Chasing the defence dollars

20 January, 2017

Austal CEO David Singleton is buoyant about the outlook for the state’s defence sector, with the Federal Government’s Defence White Paper laying out an ambitious plan to boost spending in the sector by a massive $195 billion over the next decade.

“This is a new dawn, I guess, in the fact that the government’s committed itself to continuous shipbuilding manufacture,’’ Singleton says.

Register on the CCI-run WA Defence Directory, which will form the basis of a skills audit of existing industry in WA and inform government of WA’s skills capacity in the defence sector.

In March last year, Austal signed a $305 million contract to build and maintain 21 Pacific Patrol Boats for the Australian government, with construction due to begin at Henderson next year.

“That ability to have a constant workload through this facility for the next couple of decades allows us to not only have a reliability in terms of the business, but perhaps more importantly allows us to be confident about the long-term careers of people that work in defence shipbuilding in WA,” Singleton says

He particularly applauds the White Paper for its dual focus on using defence projects to expand the skills base of domestic industry and create new export opportunities.

Austal’s Pacific Patrol Boat build, for example, will mark the company’s first foray into continuous steel-hull manufacturing, after specialising in aluminium-hulled military catamarans for nearly two decades.

“It creates an experience base … and it opens a lot of export doors,’’ Singleton says.

It also positions Austal nicely for the upcoming tender process for 10 steel-hulled Offshore Patrol Vessels earmarked for WA.

The Defence White Paper includes $1.6 billion to fund innovation programs and state-based advisors to help SMEs into the defence supply chain.

The unprecedented new opportunities have seen many WA businesses repositioning to take advantage, with overlapping skill sets in resources and defence allowing them to pivot easily.

► Want to jump on board the defence supply chain? Register your business on the WA Defence Directory today.