• VCDF VADM David Johnston addressing delegates at the ADM Congress. C: Ewen Levick
    VCDF VADM David Johnston addressing delegates at the ADM Congress. C: Ewen Levick
  • CASG head Tony Fraser speaking at the ADM Congress. C: David Jones
    CASG head Tony Fraser speaking at the ADM Congress. C: David Jones

The 16th annual ADM Congress attracted over 500 delegates from across the broad spectrum of Defence, industry and government. The 2019 event was held for the first time in Canberra’s Playhouse Theatre, reflecting the increasing popularity of the one-day forum.

As with previous iterations, keynote speakers from government, Defence and industry discussed a wide-range of topics, including advice for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) on working in the Defence sector, how to transition technology into export sales, and the importance of building an Indigenous Defence sector.

With a federal election on the near horizon however, the first two presentations, delivered by the Minister for Defence Industry Steve Ciobo and Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles, provided delegates with an insight into what each of the major political parties has on offer for Defence and defence industry.

In the opening address of the 2019 Congress, Ciobo pointed to the present government’s track record and he predicted that the holy grail of two per cent of GDP for Defence spending is on track to be achieved in the 2020-2021 financial year, two years earlier than initially forecast.

He also invited delegates to consider the ramifications of the looming election. “I think, and I would suggest to you, the forthcoming election will be a pivotal moment when it comes to Australian defence industry,” he said.

Looking to the near future, Ciobo said that he is looking at a new policy to lower the threshold for Australian Industry Content (AIC) requirements from the current $20 million benchmark down to four million dollars.

“We will release inside the next four to eight weeks the Defence policy for industry participation, and this will [set] Australian and local industry requirements to all acquisitions above four million dollars to make sure that we continue to include Australian industry,” he promised.

In the second keynote address, Richard Marles told delegates that the Labor Party was “completely committed” to the development, sustainment and the fostering of an Australian defence industry.

“Central to the idea of having a sustainable defence industry in this country is that defence industry is engaged in the act of export. I’m not sure that it makes sense to say that we have a defence industry in this country unless it is engaged in export,” he said. “A defence industry is actually a really deep decision of a nation, it speaks to who we are as a people, it speaks to what our country is about and what it seeks to do in the world.”

Marles called for the development of a strategic rational for an Australian defence industry. “It needs to be sustainable, long-term act of government – Labor and Liberal – because defence industry is long-term and needs to transcend governments,” he said. Finally, he said that the commitment to increase Defence spending to the two per cent of GDP target had “bipartisan support”.

The Defence side of the spectrum at the 2019 Congress was represented by addresses from Vice Admiral David Johnston, Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF), VADM Michael Noonan, Chief of Navy, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, Chief of Army and Deputy Secretary of CASG Tony Fraser.

Following sessions included panel discussions on potential export opportunities, innovation and collaboration in developing defence capability, the value of industry organisations such as the Australian Industry Group (AIG), Australian Defence Alliance Victoria and the Australian Industry Defence Network (AIDN) and the value of building an indigenous defence sector.

No ADM Congress would be complete without an entertaining scrutiny of the Defence budget and Defence spending overall and this year it was provided by ASPI’s senior analyst, Dr Marcus Hellyer.

Finally, the finalists for this year's Essington Lewis awards were announced (with the full list available here), and the 2019 Women in Defence Awards were formally launched.

A detailed review of the 2019 event will appear in the April issue of ADM.

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