Yes we are picking defence industry winners – Pat Conroy


Defence industry minister Pat Conroy has openly called the government’s move from innovation policies of the previous government to one of picking winners.

Answering questions after a speech top the ASPI defence conference, Conroy said moves to link innovation grants more directly to purchasing decisions by Defence was picking winnners.

Conroy said: “We have to pick winners and we have to pick winners for two reasons – one, time demands that, we do not have the time for lots of blue sky ideas to bubble up.

“We’ve got a broader industrial ecosystem that supports that, we’ve got the CSIRO, we’re got the R&D tax incentive that…we’ve got our university ecosystem for that.

“We don’t have the time and we don’t have the resources to focus on that.”

Labour replaced defence innovation grants and an innovation hub which often did not lead to purchases with an Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA).

Conroy said the government had allocated more for defence innovation given the US spent about 13 per cent of its Defence budget on innovation, the UK eight per cent and Australia when Labour came to power three per cent.

Conroy said that with deteriorating strategic challenges, the government had decided to focus on things that can be deployed in four or five years to bring a sense of urgency and delivery.

“So I understand why people feel like we’re picking winners, we are, but I’ve also taken the message from industry, which is the second best answer after a yes is a fast no, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Conroy said an example was a project around sovereign uncrewed aerial system announced in August last year, quickly moving to a fly‑off in April, which will flow through to a funded project.

“So we’re moving at speed and part of that speed is being much more focused on what we can do in the here and now.”

Conroy said examples of systems to be introduced to defence in the near term were the Ghost Shark unmanned underwater vehicle, GIMLRS missile systems, general purpose frigates and HIMARS missile systems.

In his speech Conroy channelled legendary Australian wartime leader John Curtain’s 1943 speech which talked about how the government was re-shaping defence industry.

​”There are shades of the Curtin government’s determination and purpose in the Albanese Government’s commitments in Defence, which will rebuild the sovereign defence industry that is critical for our national security.

​”A strong commitment to our own sovereign defence industry is essential to the Government’s plan to deliver an integrated, focused defence force designed to address the nation’s most significant strategic risks.”

Conroy said building the sovereign defence industrial base had to be swift and it had to be effective, so it had to be targeted to areas of strategic priority.

“That means Defence will become a much more active partner with industry, supporting businesses to increase their scale and competitiveness to enable them to deliver the Sovereign Defence Industrial Priorities.

“This approach will also move Australian businesses up the value chain, and lay the foundation for Australian businesses to be embedded into global supply chains. ”

Further reading:
Defence innovation to be linked to purchasing – Conroy
Defence innovation accelerator says – find me a leader to challenge the status quo


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