• Major General Simon Stuart, Head Land Capability, speaking to delegates at ADM Congress 2021.
Roya Ghodsi
    Major General Simon Stuart, Head Land Capability, speaking to delegates at ADM Congress 2021. Roya Ghodsi

The 2021 ADM Congress brought speakers and delegates together at a Covid-safe event at the National Convention Centre in Canberra yesterday, which for many (including the ADM team) was the first return to a face-to-face format since the pandemic began.

At a drinks event at the Hyatt on Tuesday night, delegates were introduced to the new Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O’Connor, who spoke on the importance of a strong defence industry and his intent to maintain a largely bipartisan approach to the sector.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, who was due to speak in person before she was required to self-isolate following the snap lockdown in Perth, opened proceedings with a video message instead.

Minister Price spoke about the government’s support for industry after the pandemic began, particularly through accelerated invoice payments but also through direct contact with key players.

“Supporting defence industry throughout Covid-19 has been my highest priority,” Minister Price said. “That's why I hosted weekly calls with primes, SMEs, and others to hear problems and provide quick solutions."

Minister Price also highlighted the importance of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan for defence industry, both in terms of the business opportunities within and the wider undercurrents of geopolitical change that the documents reflect.

Major General Simon Stuart, speaking on behalf of Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr, made the same point.

“Our strategic environment is one of perpetual cooperation, competition and conflict,” MAJGEN Stuart said. “We need to make sure our Defence enterprise is fit for purpose - turning intent and purpose into capability."

MAJGEN Stuart also spoke about the importance - from an industry point of view - of thinking of Army as a ‘system of systems’.

“A warship is a system of systems combined in a single hull,” MAJGEN Stuart said. “Army capability is delivered at the point of need by scalable teams. They too are a system of systems. Focusing on one part - a vehicle or a helicopter - is to miss the point entirely."

Next up was Tony Dalton, Deputy Secretary of National Naval Shipbuilding for Defence, who announced the forthcoming release this year of the Shipbuilding and Sustainment Plan as a follow-up to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which was brought about by the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.

Dalton also said that shipbuilding in Australia is now a truly continuous effort, with design efforts already planned to replace the Hobart class destroyers, the last of which only joined RAN service in 2020.

“Ship 10 of the continuous build at Osborne will be the replacement of HMAS Hobart,” Dalton said. “That's a positive sign supporting continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia."

However, Dalton did acknowledge pandemic-related delays.

“We have seen delays, as you'd have seen in the arrival of our first Supply replenishment ship, which is 6 months behind schedule,” Dalton said. “The second will arrive in the next few months.”

Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro delivered an impassioned speech on her priorities and how she sees Australian research capability plugging into defence capability.

“I have a passion to make sure Australian research is done in the knowledge of how it can be applied - how it can be used by the end user, the ADF,” Professor Monro said. “We'll be putting more focus on rapid prototyping, partnering with companies and universities, and we're working in a new way with our international and Five Eyes partners to align our areas of priority."

Professor Monro highlighted DSTG’s partnership with PMB Batteries to research a nickel-zinc battery for the Collins and Attack class submarines as an example, as well as their strategic alliance with Gilmour Space to develop Australia’s first sovereign orbital launch capability by 2022.

Richard Cho, managing director of Hanwha Defense Australia, spoke after morning tea on his company’s experience in readiness through supplying the South Korean military, which has been on a war footing since 1953 – providing platforms for operational use as soon as possible.

Managing director of Rheinmetall Defence Australia Gary Stewart followed with an overview of how his company is plugging their local suppliers into global supply chains, focusing on the examples of Bisalloy Steels and Milspec.

Marcus Hellyer of ASPI, a regular feature at ADM events, covered the growing size of the defence budget and what it means for industry, followed by Dr Ben Greene of EOS on the meaning of sovereignty and how Australia is ‘failing’ on the resiliency front.

The rest of the day was equally packed, with presentations and talks from Andrew Foster of Downer Defence Systems; Dr John Coyne of ASPI; Matthew Wilson, CEO of Penten; Commodore Michael Turner, Director General Defence Exploration Force for Defence; Karen Stanton, owner and director of the HTA group of companies; Gareth Molnar, CEO of J3Seven; Tim Pickford, director of business development and strategy for Hanwha Defense Australia, and more.

Full coverage of the event will be available in the March/April edition of the magazine.

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