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Message to Our AIDN Members from AIDN CEO, Brent Clark

To our valued AIDN members,

One of the many activities that AIDN undertakes is advocacy for Australian businesses, in particular the SME community. Today the Shadow Minister for Defence Industry spoke in Parliament about our concerns.

AIDN has made it perfectly clear that we will represent you, the members, to the best of our ability and we will ensure that we will use every means at our disposal to ensure that your issues are presented to the decision makers.

The following is the Hansard Transcript of the Hon Luke Howarth’s address in Parliament.

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (12:43): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:


(a) under the current Government, decisions to conduct review after review into defence and defence industry have resulted in unreasonable delays in awarding contracts; and

(b) these delays have led to uncertainty for small and medium enterprises, threatening many businesses, and forcing them to consider leaving the industry;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) the Government’s agreed recommendation from the Defence Strategic Review, stating that Australian industry content and domestic production should be balanced against timely capability acquisition, requires financial support from the Government;

(b) without such support, there is a risk of losing more contracts overseas;

(c) the Government’s agreed recommendation from the Defence Strategic Review, calling for an increase in defence funding to meet our strategic circumstances, has not been meet in the

2023-2024 budget;

(d) the Government should legislate a minimum number of missiles stockpiled to ensure Australia’s National Security; and

(e) the Government’s disconnect with Australia’s defence industry should alarm all Australians because it shows a lack of understanding of the challenges facing Australia’s defence industry; and

(3) calls on the Government to take real action in supporting and growing Australia’s sovereign defence industry and boosting Australia’s dwindling defence budget.

I note that under the current government, the Albanese government, decisions to conduct review after review into Defence and the defence industry have resulted in unreasonable delays in awarding contracts. These delays within the defence industry have led to uncertainty for small and medium enterprises in particular, threatening many of those SME businesses and forcing them to consider leaving the industry.

What is the industry body saying about this? Brent Clark, the CEO of the Australian Industry Defence Network, says this in relation to delay after delay by the Albanese government in the defence industry: ‘Apparently our strategic circumstances are so dire and so consequential that the Defence Strategic Review had to change the Australian industry involvement to simply being an achieved item as long as we do not hold up gaining capability.

We will say that any opportunity we have, we will say that to any journalist we can and we will say that to Defence when we have to do. This is not a Defence issue. This has nothing to do with the Department of Defence. This has everything to do with our politicians. We do not believe that this government, the Albanese government, is treating small and medium enterprises in a fair and equitable manner.’

He went on to say, ‘The DSR has opened a can of worms that cannot be closed. The DSR, by virtue of saying that speed to capability trumps Australian industry involvement, means that at every turn the excuse of not using an Australian company will be viable. Why? Because you actually have to put effort, time and money into getting Australian companies qualified for supply chains. If I have a pre-qualified company from overseas, my speed to capability is faster. We are not having a go at any prime contractor in this; this is wholly and solely directed at the federal government’-the failure of the Albanese Labor government. We acknowledge the government’s agreed recommendation from the DSR, stating that Australian industry content and domestic production should be balanced against timely capability acquisition, and that requires financial support. The issue is that there isn’t financial support. There is absolutely no new money from the Albanese government in the forward estimates in the next four years-not one new dollar.

Members here could imagine if we were in government and we came in and said, ‘No new money for education, no new money for health, no new money for the ABC’ or whatever. Imagine how those opposite would react. Worse

still: we’ve actually heard the defence minister in this place come in and say it’s not how much money it is; it’s how you use the money. Can you imagine if we said that about schools? What would those opposite say? They’d be hitting the roof. But, when it comes to Defence, the DSR states that we have a short time frame, and, for those watching, there is not one new dollar from this government in the next four years. In fact, CASG is cutting billions of dollars out of Defence.

They need to cut another $4.3 billion out of Defence to achieve their aim, and this is actively removing small and medium enterprises from the supply chain.

If we were at war, for example, the missiles for our frigates would be gone in 30 minutes. Then the ship has to sail back to shore. ‘Where are the stockpiles?’ We’ve got no stockpiles. What are the minimum stockpiles that this government has set in the last 18 months? They’ve ordered nothing when it comes to 155-millimetre munitions. We have enough munitions to last a week, all under the Albanese Labor government.

With HIMARS missile capability delivered from the DSR-the only thing-they are first due to be delivered in 2026, and to date the project hasn’t even been allocated a number for purchase. How many defence industry companies have the minister or the Minister for Defence Industry met with? There are very few. As I’ve moved about South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, there have been very few.

Kind regards,

Brent Clark

Chief Executive Officer AIDN National    


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