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Speech at MTIA luncheon



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SPEECH BY THE HON GARY PUNCH MP

PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

MTIA LUNCHEON

FRIDAY 28 MAY 1993

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH ..7

Leigh Purnell, members of the Council and invited

guests, thank you for inviting me to today's luncheon.

. This afternoon I would like to offer a thumbnail sketch of my roles and responsibilities as the parliamentary secretary. I intend to outline some key issues and, in the process, paint for you a picture of where I see us advancing over the next

three years of the Keating Government.

The parliamentary secretary is the new kid on the block in Australian politics. The role was created in 1980 but, in recent years, the parliamentary secretary has gained more prominence. Following

the recent election, ten parliamentary secretaries were appointed to assist ministers.

Broadly speaking the role is a representative one. But it is more than just 'standing in' when the minister can't make it to an occasion.

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Parliamentary secretaries have a number of tasks.

My responsibilities are four-fold. First is industry policy, which includes the important issue of the possible privatisation of ADI and ASTA.

Second is Defence exports and seeking new ways of boosting them.

Defence-related equipment is not among our biggest exports and we manage these exports with due responsibility under our membership of various arms control regimes, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

. We have, however, scored some notable recent successes, such as the Laser-Airborne Depth Sounder. Defence industries are now developing firms links in our region and are growing at a healthy pace - ADI, for instance, now ranks as one of the top one hundred defence equipment producers in the world and one of Australia's top fifty exporters.

The export of legitimate defence-related equipment - particularly to our regional neighbour - brings another benefit beyond the economic one. It can

help to create greater interoperability between the —ADF and the forces of the countries with whom we share the region and the task of ensuring its security.

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My third role is to carry responsiblity for the Ready Reserve scheme for all three Services.

• And fourthly, I am responsible for the carriage of defence legislation in the parliament.

• Of course, my duties also involve representing the minister at meetings and conferences, such as this one, and at Parliamentary Committee hearings.

• Thomas Edison once remarked, "I start where the last man left off." As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, I intend to do just that.

My predecessor, Roger Price, described his role, among other things, as that of a day-to-day operational manager and direct ministerial contact point for all industry matters in Defence. It is a role that I hope to consolidate over the coming years.

Today, I am wearing my industry hat, which I see as the biggest and I think the most challenging.

As we move towards the 21st century, the role that industry can play in the defence of the nation is a challenging one. The promise, the international competition and the hard work lie before us all.

• Industry can be described as the 'fifth' arm in Australia's defence, alongside the Navy, Army, and Air Force and the Department. In the future, Australian industry will be relied upon to support,

maintain and develop Australia's defence. Industry

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support will need to be more versatile and

diversified than in the past to ensure that the ADF is well equipped and supported.

The November 1992 'Defence Policy and Industry' report identifies industry as an integral element of the ADF's capability and, thus, more than just a supplier of equipment and services. I would like to

stress that self-reliance and self-sufficiency are not the same thing. Absolute defence industrial self-sufficiency is not our intention. Rather, we seek to beef up the contribution made by Australian industry to the policy of self-reliance.

As the momentum gathers for the major capital equipment projects finally to come on line, we need to make the relationship between Australian industry and Defence clearer.

To assist in this we will better define future strategic priorities for Australian industry capabilities and technolog y . We will improve the way Defence conducts business with the private sector.

We will also work steadily to improve the communication channels with industry.

• The Government is committed to maximising local content when it is economically and operationally feasible to do so. We will also give preference to Australian prime contractors and to setting overall

industry objectives for projects.

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In keeping with the Government's overall aim for micro-economic reform, we envisage a more innovative, internationally competitive and export oriented Australian defence industry.

• If companies supporting ADF capabilities are to remain viable in the long term they will need to work overseas and within the commercial sector with which they are familiar in Australia. Most will

need to become independent of Defence contracts which, by themselves, will not offer the long-term profit margins or economies of scale to support whole enterprises indefinitely.

The Government recognises that the export of defence-related products brings some sensitivities. We will ensure that Australian exports of defence-

related products remain compatible with our international commitments and strategic and foreign policy interests.

I have already mentioned our membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I might also mention the leading role Australia played in getting

a workable Chemical Weapons Convention established. This is now open for States' signatures and is further evidence of our firm commitment to the responsible management of the export of

defence-related equipment.

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• That said, we recognise that exports are an

important part of the defence industry equation. Such exports provide business opportunities for local industry and lower unit costs for Defence from economies of scale. Importantly, they importantly also assist in the promotion of our strategic interests, as I have mentioned earlier.

Defence will continue its support for exporters through trade exhibitions and providing contacts to overseas Defence forces. Defence will continue to make Service personnel available to demonstrate ADF equipment. The development of Memoranda of Understanding and other collaborative agreements with trading partners will continue.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it" says Alan Kay, director of Research at Apple Computers.

The future for the relationship between Defence and Industry is in our hands. Defence remains firmly committed to the recommendations of the 1992 Defence Policy and Industry Report with which you

are all familiar.

• The report laid the foundations. It grappled with a host of important issues - issues that must and will be addressed in the coming years.

• I look forward to hearing the Council's comments and ideas.

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