Following recent inquiries conducted across the state, the NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on State Development has released a comprehensive discussion paper as it seeks stakeholder views on opportunities to incentivise and grow the local defence industry and maximise economic development.
The Committee is due to make its report by June 2018, with reference to the NSW: Strong, Smart and Connected Defence and Industry Strategy 2017.
In his foreword, Committee chair and Member of the Legislative Council Greg Pearce wrote that an essential focus for Defence NSW is to ensure the state remains the leader in complex systems integration and sustainment.
“This can be achieved by targeting major defence projects that align with these areas of expertise, including basing and sustaining the future submarines (Sea 1000) on the east coast of NSW.”
Stakeholders are calling for the NSW Government to take the lead in delivering a coordinated approach to defence related advocacy and to prioritise projects which align with its key areas of advantage. They are also concerned about the readiness of many of the 6,500 SMEs for export market opportunities as well as the future availability of a highly skilled workforce.
With regard to basing of future submarines, Defence NSW director Commodore Peter Scott (Retd) advised the committee that he thought there were ‘very strong prospects for east coast basing of submarines in the future’ and that there were very ‘logical arguments’ to support this position.
“I think that if Defence sees that they will be supported by the State Government wherever they look to base any class of ship, that is the best that we can offer. It might be that they decide to operate the submarines from a port such as Newcastle and smaller vessels from a port such as Port Kembla.”
The discussion paper acknowledged observations that had been presented to the inquiry which suggested the NSW Government had been historically equivocal in supporting Defence. Scott said in response that the release of the strategy and the establishment of Defence NSW made the Government's commitment evident and on an ‘upward path’.
Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins told the inquiry that each state needed to focus on its strengths: “If NSW were to capture its fair share [of smart systems and sustainment work] it would drive investment and employment well beyond the time frame of individual programs and would generate second and third order economic benefits for the NSW economy”.
The Committee is seeking to more clearly understand the potential benefits of an aerospace precinct at the future Western Sydney Airport. Strategies to maximise export opportunities, better understand NSW defence industry capabilities and collaborate more closely with the ACT are all under consideration. While acknowledging that a workforce equipped for future challenges with adequate qualification in STEM capabilities is essential to support the defence industry, the Committee conceded it had only received limited information on what actions were being undertaken by the NSW Department of Education and other educational providers to promote STEM across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
“We therefore invite further submission from stakeholders on what actions the NSW Government can take to promote and generate interest in STEM subjects, as well as submissions on what actions NSW’s educational providers are currently undertaking in this area.”
The closing date for submissions via the committee website or by email to the Committee director is 12 February 2018.