Article – Second Annual Northern Australia Defence Summit

17 March 2015
Nigel Pittaway
Australian Defence Magazine
Supporters included Platinum Sponsors Sitzler, Gold Sponsor Aspen Medical, Lanyard Sponsor Transfield Services, Lunch Sponsor Land Development Corporation, Legal Sponsor Clayton Utz and Supporting Sponsor Aecom. Indoor displays from Defence Health, NT Land Development Corporation and Point Trading Group were available for inspection during breaks.
The major themes of the day and a half-long event included the NT’s vision for infrastructure, the footprint of Defence in Northern Australia and the issues of maintaining a viable defence industry in Australia’s remote north.
Top End Perspective
Chaired by Aecom’s Andrew Newman, day one began with a keynote ministerial address from Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the NT.
Giles said Defence is a key economic driver of the NT economy and noted the Federal Government wanted to develop Northern Australia as part of a nation-building program to secure the national economy into the next century.
He also noted the recent Pivot North report recommended consideration of moving additional Defence assets to northern Australia in accordance with the forthcoming White Paper.
Infrastructure developments recommended included upgrade of the Territory’s road network, the feasibility study of a rail link between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek, and upgrade of port facilities.
Giles said that recent Pitch Black and Kakadu exercises injected over $25 million into the local economy, noting the Territory has some of the biggest military training areas in the country.
“As our influence in the Asia-Pacific region grows into the future, so too will the need to train our friends to the north and that will involve significant spending here in the Northern Territory,” he said.
He also noted a need to grow local industry to take advantage of future opportunities and said he would visit the US next year to encourage the Marines to use local suppliers wherever possible.
“I recognise that we are lacking in capacity in local industry and we have to work very closely and diligently about how we strategically increase capacity in the local environment, but also work collectively with Australian and international defence forces to support an expansion here in the Territory,” he concluded.
Defence in the North
Speakers from across Defence focussed on issues such as the increasing Defence footprint in the north, the Force Posture Initiatives with the US and the major challenges ahead.
Commodore Brenton Smyth, Commander Northern Command and Deputy Commander of JTF639 (Operation Resolute) said the building of a sustainable and productive defence industry in Northern Australia is far more challenging than it seemed.
Air Commodore Ankers Brodesen, program manager, US Force Posture Initiatives noted the current Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) will increase to a full MAGTF of 2,500 personnel by 2020.
“We have a direction from Government for a mature state by 2020 and the next six years is going to be a lot of work,” he predicted. “Defence is keen to understand the NT’s construction capacity to complete facilities.”
Lieutenant Colonel Darryl Bridgeman, deputy commander of Army’s 1st Brigade presented an overview of structural changes undertaken under Plan Beersheba.
“Beersheba is the broadest, deepest change in Army in a generation,” he said. “It affects basically everything.”
Progress so far includes the restructure of Brigade Headquarters, relocation of 102 Battery from Adelaide to Darwin; restructure of the 1st Armoured Regiment into an Armoured Cavalry Regiment (ACR), including raising an APC Squadron in Adelaide.
Industry in the Top End
Sitzler’s Michael Rinaudo, who also chaired day two of the summit, joined with Matt Thomson from Jacobs in a case study of the NT construction industry’s capacity to respond to urgent infrastructure requirements.
The two companies collaborated to provide modular sleeping accommodation (MSA), headquarters and logistics facilities and an open shelter gymnasium at Robertson Barracks and MSA, ablution and laundry facilities at RAAF Darwin to support the increased 2014 MRF-D rotation.
Jacobs were engaged as project managers in May 2013, with project completion required prior to the MRF-D arrival in February 2014. Construction had to be undertaken through the wet season and the $14 million project was delivered in just 263 days.
“We had to make decisions collectively and accept some risk for and on behalf of Defence. We also had to leverage trust and experience in the subcontracting space,” Thomson said.
Other industry presentations included the development of a service industry in Northern Australia, by Derek Osborn of Transfield Services; a case study of the relocation of US forces in the Pacific and implications for the Territory by Aecom’s Rick Fernandez and an overview of Aspen Medical’s activities, particularly in remote communities, by Craig Fitzgerald.
Courtesy of Australian Defence Magazine