South Australia - The Defence State Dinner

The Premier outlined his vision for Defence and defence industry in South Australia and engaged with key industry stakeholders at the Defence State Dinner. 

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Thank you, Sir Angus, for your introduction.

And can I express my appreciation to you for your continuing service to South Australia as Chair of our Advisory Board.

As well as the recently appointed Federal Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne, and the new Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, I also welcome the attendance tonight of senior Federal and State Parliamentary Opposition representatives.

It is important that to the extent possible, a bi-partisan approach continues as our nation further develops our defence capabilities and the industry supporting them.

This has particular significance because of the very long-term nature of the naval shipbuilding plan alone.

While my government may have some different priorities to our predecessor in how we go about supporting the defence industry, I nevertheless recognise in particular, the commitment of the former Premier, Jay Weatherill, and Peter Malinauskas as his leadership successor, to the continuing development of this vital industry here in South Australia.

In welcoming all of you to tonight’s South Australia – the Defence State Dinner, I trust those of you who have made your way from other parts of Australia and beyond, will enjoy your stay with us.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Land Forces 2018 - a pivotal event in the defence calendar.

It’s an excellent platform to meet other leaders and experts in the field to discuss the future of Defence innovation and showcase the best of Australia’s defence industry to the world.

This opportunity is particularly important for South Australia because of the increasing contribution our State is making to the Australian defence sector.

We are now building the capacity to become a significant international player as well through supply chain and export programs.

While the heart of Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding program may be in South Australia, I recognise this is a truly national endeavour with a national supply chain.

In the same vein, the Army’s flagship program, LAND 400, may have its heart elsewhere, but South Australian industry will be part of the national supply chain supporting it.   

South Australia is synonymous with progressive thinking, entrepreneurship and industry leadership.

We prioritise innovation.

For example, our State also has a rapidly growing space ecosystem, driven by forward-thinking entrepreneurs, companies and start-ups.

And there are strong synergies between our defence and space industries.

Both rely on advanced technologies and a skilled workforce.

Both are inspiring a new generation of young people to pursue careers in STEM.

As Premier, I have taken ministerial responsibility for the defence and space industries.

That’s because I believe these high-growth areas are key to the state’s future economic prosperity.

Not only because of defence and space projects in themselves.

But also the technological development they are encouraging which can be applied to pursuing other opportunities as well. 

This will create high-value jobs for South Australians and underpin our State’s economic transformation towards a future built on advanced manufacturing, knowledge-intensive and research-driven industries.

I’d like to take this opportunity to speak about what my government is doing to unlock the full potential of these industries for South Australians.

Workforce development, training and skills

We are committed to ensuring South Australia has the skilled workforce required to maximise emerging job opportunities.

Industry is telling us workforce development is now its main priority.

In response, my government is ensuring South Australia has a pipeline of skilled workers to fill the anticipated demand.

We are doing this by developing a comprehensive Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Strategy.

This strategy will provide a framework for engaging collaboratively with the Australian Government, industry and educational institutions to promote the opportunities that exist and provide responsive and meaningful curriculum and qualifications to those who aspire to join the industry.

Starting in schools, we will be supporting young South Australians to develop high-level trade, STEM and entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for careers in advanced manufacturing.

These skills are an essential ingredient in meeting future workforce demands and it is crucial we build a long-term supply of skilled workers.

Accordingly, we will create more than 20,000 additional work-based apprenticeships and traineeships over the next four years to support defence and also space and other sectors.

To further this goal, we are establishing a new technical college in Adelaide’s north-western suburbs.

The college will prepare students for work in the defence sector.

We are also reforming the training sector to create an industry-led skills and training system for South Australia.

To make sure we’re training people with the skills required by industry, we need the right advice from industry.

That’s why we’re establishing up to eight Industry Skills Councils in strategic priority areas across South Australia’s economy.

One of them will focus on the skills priorities of the defence industry.

As we train and skill more people, these new workers will need to learn from others and so we are determined to enrich the current workforce with experienced people.

As one way of doing this, we will assist ex-service personnel and veterans to move into new jobs in industry through the Defence Industry Employment Program.

The program will leverage the existing defence industry relationships of the Defence Teaming Centre to promote job opportunities within the sector and support our veterans to secure these roles.

