Monday, May 20, 2024

US defence mission aims to boost AUKUS benefits for WA

The Western Australian Government has completed an international mission to identify more opportunities for the WA defence sector and exhibit the State’s ability to support the AUKUS alliance.

Defence Industry Minister, Paul Papalia (pictured) travelled to the US, where he met with officials at the White House, Pentagon and Congress, visited the largest military shipbuilding company in the US – Huntington Ingalls Industries, and toured the Pearl Harbour shipyard.

Minister Papalia used the trip to highlight WA’s strategic significance in the Indo-Pacific region and emphasise its role as a crucial hub for maritime operations and surveillance.

“Western Australia is an essential player when it comes to the trilateral AUKUS alliance and the Cook Government remains committed to growing our local defence industry capabilities,” said Mr Papalia.

“The US mission was a unique opportunity for WA’s defence industry to be able to interact with key AUKUS stakeholders firsthand and establish relationships which will no doubt prove fruitful in the future.

“Approximately 700 US Navy personnel will relocate to WA in the coming years as part of AUKUS arrangements, many of whom will be bringing their families. 

“When word of WA’s incredible lifestyle and tourism attractions spreads, more of their friends and relatives will no doubt want to witness our beautiful State for themselves.”

The Minister also led a delegation of WA defence industry representatives to America to promote WA’s defence industry, where they showcased their businesses at Sea Air Space 2024 – the largest maritime exposition in the United States. 

He met with all major US defence industry companies that currently service AUKUS-related activity, as well as with;

  • Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the South Asia, National Security Council at the White House;
  • Madeline Mortelmans, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Strategies, Plans and Capabilities;
  • Abe Denmark, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defence for AUKUS at the Pentagon; and
  • Senator Jack Reed, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Mr Papalia said the meetings reaffirmed the State’s commitment to building a nuclear submarine sustainment capability and sought advice on opportunities for WA companies to enter the US defence supply chain. 

While in the US, the Minister also held an in-person meeting with Hawaiian Airlines in an effort to land a direct flight route between Perth and Honolulu in the future.

During discussions, he presented the island state’s largest and longest serving commercial airline with a letter of intent, expressing Western Australia’s interest in securing a non-stop service when the capability becomes available. 

The USA is currently WA’s sixth largest international visitor market and one of WA’s largest visitor markets without a non-stop service.  

“Securing a direct flight between Perth and Honolulu is a process that will take years to establish but we’ve made it clear to Hawaiian Airlines that we are keen to continue discussions to introduce the service when it can support the route,” said Tourism Minister, Rita Saffioti. 

“Western Australia is already a popular destination with American travellers, and we know that having direct flights from Western Australia to Hawaii would serve both regions well from a business and tourism perspective.”

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