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Northern sovereign maritime sustainment

By John Coyne and Gill Savage

This special report explores the future of maritime sustainment in northern Australia through the lens of regional maintenance centres proposed under the Department of Defence’s Plan Galileo. Included in the report is consideration of the strategic environment and implications for the north, overview of the Australian Navy maritime sustainment, Plan Galileo, and discussion of US maritime sustainment model.

Maritime sustainment in Australia’s north presents far-reaching opportunities and new challenges for the Department of Defence, industry and local governments. Traditional Defence and industry models used in Australia’s southern states have less utility in the north if they aren’t adapted to the region’s unique economic context. As such, a deeper understanding of industry capability in the north coupled with greater collaboration and partnering is needed to overcome those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

In developing the report, the authors consulted a wide range of stakeholders. They included representatives from the Department of Defence, people representing the interests of the state, territory and local governments in northern Australia, port operators in Australia’s north, business organisations and the defence industry.
The report highlights opportunities that could arise from improved collaboration between Defence, local governments, defence industry and SMEs. This report has again reinforced the need for the Australia government to articulate how it will utilise northern Australia’s strategic geography as a strength both now and in a future conflict if deterrence fails.

The Australian Government needs to consider how to harness interests from different fields and identify points where the government may have to intervene with policies—and investments—that shape and enhance market forces. That’s a big shift from just thinking through how it ‘might’ take advantage of market forces and existing capacity and capability as circumstances change.