Defence West: COVID-19 Support And Industry Liaison

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A welder undertaking a tasking at Austal Henderson shipyard. Copyright: © Austal.

Key Points:

  • Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic Defence West has through various forums continued to play a key facilitating role between the Commonwealth and WA’s defence industry. 
  • Responding to the heightened demand for Australian made health related equipment, Defence West is actively liaising with the state’s defence industry to encourage greater participation. 
  • In line with this the WA Defence Science Centre recently opened their Collaborative Research Grants to foster R&D partnerships between universities, industry and government on technologies germane to defence industry.

COVID-19 is causing unprecedented challenges for individuals and the local community, and defence industry isn’t immune. The Western Australian Government is working hard to lead by example and effectively collaborate with the Commonwealth to help our local industries.

Priority Attention

While the immediate priority is to support frontline services and protect people’s health, the government is also preparing for WA’s economic and social recovery.

The Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (JTSI), through the Office of Defence West, is helping by acting as an information conduit between Commonwealth and state government and the local defence industry,  while  gathering information about the defence-related business and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Defence West is in regular contact with prime contractors and local small and medium enterprises. 

By relaying information received from these discussions to the Commonwealth, Defence West is helping to ensure that the needs and interests of defence industry are well understood when economic stimulus measures and relief packages are being developed.

Industry Liaison

For instance, even though currently we are unable to meet company representatives face-to-face, Defence West has seen a spike in our industry engagement activities because of COVID-19.

In early April, Defence West hosted an excellent online collaboration which addressed issues faced by local companies and looked at effective ways to deal with our current challenges. This forum gave the Minister for Defence Issues, the Hon. Paul Papalia CSC MLA, WA Defence Advocate RADM (Rtd), Raydon Gates AO CSM, the department’s recently appointed Director General, Richard Sellers, and I  first hand insights  to help advocate for WA’s defence industry and provide a united voice to the Commonwealth. 

Further, there is also high level engagement between the Commonwealth, states and territories. This includes a weekly phone conversation with the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon. Melissa Price MP, and the Deputy Secretary of the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, Tony Fraser.  In addition to this there is also a weekly conference call with the states and territories hosted by Dr Sheridan Kearnan, First Assistant Secretary Defence Industry Policy.

WA’s Defence Advocate RADM (Rtd) Raydon Gates is a lead participant in these meetings and reports this information back through the Defence West newsletter. This effective communication ensures that as the impacts of COVID-19 evolve, the WA defence industry is being kept informed on how the Commonwealth is implementing strategies to minimise the impact on local companies.

Another way JTSI is responding to COVID-19 is by actively seeking businesses with the capability to manufacture and supply health equipment, including ventilators, and personal protective equipment. Defence West has reached out to its network to ensure the defence industry can get involved if they can. 

Grant Support

The Defence Science Centre, another key initiative under the WA Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan, has been operating for around 12 months now and is working with our universities and industry to deliver integrated solutions for the defence sector. 

The centre has just opened applications for the second round of funding for their Collaborative Research Grants. These grants support partnerships between universities, industry and government to undertake research on technologies and innovations that are relevant to defence industry.

In times like these, innovation is critical and these grants are just one way of showing our commitment to supporting local research which can grow economic resilience. Defence West will continue to support  WA’s defence industry and help our stakeholders deal with COVID-19.Please continue to reach out to us if you have concerns or would like Defence West to advocate on your behalf. Your ongoing support for Team WA will increase our state’s contribution to Defence capability in the national interest.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s only, and do not necessarily represent the views of WA DEFENCE REVIEW.

About Matt Moran

Matt Moran is the inaugural Executive Director of Defence West. He was previously a senior advisor to the former Minister for Defence and Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne, where he worked on Defence’s most complex projects. Prior to this he was a media advisor to former PM Malcolm Turnbull. Matt worked as a federal political reporter with Network Ten from 2011 to 2015 and was awarded a prestigious Walkley Award. He is also an Army Reservist who has deployed to East Timor and Afghanistan as a public affairs officer.

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