Three industry associations in WA are seeking to help local businesses win defence work.
A recently formed industry association hopes to help small and medium sized businesses compete with the bigger end of town to win work on upcoming naval shipbuilding projects.
The Henderson Alliance was formed early in 2017, joining 24 other industry related associations on the BNiQ Search Engine list (see list page 15).
It is the third industry group targeting defence in Western Australia, joining the Australian Industry & Defence Network WA division, and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of WA’s defence industry council.
The state government has two initiatives – Defence West and an associated Defence Advocate role.
There are plenty of potential opportunities driving interest, with the most high profile being the $3 billion offshore patrol vessel project.
Ten vessels will be assembled at the Australian Marine Complex by a joint venture of Henderson contractor Civmec and German business Luerssen, to be known as the Australian Maritime Shipbuilding & Export Group.
Other Henderson activities include Austal’s build of the Pacific patrol boat program, BAE maintaining Anzac-class frigates, and ASC maintaining Collins-class submarines.
WA businesses will also be able to sub-contract for work on nearly $90 billion of frigate and submarine building, with assembly to take place in Adelaide.
Henderson Alliance co-founder Darryl Hockey, whose principal employment is as a business development consultant, said lessons needed to be learned from the resources construction boom, where smaller businesses missed out.
The alliance had been created so that problem would not be repeated, and work would be shared more fairly, he said.
Mr Hockey said there was a perception that AIDN WA was more weighted to prime and top-tier contractors, while the CCI group had lost a bit of steam amid staff changes.
CCI chief executive Chris Rodwell said its defence council had played a big role in Henderson’s selection for the offshore patrol vessel build, and $100 million being allocated to local defence infrastructure.
The council was now focused on supporting the Defence Advocate, he said.
Mr Hockey said Henderson Alliance had worked with AIDN WA and the Defence Teaming Centre, based in South Australia, to host training and networking events helping the network’s 56 members shape up for potential defence work.
“A number of them don’t have defence experience but they want to get into the defence space, they want to get defence ready,” he said.
“They want to learn about the industry, what they need to do to change their business to make them eligible.”
An example was in cybersecurity, Mr Hockey said, an area that required many smaller businesses to make major improvements before being considered for defence contracts.
But despite those challenges, WA had the expertise and the skills to deliver the work, he said.
“These guys have got some amazing skills and a lot of them were being dismissed by the eastern states,” Mr Hockey said.
“There was a perception they could never get themselves up to defence standards.
“It’s more like the other way around.
“Look at some of these gas processing facilities that have been built (up north), oil and gas platforms, people working underwater, there’s an enormous amount of technology and precision that’s required.”
Some of that technology could be brought from the resources sector into defence, Mr Hockey said.
Other factors in WA’s favour were that the government would benefit from contractors with diversified order books, because they would be more resilient, and an inability on South Australia’s part to carry out all the work.
“There isn’t the space and there isn’t the capability in SA to do it all; let’s start getting some modules and blocks built interstate, and they can still be assembled in SA,” Mr Hockey said.
“If they try to do it all there, they’re going to blow-out their schedule and their budgets pretty quickly.”
Last year’s largest industry association, CCI, has moved to second on this year’s BNiQ Search Engine list (see page 15).
“CCI staff numbers were reduced last year following the divestment of some business units as part of a refocus of our strategy,” CCI’s Mr Rodwell told Business News.
“In the coming year, CCI will roll-out its new strategic plan.
“This will involve a significant investment in innovation in order to extend its impact across WA.”
The Australian Medical Association is now number one, while REIWA, The Law Society of Western Australia and the Motor Trade Association are among others to have moved up the list .
Staff numbers in the top five associations fell 11 per cent, to 576, however.