You are chair of the new Hunter Defence task force which aims to bring more defence investment to the region. Why is this task force needed?
While there has been some good work done over the years by particular industry groups and advocates, there has never been a strong collective approach in articulating the region’s defence capability as a whole. Accordingly, the task force has been set up as a high-level advocacy and action group to promote the Hunter’s defence industry capability and drive more defence contracts and investment to the region. The Hunter Defence collaborative task force will represent the interests of existing and potential participants in the defence industry. It will focus on demonstrating the capability of established Hunter defence industry suppliers to Government and prime contractors, as well as upskilling local SMEs to become ‘defence ready’. The key will be articulating the Hunter’s ‘value proposition’ at a government, prime (contractor) and sub-contractor level. We have firms with excellent capability in the Hunter but that is only part of the equation; winning contracts is a competitive business that requires deep industry insight and high visibility with primes, defence stakeholders and government at all levels. The power of strong consolidated advocacy is very powerful tool in the defence business.
Who is on the task force?
It is represented by industry stakeholders in the region, including manufacturing and supply firms, industry networks, specialist consultants, advisors, educational institutions and government. These include RDA Hunter, HunterNet, Hunter Business Chamber, Australian Industry Group, Australian Industry Defence Network, Industry Capability Network NSW, HDSN Hunter Defence Support Network, University of Newcastle and TAFE. I chair the group with able assistance from key personnel from these groups. I am also ably assisted by Bede Boyle as the secretary and a close adviser in Dusko Bajic from ICN NSW.
And its brief?
It will seek to align local industry capabilities and capacities with coming opportunities and demonstrate the region’s supply chain capability. It is also about encouraging more SMEs to acquire advanced defence capability by facilitating education, training and advice. Most importantly, it will be a strong, unified voice promoting Hunter defence capability to primes, the Australian Defence Force and internationally in the defence supply chain and attracting defence contracts to the region.
It will be a strong and unified voice promoting Hunter defence capability to primes, the Australian Defence Force and internationally.Tim Owen
What are the main barriers for SMEs attempting to get a foothold into the defence sector?
Defence contracting can be a very daunting experience for SMEs. There are very particular and demanding quality systems that need to be in place within a business, companies need a strong understanding of the tendering process within defence, they need also to understand how primes want to work with supply chain SMEs and a strong understanding of the Defence Investment Plan.
How will the task force assist them to be more competitive?
It will work closely with Defence primes, the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) and experienced defence consultants to provide training to local SMEs in these critical areas. We will also be introducing a unique ‘teaming concept’ for local SMEs and primes producing a cogent set of opportunity-led team profiles and for the region to capture better defence economic outcomes.
How big a slice of the federal defence pie has the Hunter at the moment?
It is quite substantial. Clearly the recent arrival for the F-35 has significantly upped the opportunities, not only at a national defence level, but also at a regional level for countries operating this aircraft with our F-35 support hub here within the Hunter expected to play a significant role. There have also been some exciting contract opportunities awarded to a Varley joint venture within the Land 400 space, which will have flow-on to local SMEs; and with both Thales and Civmec acquiring capability in support of Naval systems, the region has wide ranging opportunity that it has not seen before.
You have a distinguished military background and you are a Member of the Order of Australia (Military Division). How will that enhance the task force?
As a former Air Force senior officer and having served in a number of areas within Defence, I hope to be able to assist in providing some guidance in the Australian Defence Force contracting processes, experience working with defence primes and advocating on behalf of our region within the national and international defence business. Importantly, it is going to be the experienced industry team around me who will be the greatest asset to the region.
This is your first public role after your resignation from parliament. How does it feel to be back in the spotlight?
I do what I can where I can provide assistance, expertise and advocacy! So in that context, it’s gratifying to again be in a role where I can use my experience and knowledge for the benefit of the community.