THE Hunter is the the only region in Australia able to make a significant contribution to national defence in air, on land and sea due to its “unique configuration of defence related assets”, a key summit has been told.
The annual Hunter Defence Conference on Friday at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley drew shadow defence minister Richard Marles, Air Marshall John Harvey, Newcastle CEO Peter Cock and other dignitaries.
Extolling the region’s defence capability, HunterNet chief executive Tony Cade noted the significant “strategic, long-term” investments around Newcastle port by Civmec and Thales Australia.
Mr Marles said there would be no “meaningful” national defence industry unless SMEs in regions like the Hunter were engaged.
“Both Defence and prime contractors need to be much better at engaging with small and medium businesses and getting them into supply chains,” he said.
“Labor is determined to work with organisations like HunterNet to make sure the economic benefit of Defence bases is felt by the communities they’re a part of.”
Mr Cade said it was significant that the first of the fleet of 72 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets commissioned by the federal government would be based in Williamtown.
“Associated with that investment are significant upgrade in investment plans for Singleton Army Barracks, he said.
The 9th annual defence conference discussed themes including NSW government defence initiatives, defence industry export opportunities and commercialisation of defence-related innovation.