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Local businesses in the running for Defence contracts

An Australian Army soldier from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, fires at the enemy during a night contact at Shoalwater Bay Training Area as part of Exercise Hamel 2018.

Ipswich businesses have been assured they stand every chance of securing Defence industry contracts under the Federal Government’s new procurement guidelines.

Dr Sheridan Kearnan, First Assistant Secretary Defence Industry Policy, spoke at an AIDN/Ipswich City Council breakfast on Thursday about the Defence Policy for Industry Participation and how the policy is designed to make it easier for local companies to compete for work in the Defence sector.

The policy was only introduced this year and two new ministers in the re-elected Morrison Government, Senator Linda Reynolds (Minister for Defence) and Melissa Price (Minister for Defence Industry), who were only sworn in this week, had yet to be fully briefed on their new portfolios.

“It is still early days but we are already seeing benefits and some success in Ipswich,” Dr Kearnan told the 120-strong audience at the Ipswich Civic Centre.

She outlined how 52 contracts worth $32.4 million had been awarded to businesses located at RAAF Base Amberley – and 48 per cent had gone to the local industry.

“There has been a lot of work go to local businesses involved in the Defence industry. We have a great relationship with Ipswich,” Dr Kearnan said.

Nearly 10 per cent of all employment in Ipswich is in the Defence industry and associated supply chain and the Defence industry generates over $1.3 billion in export value for the local economy.

State Director of Austrade Janelle Casey, Ipswich City Council CEO David Farmer, RAAF Base Amberley SADFO Air Commodore Veronica Tyler, Department of Defence First Secretary Dr Sheridan Kearnan and AIDN Qld President Carl Quarterman.

Council, which hosted the Queensland Defence Summit: Ipswich 2018 at Springfield Central last November, released its Defence Industry Strategy document at the event outlining how the city aims to be the preferred location for Defence and industry in Australia, a region-wide model with an exceptional reputation for defence capability, innovation and success.

Council’s General Manager of Economic Development Ben Pole said then the strategy recognises the importance of defence to the region’s community and economic prosperity.

“The Department of Defence is allocating around $195 billion for investment in new and enhanced capabilities. Defence Ipswich positions our region to better link the government’s capability needs with the defence industry’s capacity to deliver,” he said.

Dr Kearnan said Commonwealth policy prevented direct preference for local companies in procurement, but they were certainly given equal opportunity with state, national and international tenders.

First Assistant Secretary Defence Industry Policy Dr Sheridan Kearnan.

Answering a question from the floor, she said while the government most often went with best value for taxpayers, that did not rule out locally made products which might be slightly more expensive.

She said there was a misconception that Defence hardware was cheaper and/or better if made overseas, citing the recent $5 billion Land Forces contract which was awarded to Rheinmetal Australia to build more than 200 armoured vehicles in Ipswich.

“It still has to be about value for money … but value is not just about dollars,” Dr Kearnan said.

She encouraged local Defence industry businesses to investigate sovereign and export grants, which included training, skilling and buying equipment, and to get involved in trade missions, which had recently seen Australian business export to South America.

The State Government’s head of Queensland Defence Industries Mal Lane said the government’s 10-year action plan focussed heavily on Ipswich.

Mr Lane said the new Federal Government policy setting cascaded down through state and local governments and it was “an opportunity for local SMEs to rethink their approach and help with their aspirations”.

He said the Queensland Government hoped for an additional 10,000 jobs in the local Defence industry within the next nine years with more than $10 million invested.

Council CEO David Farmer said ICC was working closely with Queensland Health to develop a health eco-system in the city and similarly would work towards a defence industry hub in Ipswich.

Ipswich First

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