Renewed focus on innovation

South Australia has a deep history of innovation and enterprise.

The military tank, long viewed as a British invention, was actually first conceived in 1912 by an Adelaide inventor - Lancelot Eldin de Mole.

In other fields, we can thank a young South Australian Chemist, Milton Blake, for concocting the first sunscreen in his Adelaide kitchen in 1932.

South Australian scientist Sir Howard Florey helped discover the properties of penicillin in 1941.

The Hills Hoist, still found in many Aussie backyards, was first manufactured in Adelaide by Lance Hill back in 1945.

Many of you will know that Australia’s first satellite, WRESAT, was launched from Woomera in South Australia’s north in 1967.

While South Australian, Dr John O’Sullivan, led the CSIRO team who invented WiFi in 1992.

South Australians take justified pride in our opportunity mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.

We are now building on this history and culture in expanding the defence sector and in our emerging space industry and other initiatives.  

We’re particularly keen to now capture the opportunities of space to continue to grow the economy and create jobs.

As I trust the Federal representatives here tonight will note, we have already done a great deal in developing a space industry here in South Australia.

All of this expertise is ready to plug into the new Australian Space Agency.

Our State has around 70 established space-related organisations, more than 800 highly skilled, cost-competitive workers and world-class digital infrastructure.

We have also established international partnerships and industry growth programs, including our Space Innovation Fund and strong partners in the SmartSat CRC bid. 

I am determined to ensure South Australia secures a central role in the successful running of the National Space Agency, so that our State can maximise the benefit from all the work we’ve done to date to ensure a connected and collaborative national approach.

Adelaide’s own Dr Andy Thomas, who became our nation’s first NASA astronaut, described it best when he said, South Australia has ‘all the things you need to have a burgeoning space industry.’

And of course, Defence can benefit directly from these investments in space technology.

The civilian space market provides diversification opportunities for the defence supply chain. 

We are working to redevelop the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, known as Lot Fourteen, into a future innovation hub for technology start-ups and entrepreneurs, including those in the defence industry.

Lot Fourteen, less than a kilometre from here in our CBD, will be a place where highly skilled and agile talent can thrive.

It will drive jobs in the fastest-growing industries including artificial intelligence, cyber security, smart sensor networks, robotics, big data, defence and space technologies.

Defence innovation and research and development is a key priority for South Australia’s broader defence strategy.

Through the Defence Innovation Partnership, we are helping to foster collaborative defence research activities.    

This joint initiative between the South Australian Government, the Australian Government through Defence Science & Technology, and the State’s three universities is connecting world-class researchers with industry.

It is providing funding support for joint research projects through the Collaborative Research Grants program.

Applications for the next round of the Collaborative Research Grants are now open.

I encourage you to spread the word to industry and researchers who may be interested in this exciting opportunity for collaborative research in defence-relevant innovation and invention.       

Government’s approach

Of course, research, collaboration, innovation and invention succeed best in a positive business environment that’s conducive to growth.

This is what my Government is determined to create.

Accordingly, we are establishing the South Australian Productivity Commission to provide advice on cutting red tape, removing regulatory barriers and supporting productivity growth.

This will help the government to more effectively support our small businesses and vital industry sectors, like defence and space, to grow and create jobs.

We are also providing tax relief across our first term, which will be the biggest in South Australia’s history.

It will return more than half a billion dollars to South Australian taxpayers – individuals, families, businesses, which will put opportunity in their hands to create their own future.

In all of this, it’s crucial that my government and the Australian Government are working in lockstep.

Having a good working relationship is particularly important in key areas of defence and space.

The current review into the management of Woomera’s testing and evaluation site here in South Australia is just one example of what can be achieved through collaboration. 

The Woomera Prohibited Area is an important strategic asset for the security of Australia and for further economic development in South Australia. 

This review will ensure the management framework is contemporary and appropriately supports Defence’s operations, and the needs of non-defence users.  


We certainly have great momentum in the defence and space sectors, which we must continue to build on.

It provides a unique opportunity to help transform our economy.

We must now focus on putting ourselves in the best position by building a culture of entrepreneurship and creating a skilled and flexible workforce ready to undertake these high-tech projects.

Thank you for letting me talk to you about just some of the great things now happening in South Australia.

I trust you have a great evening.

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