NIOA calls for defence industry action plan


The Group CEO of the biggest Australian-owned supplier of military munitions has laid out a detailed plan to mobilise the nation’s defence industrial base, emphasising “it’s time for urgency, optimism and action”.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra, NIOA Group CEO Robert Nioa released a report which calls on the Australian Government to implement a ‘national defence industry policy’, including setting aside $500 million in the May 2024 budget to buy from Australian owned companies.

The 60-page report – jointly commissioned by Gilmour Space Technologies, Austal, Macquarie Technology Group, the NIOA Group and the Australian Industry & Defence Network (AIDN) – makes recommendations to fast-track sovereign capability by harnessing the collective power of Australian-owned defence primes and SMEs.

The plan calls for:

  • Funding of $500 million, growing to $1b a year, in the Defence budget to acquire capabilities and services from Australian SMEs
  • An urgent review of acquisition policies with a commitment to buy from Australian-owned and run companies
  • An ‘Australian Defence Industry Steering Council’ to collaborate with Defence and the ADF
  • And growing direct partnerships with Australian companies and changing core equipment processes.

With the release early next year of a Defence Industry Development Strategy, Nioa said industry was ready and willing to step up.

“Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” he said, echoing British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s plea to the US in 1941.

“In this case the tools are the conditions that will allow strong Australian owned and run defence prime companies to emerge.”

NIOA warned that relying upon allied supply chains, especially in times of conflict, was risky.

“Even our most trusted security partners will be stretched in the event of a regional war.

“So, Australia must have more independent capacity to defend ourselves and to be a strong partner with our allies in collective defence.

“To be clear, independent capability and industrial collaboration with our allies are not competing objectives, they can certainly be one in the same.”

Nioa said that foreign-owned defence primes and Foreign Military Sales had a key role in what the Defence Strategic Review described as ‘accelerated preparedness’.

But he said sourcing strategies needed to align with homegrown capabilities and services -what he referred to as the ‘consumables of conflict’, including drones, shipbuilding, communications and data storage, munitions and traditional supplies such as fuel.

Picture: Roberts Nioa

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