• Artists impression of new facilities at RAAF Base Williamtown for the F-35A. Credit: Coffey
    Artists impression of new facilities at RAAF Base Williamtown for the F-35A. Credit: Coffey

Katherine Ziesing | Newcastle

HunterNet, a Defence advocacy group for Defence companies in and around the Hunter region of NSW, held its conference this week in Newcastle.

Opening the proceedings was NSW Minister for Industry Resources and Energy Anthony Robert who acknowledged that the state government approach to Defence had been hit and miss over the last decade but was changing.


"Of the $500 billion NSW economy, Defence contributes $8 billion."


“Defence contributes $5.5 billion to the NSW economy each year and employs 30,000 people,” Roberts said. ”For the Hunter, Defence plays a crucial role in the region’s economy.

“As part of our efforts to boost the Hunter’s Defence sector, we’re also supporting the establishment of an Innovation Defence Hub at the Williamtown Aerospace Centre. The University of Newcastle was awarded $1 million to lead development of the hub.”

New NSW Defence advocate Air Marshal (Retd) John Harvey emphasised that the state government is looking to put more effort and emphasis on Defence thanks to a change in leadership and recognition that Defence is a growth area nationally.

Perhaps the reasons for this lack of performance comes down to sheer numbers and KPMG’s Mike Kalms put them into stark context

“Of the $500 billion NSW economy, Defence contributes $8 billion,” he outlined. “Even if the government does nothing, 25 per cent of the national Defence spend goes to NSW in the form of bases, their associated assets and people along.”

In essence, even if NSW does nothing, they still do quite well out of the Defence dollar.

Kalms said that the NSW narrative when it comes to Defence needs to be a regional one.

“The jobs that Defence provides are usually high tech, have a high economic multiplier effect and are able to spin off into adjacent industries,” he said.

First Assistant Secretary Defence and Industry Policy Division Kate Louis and Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) Andrew Garth were eloquent on what industry can bring to the table. They both acknowledged that the CDIC has a lot of work to do, and is well on its way to achieving a number of goals, but said it cannot be everything to everyone.

One of the better-known Hunter companies in the mix has been the Forgacs shipbuilding/repair business. Since WA firm Civmec bought most of the company last year, the future of the business has been front of mind for new managing director Mike Deeks.

He outlined plans to upgrade and expand the Tomago site, with new sheds and a ship lift capability in the works. Civmec will keep the Forgacs name for all shipbuilding efforts with a Forgacs branded site to open next to its Civmec headquarters in WA in the near future.

Details of how the First Principles Review, the new capability life cycle, and wider One Defence program are bedding down were provided by Air Vice Marshal Mel Hupfield, head of force design, and CASG’s head of joint Rear Admiral Tony Dalton with a program update from one half of the Plan Jericho Twins Group Captain Pete Mitchell.

Representatives from BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin looked at the various programs of work that they have in the area as well as future SME engagement opportunities in terms of F-35 and emerging acquisition and sustainment programs.

The day and a half program was very strong in terms of speakers with the 80-person strong audience making the most of the Q&A sessions. It was particularly excellent to see the NSW Minister hang around for over half an hour to take questions.

Note: ADM Editor Katherine Ziesing chaired the event as a guest of HunterNet.

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