Inaugural Launch Of The Strategy, Defence & Industry Dialogue Brings Together Industry Leaders

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As the Chair of the inaugural WA DEFENCE REVIEW’s Strategy, Defence & Industry Dialogue I was very impressed with the concept, the enthusiasm for the event, and with the execution of the Dialogue and its outcome. The format provided a forum for senior officials and decision makers across government, industry, defence and academia to come together under the Chatham House Rule to discuss key policy and strategic themes affecting Western Australia and the Commonwealth Government more generally. The number of distinguished practitioners – international, national and local who gathered for the inaugural Dialogue at the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce was significant and a testament to the hard work of WA DEFENCE REVIEW. Significant topics such as the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region and WA’s place in it, force posture, space industry, workforce and innovation were all discussed in a free flowing dialogue with many different perspectives put forward and considered. The outcome is distilled in the Dialogue’s Summary of Proceedings published by WA DEFENCE REVIEW, which provides a point of reference for public debate and the basis of starting discussions for the many future Dialogues to follow.
– Raydon Gates AO CSM, Rear Admiral RAN (Rtd)
Defence Advocate, Government of Western Australia

Team WA calls for change! Australia should begin the process of pivoting its defence forces to WA to match changing regional conditions and risks. So says a group of Perth’s best and brightest, which met on 28 February to deliberate on policy and strategy in the defence sector. Billed as the inaugural ‘Strategy, Defence & Industry Dialogue’, the meeting was the first of its type under the auspices of WA DEFENCE REVIEW, being undertaken in partnership with the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, and involved senior officials and decision makers from across government, industry, defence and academia.

Replete with stalwart backing from WA industry, the Dialogue’s Diamond Sponsor was Edith Cowan University; while the Australian Marine Complex, KAEFER, Marine Technicians Australia and Sure People Solutions were Platinum Sponsors. The Gold Sponsors included Vescient, Specialty Metals, Watmarine Engineering and Maritime Defence Solutions. Finally, the Silver Sponsors encompassed American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham), Australia Africa Mining Energy Group (AAMEG), Innovate Australia and Subsea Energy Australia.

Planners often dismiss calls of this kind from States as an attempt to claim more economic benefit from the Defence budget, but, in fact, the Dialogue made a strong strategic case. The last two Defence White Papers and the 2016 Foreign Affairs White Paper acknowledge the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region, yet we do not see a commensurate change in force posture.

Three of the world’s most populous nations, China, India and Indonesia are in this region and growing rapidly in economic strength, which translates to both geo-political influence and military power. At the same time WA makes an out-sized contribution to the National wealth through its massive, world renowned resources projects, which lie exposed across Australia’s northern recesses. The Defence policy of WA ‘bare bases’ for use in emergencies is not seen as a solution to these permanently changing regional circumstances. An incremental shift westward of elements of the Nation’s armed forces needs to commence soon, as major relocations of capability will take time to achieve.

Participants were of the view that a shift in strategic thinking and planning toward WA is unlikely to occur without significant pressure being brought to bear by WA. To address this, the concept of a Team WA was suggested – a grouping of WA’s able and influential people who combine to advocate for change.

The Dialogue went on to discuss the nascent space industry in WA; and pointed to many potential commercial opportunities arising in this field of endeavour. Participants nominated fields such as space mining, in-space production of bio medicines, and space-related applications in existing industries such as agriculture, off-shore oil and gas, as possibilities for enterprising local firms. The advent of low cost ways of deploying micro satellite systems, it was noted, should spawn innovations yet to be conceived.

The WA workforce was another area of focus. In general, the Dialogue believed the trades workforce to be transferable between defence and resources industries, but, depending on the skill set involved, a period of adjustment and training augmentation could be required. WA should, therefore stay ahead of the game in terms of planning for skills requirements.

It is believed that South Australia, which will be receiving the bulk of naval shipbuilding contracts, will lack the numbers necessary to complete their projects and may well call upon skilled WA workers. In addition, it is possible that shipbuilding projects will be divided into large-blocks (or even super-blocks), which can be sub-contracted interstate. WA needs to follow the progress of these projects and be ready to bid for the work, forming alliances where necessary.

The Dialogue was a promising start to what is hoped will be an ongoing series of meetings bringing together the State’s best and brightest to discuss issues of importance to WA’s future. WA DEFENCE REVIEW said that in future it would be giving thought to holding a meeting in Canberra, or bringing key Canberra based people to meetings in WA.


“On behalf of the team at Edith Cowan University, I was very pleased to sponsor the inaugral Strategy, Defence & Industry Dialogue hosted by WA DEFENCE REVIEW and I commend the participants for their contributions. WA universities and industry have expertise, capacity and innovation to offer Defence for our national interests. We at ECU believe that working cooperatively as a Defence sector can best harness our collective strengths and provide a competitive advantage for WA.”

Dr Andrew Dowse, Director, Defence Research and Engagement, Edith Cowan University

About Terry Booth

Terry Booth is a Special Correspondent with WA DEFENCE REVIEW. He served in the WA public service advising on industry development, contracting with Defence and defence suppliers to supply training, and managing the former Defence Industry Skills Unit. He completed the Defence and Industry Study Course (DISC), and until recently was a board member of the WA chapter of the Defence Reserves Support Council, and also a member of AIDN-WA’s executive board for over 20 years where he was granted a life membership in recognition of his tireless service and commitment.

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