The Valley urged to get defensive

LATROBE Valley engineering firms received an insight into how they could provide work as part of future defence projects at a forum in Morwell yesterday.

The Engineering for Defence forum allowed about 45 company representatives to sit down and discuss what was required to secure defence work in the future.

The forum featured representatives from the Defence Materials Technology Centre, a body which aims to bring together defence industry, government and research agencies to develop new defence materials and manufacturing technologies.

Former Federal Government Minister Greg Combet also attended in his capacity as the Victorian Government’s defence industry advocate.

DMTC chief executive Mark Hodge said the forum showed the Latrobe Valley had “enormous capability and potential to get involved in a whole range of different sectors”.

“What we’re hearing today is people are very keen to be able to present what their core capabilities are and that this is a really, really strong area whose virtues need to be expounded a lot more broadly across the… defence sector,” Dr Hodge said.

The forum covered a range of issues, including how businesses could best position themselves to secure defence work, the type of accreditation required and the types of timeframes involved.

While the defence industry required a different type of work to that done by businesses geared towards the power sector, Dr Hodge said it was not an “insurmountable challenge” for the region’s engineering firms to make the shift.

“The businesses here… have been involved for many, many years in welding and fabrication and sustainment technologies in a very challenging area,” Dr Hodge said.

“The big issue is really around making a commitment early, identifying what the capabilities of your industry are and getting yourself plugged into the right networks and the right relationships and being in it for the long haul.”

Mr Combet said defence work was a “hard pathway to follow” for businesses but said part of the reason he attended the forum was to discuss with businesses how they could take advantage of the opportunity.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said the forum was about creating opportunities for the region’s engineering and manufacturing sectors.

“As a council it gives us a very clear indication of what additional support we need to give them to get them into that market,” Councillor O’Callaghan said.