Updated 11:0am 11 Feb, 2020
“Let me be clear, Industry Voice recognises the need for the large foreign owned Prime Contractors to undertake major programs, and Industry Voice recognises that Australian companies must compete to ensure value for money for the Australian taxpayer,” Thomas Global Systems chairman and Industry Voice founder William Hutchinson said in launching the group at Parliament House this week.
“Industry Voice also recognises that the Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG) has a requirement to ensure that these programmes are delivered to agreed costs and agreed schedules. However, we believe that Australian owned companies are more than capable of making low risk, cost effective schedule driven contributions to these massive programs.
“Our members have turned out in force today because they recognise it is now or never in terms of getting a genuine and enforceable Australian Industry Capability (AIC) policy. Our immense defence programs have the potential to massively upskill Australia’s workforce and technical knowhow, but only if we have a truly measurable and enforceable AIC policy.”
And with that, the first shots in holding prime companies to account in terms of the $200 billion recapitalisation program from the Liberal government were fired.
Born of frustration from a growing number of Australian owned and operated SMEs, the group has membership of about 30 companies. The founding members are Thomas Global systems, HI Fraser Group, Redarc, Sage, Bridon, Quickstep and Cablex.
The aim is to deliver genuine, measurable and enforceable AIC to the SME community with a focus on companies that the group defines as ‘operational sovereignty’; companies that are owned and run in Australia with the decision making and asset base under the control of Australians.
“Our role is twofold,” according to Industry Voice CEO Brent Clark. “Help CASG and educate industry. We want to work with all players to get better outcomes in terms of operational sovereignty.”
Minister for Defence Industry spoke at the launch of the group, revealing that her 100-day review of her portfolio has seen her develop five priorities that she wants to address (in no particular order):
- Enhance CASG performance delivery to be a ‘strong client’.
- Expand small business access to Defence.
- Increase the number of exporting Australian businesses.
- Build Australia’s skilled defence industry workforce.
- Ensuring Defence’s grants, innovation, science and technology programs are contributing to enhancing ADF capability.
She has instructed the diarchy along these lines to deliver this vision. As part of the drive she announced that the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) will undergo a second review as she is still not happy with the performance of the body.
“We’re waiting for people to walk through the CDIC door when we should be dragging them through it,” she said, confirming that she wants to see more regional businesses engage with the body.
Minister Price also confirmed that independent audits on all AIC plans for major programs will be undertaken to make sure that primes are delivering as promised on these plans. And that there will be significant consequences for failure to comply, she said.
Graeme Dunk also presented data from his research into operational sovereignty based on an examination of longitudinal AusTender data, a topic he is currently exploring in his PhD at ANU. A copy of his speech can be found here.