Launch of the 2016 Defence White Paper, Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA)

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet this morning and paying my respects to their elders, past and present.

I also want to welcome all of our guests here today and acknowledge my friend and colleague the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and thank him for his very, very fine remarks this morning. Thank you, Prime Minister.

I’m absolutely thrilled also to introduce my two ministerial colleagues, the Minister for Defence Materiel, Dan Tehan, and the Assistant Defence Minister Michael McCormack here today with our Senate parliamentary colleagues Senator Chris Back and Senator David Fawcett.

To the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the Secretary of the Department of Defence Dennis Richardson, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force Ray Griggs to Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, the Chief of Navy, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, the Chief of Army and Air Marshal Leo Davies, the Chief of Air Force. To the Australian Defence Force Academy Commander Alan Clements, thank you for your hospitality here this morning, and to the cadets of ADFA and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

This is a very exciting day for Defence and it is indeed fitting that we are here today at the Australian Defence Force Academy to release the 2016 Defence White Paper.

As the Prime Minister said, as tomorrow’s leaders of Defence, you will be the people who take forward the plans, the investments that the Turnbull Government lays out today to build the Australian Defence Force and the Defence organisation of the future. Ones which will be capable of managing Australia’s strategic challenges for decades to come. So I am very pleased to be here this morning releasing the Defence White Paper, the Integrated Investment Program and the Defence Industry Policy Statement.

Together these are three landmark documents. They define the Turnbull Government’s plans to provide for the security of Australia and its people for the coming decades, and for the first time align strategy, capability and resources in developing Australia’s defence.

They invest in an Australian Defence Force that will be more capable, more agile, more potent, with a fully funded and fully costed investment program. And they transform the Defence-to-industry relationship that is at the heart of delivering capability to Defence.

The Government’s strategies and plans set out in the 2016 White Paper, backed by our funding commitment to increase Defence spending to two per cent of GDP will deliver the transformational change to Defence that is necessary to enable it to meet its mission both now and in the future.

This Government understands just how important long-term funding stability and certainty is for our nation’s Defence capability. The 2016 White Paper sets out our funding commitment in real terms over the next 10 years. The Turnbull Government will ensure our nation’s security and Defence requirements are appropriately funded and delivered. The Australian people would expect nothing less. As the Prime Minister said, Australia faces tremendous opportunities in the coming decades; opportunities for advancement and engagement that we can and must embrace.

But we must also be prepared for a more complex security environment, requiring Defence to be more agile and adaptable in the face of a broader range of future security challenges. Both the Prime Minister and I have had several valuable opportunities to discuss these challenges and opportunities and our White Paper plans with our international partners, many of them in recent months.

I have had a number of discussions with my counterparts; US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon, New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and my regional counterparts from Indonesia, from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia’s security and prosperity are directly affected by events in our region and the wider world. This White Paper sets out the Government’s Defence strategy to protect and promote our strategic Defence interests wherever they are engaged; in our immediate neighbourhood, in our region and across the globe. Australia’s first priority is to secure Australia’s territory and to be able to deter and defeat any threats.

However, we can’t effectively achieve this without having a secure region. As the Prime Minister outlined, over the next two decades Australia will likely face a more complex strategic environment, with the ongoing threat of terrorism from groups like Daesh and foreign terrorist fighters, and the growing shift in economic and strategic power to the Indo-Pacific.

As an open, trade-based economy, Australia relies on a stable and secure region. Our security and prosperity depend on a stable Indo-Pacific region and a rules-based global order, in which power is not misused and tensions can be managed through negotiations based on international law.

To achieve this, our Defence Force must continue to have a leadership role in our immediate region comprising Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Pacific Island countries. We must strengthen our Defence engagement with regional countries to deal with the threat of terrorism and address shared security concerns.

And we must continue to work with the United States and international and regional partners to make a positive contribution beyond the Indo-Pacific, as Australia is currently doing in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and in fact, beyond.

Australia’s strong network of regional and global Defence relationships will be even more important to meet the challenges we will face and to position Australia to take full advantage of those opportunities available to us in the future.

This White Paper recognises that we can better protect and promote our interests by working strongly with our international partners.

For the first time, we prioritise and fund Defence’s international engagement as a core Defence function.

