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Australian Industry Defence Network


Kerryn Smith is a great believer in the Northern Territory’s ability to become a regional military maintenance and supply hub.

She is the chief executive of the NT chapter of the Australian Industry and Defence Network, which is playing a pivotal role in bringing Territory business and Defence together.

The Defence Department is spending approximately $20 billion over the next 20 years to strengthen the military presence in the Territory.  This includes US-based work. Ms Smith believes an economy-changing slice of that money can be earned by NT companies.

AIDN-NT membership has doubled over the past 18 months.

It has set up three strategic business alliances:

  • Maritime maintenance, service and support
  • Aerospace maintenance, service and support
  • Base support services

Ms Smith, who sits on the AIDN national board, an indication of the Territory’s important Defence role, says NT companies can work within the alliances or supply to them to prove and increase their capabilities.

“These alliances allow industry to take the lead by being more solutions focused with customers, better service existing projects in our region and pursue new investment opportunities for the NT.”

She says NT businesses can compete for contracts – big and small – in many ways, particularly in the early building and civil construction work at the start of a project and later in supply and maintenance services for Defence platforms and bases.

Neil Campbell, supply chain project manager of ASC Shipbuilding, BAE Systems Australia, updated local suppliers on the opportunities during the Hunter Class Frigate program’s prototyping phase, which commences in December 2020.

“We can go on from here to become involved in national work and then international work. There is no reason why we shouldn’t become a strategic stepping stone to and from the north and south as a regional hub for Defence work.”

The work opportunities on offer are increasing as capital upgrade projects come online.

With six of the 12 new offshore patrol boats earmarked to be based in Darwin, this should align to crucial work associated with the $400 million ship lift being built at East Arm.

And RAAF Base Tindal in Katherine will be used as a forward base for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Triton Unmanned Aerial System, which will also require service and supply support.

About $800 million is already being spent in Darwin to upgrade Larrakeyah Barracks and HMAS Coonawarra.

Ms Smith says the early phases of Defence work are obviously lucrative – but the benefits of the so-called sustainment phase, supporting and maintaining bases, are greater simply because they last much longer.

“Qualifying for Defence work makes sense for the longer term.”

Much of the Defence work gained by Territory companies is likely to be as subcontractors to prime contractors or in joint ventures.

“Being a part of the AIDN-NT alliances as part of its membership will put suppliers on the front foot,” Ms Smith says.

“The alliances will collectively combine capabilities and increase the capacity of the region to service bigger opportunities.”

As civil construction and base support work increases, companies such as Sitzler and Broadspectrum will gain a great deal from working with the Alliances.

AIDN-NT, which is sponsored by the Territory Government, runs workshops, seminars and one-on-one advice sessions for local businesses on supplier readiness, business innovation and doing business with the US Defense.

For further information, contact Kerryn Smith at TQ