The defence industry minister has challenged the UK to purchase more Australian-made military equipment such as Bushmasters given British companies have won billions of dollars of recent contracts here, including the lucrative Hunter-class frigate program.
Frustration is growing inside government and industry that the United Kingdom has so far failed to deliver on expectations of doing more business with Australia, since British-owned company BAE secured the $35 billion future frigate deal in 2018.
Minister Pat Conroy revealed he raised the topic directly with his British counterpart Alex Chalk, the minister for defence procurement, during a visit to the UK last week.
“I pointed out that we’re buying an awful lot of equipment from the United Kingdom at the moment, and they do buy some Australian equipment, but we’d always like them to buy more and support more Australian jobs,” Mr Conroy said.
“We talked about a range of topics including Bushmasters and opportunities there.”
With expectations growing that Australia might soon announce it is acquiring British-designed nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS partnership, Mr Conroy said he pressed his counterpart on what the UK could also buy from its security partner.
“AUKUS is much more broader than just submarines, AUKUS is about building industrial collaboration across the three countries (Australia, UK and US) to expand all our industry bases, so I would expect and hope that we would do more business with the United Kingdom,” he said.
“There’s great opportunities in a number of supply chains in [the] defence industry, where we produce some components and they produce others and we can come together to improve supply-chain resilience for both countries”.
The minister has cited the more than decade-long supply of Australian-made components to the UK nuclear submarine industry as an example of the high-end local defence industry work that should be expanded on.
Last week Mr Conroy also met the UK’s minister for the Indo-Pacific, and former defence procurement minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who during a visit to Canberra last month struggled to explain why her nation had not purchased more from Australia.
“That’s a really interesting discussion,” told the National Press Club in January.
“I think the visibility of the sorts of things we might want to buy are ones that we need to work on together.”
When the Turnbull government awarded the future frigate program to BAE Systems there was widespread anticipation that the UK would choose the Australian-made Bushmaster MR6 for its Multi-Role Vehicle Protected (MRVP) program but it was not selected.
The ABC has been told the former prime minister informally agreed to more Australian military exports to the UK during a 2018 meeting with then British prime minister Theresa May at her official retreat Chequers.
Other locally developed products that Australian defence companies hope to export to the United Kingdom in the future include the CEAFAR radar for warships, gun sights from Canberra-based company EOS and the Ghost Bat unmanned aircraft first unveiled in 2019.
Source : ABC News