Defence will take a more active role in shaping regional affairs, and to respond to developments which threaten Australia’s interests, while strengthening our alliance with the United States and developing our Defence partnerships with other countries.

We will build on our cooperation with key partners and seek to improve the international coordination of responses to shared challenges such as international terrorism and humanitarian disasters.

Across the Indo-Pacific, we will increase practical Defence engagement that builds security capacity and strengthens regional cooperation to respond to shared security challenges.

We will seek to mature and then deepen practical engagement with partners across the Indo Pacific, particularly with Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, India and China.

Ladies and gentlemen, to secure our interests at home, in our region and across the world, the 2016 Defence White Paper and Integrated Investment Program will deliver a more potent, agile and capable ADF.

As the Prime Minister said, the cumulative effects of prolonged under-investment in Defence have been addressed and the unpredictability of the Defence budget and capital investment program removed.

Through this White Paper, the Turnbull Government restores the proper alignment of Defence strategy, capability, and resources and invests in Defence and Australian industry partnerships to deliver and sustain Defence capabilities.

Through the White Paper, we will provide ADF personnel with the advanced equipment and training and support they need to undertake their critical and diverse roles.

The Government has committed to an unprecedented investment of around $195 billion over 10 years in all aspects of Defence capability: the skilled workforce, modern platforms and systems, contemporary information and communications technology, upgraded infrastructure and science and technology innovation.

This investment in capability will deliver a more capable, technologically supported future force that is adaptable and responsive and more active and internationally engaged in protecting and promoting Australia’s strategic interests.

Central to the 2016 Defence White Paper are our naval modernisation plans.

This Government is implementing an unprecedented continuous build of surface warships, including our future frigates and offshore patrol vessels.

We will also acquire 12 regionally superior submarines to replace the current six Collins Class submarines.

Submarines are an essential strategic capability: a powerful instrument for deterring conflict and a potent weapon should conflict occur.

I’m able to announce today, that, following the competitive evaluation process now underway, we will be implementing a rolling acquisition program for Australia’s submarine fleet.

This will ensure that over the long term, Australia can maintain a fleet of regionally superior boats.

A rolling acquisition program will also provide long-term planning certainty for Australian industries for them to invest in both construction and sustainment activities.

It is not only our Naval fleet that will undergo significant renewal over coming years.

The Turnbull Government’s new Defence investments include advanced air combat and strike capabilities, which will be introduced over the next decade to replace and modernise ageing airframes.

Growler Electronic Attack and the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will both begin to enter operational service from 2020 as the Classic Hornet fighter aircraft leaves service.

We will also equip our air combat fleet with new long-range strike and anti-ship weapons that will enable us, together with our international partners, to deter and defeat potential threats.

We will also modernise and better equip our land forces to be better able to respond to a broader range of challenges that we are likely to face. Our land forces will have the mobility, the firepower, the protection and situational awareness to deploy quickly to where they are needed, and achieve their missions.

Our Special Forces capabilities will also be enhanced. A fleet of new light helicopters and specialised weapons and systems will provide superior support for our special operations.

And we will also invest in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and space providing our forces with improved situational awareness – a greater understanding of what is happening around them to ensure they have decision-making superiority.

The Turnbull Government is committed to achieving a sustainable and balanced force. An essential feature of the new Integrated Investment Program is to ensure that future investment decisions take account of the need to balance investments in equipment against essential investment in critical infrastructure and information communications and technology.

These are the areas that underpin our Defence Force; that bind our capabilities and ensure that Defence operations are as effective as possible. We would be undermining our investments in the most current ships and aircraft, if we cut corners on the infrastructure and technology that supports them.

After a period of prolonged underinvestment, the Government is also investing to upgrade Defence’s bases, wharves, airfields, and its logistics systems, including fuel and explosive ordinance facilities.

This investment will be a significant boost to regional Australia, with much of that infrastructure investment occurring outside of capital cities. These upgrades will result in a boost to local jobs as well, as construction is carried out.

We will also invest $5 billion in modernising and transforming Defence’s information and communications technology.

As the White Paper makes clear, as a result of underinvestment and a lack of coherent enterprise-led strategy, Defence’s current ICT systems need urgent remediation.

