is for the supply of 1200 Mercedes-Benz “G Wagon” 2 tonne trucks. The contract will deliver significant benefits for Australian industry. For example, the modules will be manufactured by Varley, work valued at around $50 million.

I am also pleased to announce that the Government has approved a $220 million project to upgrade an additional 81 M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC).

The project will improve the protection, mobility and firepower of the Australian Army as part of the Enhanced Land Force initiative.

To be undertaken by BAE Systems Australia, the project will also extend the life of the Bandiana production facilities in Northern Victoria to 2011. It also means more work for industry in Williamstown, Victoria, and Wingfield, South Australia.

Defence has also recently signed a contract with Thales Australia for an additional 293 Bushmaster vehicles, which will be built at the Company’s Bendigo facility.

This brings the total number of Bushmasters being acquired by the ADF to 737. This is an incredible result for a locally-developed and built vehicle.

As you will all be aware, we first deployed the Bushmaster to the Middle East in early 2005. Its protection and exceptional mobility at speed and in desert conditions has provided our land forces with a capability better than any comparable vehicle in the world

And finally, on Monday while in Perth I had the opportunity to inspect the first of the new Nary Special Operations vehicles which have been delivered to our Special Forces under Project Redfin.

The Narys will replace the current Long Range Patrol Vehicles, and in a fitting tribute, were named after Warrant Officer David Nary, the Australian Special Forces soldier who tragically died during a training operation in the Middle East in 2005.

These and other new platforms such as the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, Abrams battle tanks, new troop-lift helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and new communications systems will give Army a winning edge in future conflicts and support reconstruction and humanitarian-related contingencies, both domestically and internationally.

Underpinning a great deal of this development of our military hardware and technology is, of course, Australian and off shore industry.

Many of the delegates to the Land Warfare Conference are from industry and it’s pleasing to see the private sector supporting this event.

Industry plays a hugely significant and vital role in building capability for the Australian Defence Force. And Australian industry has demonstrated it can be internationally competitive.

Collaboration on a government-to-government level with foreign technology organisations has also been important.

Through the Technical Cooperation Program, DSTO and its peer organisations in the USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand have been working on solutions for technology challenges common to all five nations.

The Technical Cooperation Program is a highly successful arrangement which has benefited our five countries for 50 years.

Collaboration is in our midst today. With us is Dr Tony Tether, Director of the USA’s Defense Advanced Projects Agency.

Also with us is Dr Tom Killion, Chief Scientist of the US Army, and Major General Fred Robinson, Commander of the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

To these three visiting gentleman I extend a very warm welcome and thanks for the co-operative relationship, and indeed, friendship.

Speaking of visitors, I ask you all to keep an eye out for our participating high school students and their supervisors. The presence of tomorrow’s leaders and innovators is a welcome one.

The schools initiative comes from the Careers and Skills Forum which is part of the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Foundation. It’s an important initiative aimed at making sure we make young Australians aware of defence industry career opportunities and therefore, we can enjoy continuing growth in the defence industry sector.

I wish organisers and participants well for a successful and productive three days.

Media contacts: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664