I know from first-hand experience how retro some of Defence’s ICT systems are – quite retro. While there is an upgrade process underway, much of Defence’s workforce – including me – are using computers that run Windows XP. There are people in the room today who had not started school when that was first released.

This does inhibit productivity. Our ICT systems must be more flexible and agile to take advantage of both the rapid change to and improvements in technology and I look forward to working with the Department to implement these investments and changes.

The Government will also substantially strengthen our nation’s maritime and border security capability. Additional maritime surveillance and response aircraft, including Poseidon and new high-altitude Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft, will significantly bolster the ADF’s capability to protect our maritime sovereignty and borders and provide support to the Australian Border Force.

And we will, as the Prime Minister said, also invest strongly in our Cyber capabilities. We take most seriously the cyber threat internationally and to Australia. Cyber attacks are a real and present threat to the ADF’s warfighting ability as well as to other Government agencies and other sectors of the Australian economy and critical infrastructure.

In response, the Government will strengthen the Defence cyber workforce and systems over the next decade, to deter and defend against the threat of cyber attack.

These are some of the major enhancements to Defence capability and some of them will be decades in the delivery.

Given the size and the complexity of these decisions, it is important that we have done what is necessary to get this right. Defence decision-making must be underpinned by a clear, well-thought strategy aligned with capability plans and the resources to support them and that is exactly what this White Paper delivers.

The development of this White Paper was methodical and rigorous.

Over the past two years the National Security Committee of cabinet has considered 12 White Paper-related submissions as the Government assessed Australia’s future outlook and challenges over the next decade and Defence’s strategy to help shape this environment.

The Government also assessed Defence’s future force structure so that it would be equipped to achieve the Defence strategy within the available funding guidance.

And to ensure that these plans are affordable, Defence engaged a number of private sector specialists to conduct detailed resource analysis and provide cost and schedule assurance.

An expert advisory panel was appointed to assist with the development process and provide independent views to the Minister and the Government. I want to acknowledge them, welcome them here today – I am sure I saw them before – and thank them for their work. Australian Strategic Policy Institute director Mr Peter Jennings, Rear Admiral James Goldrick, head of the Australian National University’s National Security college, KPMG partner Mike Kalms, Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Dr Andrew Davies and the ANU’s Dr Stephan Fruehling. I also acknowledge the role of previous Defence Ministers, Senator the Honourable David Johnston and the Honourable Kevin Andrews MP, who have both worked in the guiding and development of these documents as well.

Ladies and gentlemen; to deliver the future force outlined in the White Paper, the Turnbull Government absolutely understands the vital role that our Defence industry and our research organisations will need to have. That is why for the first time the major Defence capability announced investments are publicly available in a single comprehensive integrated investment program released with this. The IIP – and I have to revert to acronyms at some point – sets a new benchmark in transparency and direction for Australia’s capability plans. It details our planned investment in these new weapons, in advanced platforms and systems, in enabling infrastructure in the Defence workforce in ICT and science and technology.

The Turnbull Government is committed to forming a new partnership with Australian industry and recognises the vital role an internationally competitive Australian Defence industry plays in providing critical services and in the development of cutting-edge Defence capabilities.

Defence has also partnered with industry to develop the new Defence Industry Policy Statement. This sets the framework for Defence and industry to work more closely through the capability development cycle. Through the Defence Industry Policy Statement, we have streamlined 35 Defence industry and innovation programs into two focused initiatives, providing $1.6 billion over 10 years to do that, including a new Centre for Defence Industry Capability which will be a close collaboration between the private sector, Defence and AusIndustry, designed to best meet the needs of industry and Defence.

A new approach to Defence innovation, featuring a next generation technology fund and a new virtual Defence innovation hub will foster collaborative innovation activities from concept through to prototyping, testing and introduction into service. These are incredibly exciting opportunities for the relationship between Defence and industry and I’m very proud to have the opportunity to bring these forward today.

There are clearly lessons to be learnt from the experiences of partnering with industry in the past and positively there are also good news stories.

The Australian-designed Hawkei protected vehicles being built in Bendigo, for example, are a great example of the tremendous opportunities available to Defence and industry when we worked together to deliver major Defence capability. When the Prime Minister and I visited the Monegeetta Proving Ground in Victoria last October to announce the Hawkei contract, the first thing he said to me when we walked out amongst the vehicles was what extraordinary export potential we have here for Australian industry.

Now I know that Thales is exploring the vehicle’s export potential and that is exactly the sort of forward-leaning attitude we need from industry and Defence.

We are committed to cutting red tape, to streamlining industry programs as I said and providing the clarity that industry needs to make critical investment decisions. These reforms will be critical to delivering our plans. We also need to recognise that a commitment to acquiring high-technology military platforms and systems and staying ahead of our potential competitors and adversaries comes at some cost and we need to work closely with industry to manage those costs. And we will.

While the acquisition decisions announced today will no doubt attract some attention, it is our people who are the foundation of Defence’s capability, effectiveness, and reputation. To meet the demands of the higher technology future force set out in this White Paper, the Government will undertake the largest single rebalance of the Defence workforce in a generation. The permanent Australian Defence Force workforce will grow to around 62,400 over the next decade to return the permanent force to its largest size since 1993.

In terms of looking after our Defence people, we are committed to providing our service men and women with leading-edge healthcare, including mental healthcare. And we will continue to invest in better healthcare systems including more medical personnel. I acknowledge the impact that service to the nation can and does have on individuals and their families. We will continue to improve the links between Defence and the Department of Veterans Affairs to better support both current and former members when they need that help. And I hope that some of the initiatives in this White Paper enable us to do that. I look forward to working with Minister Tehan in particular to implement those.

The strength of Defence’s leadership and its ability to adapt and embrace a more diverse and inclusive culture will be critical to attracting and retaining the workforce we need for the future. We have to take advantage of the full range of skills available to us across the breadth of the Australian community if we are to fully embrace the opportunities available us to in the future. Defence has done some significant work to remove barriers to progression and to facilitate greater development opportunities for women, for Indigenous Australians, for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in both the ADF and the civilian workforce. But there is still much more that we can and must do.

Defence must represent the community it protects and from which it recruits. We must ensure the employment conditions we offer are relevant to people who are currently underrepresented in Defence. Through targeted recruitment initiatives, through retention measures and career support, Defence will broaden its workforce and increase our access to the considerable skills and capabilities right across the breadth of the Australian community.

The Government’s plans in this White Paper are indivisible from our commitment to transforming Defence to meet future challenges. Despite Defence’s outstanding operational record, it is clear that there does need to be a better balance between operational excellence and organisational effectiveness. To achieve this better balance, the Government has begun the most significant reform of the Defence organisation in a generation to improve the way Defence supports government decision-making and how it delivers those military capabilities.

The First Principles Review of Defence, its implementation led by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of the Department, delivers on our election commitment to ensure that Defence is appropriately structured and organised and has the right culture and practices in place to support the ADF into the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, the White Paper that the Prime Minister and I release today will enhance Australia’s Defence capability. It will deepen our international security partnerships and it will improve collaboration between Defence and industry in support of our national security. We recognise that fundamentally these are decisions we make for the future of the country. And I reiterate the Prime Minister’s remarks in saying that it is, therefore, very appropriate that we are here at ADFA in the presence of a number of students today.

I attended a graduation here late last year, outside, slightly warmer, and was privileged to do so, very privileged to do so as Minister for Defence. I was so impressed by the professionalism and the pride on display that day. I loved the spirit that I felt here that day. I so look forward to seeing your career paths as you take up roles some day in new ships, or fast jets, or the dark recesses of cyber warfare. You have made a significant commitment in joining the ADF and Defence and in studying here. I acknowledge and I thank you for that.

I also thank the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dennis Richardson, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin for their leadership in the development of this White Paper.

Prime Minister, I particularly thank you for being here today. Importantly, I want to thank the White Paper and Force Structure Review teams. You have all – each and every one of you – made an enormous effort to deliver this White Paper package. I know some of that story, and I’m sure there’s more to tell. It’s been an intensive and rigorous process.

Thank you all for the excellent work that you have done. And, ladies and gentlemen, I commend the 2016 Defence White Paper to you, and thank you very much for your attendance today.

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