French-Australian Symposium of Defence Industries [fr]
As part of France’s and Australia’s AFiniti initiative, Paris and Canberra hold a Defence Industries Symposium in Adelaide on Monday 24 September.
This two-days conference gathered some of Australia’s and France’s most important defence groups, such as Naval Group, Thales, Safran or Airbus. Communications were very engaging, following two stimulating speeches from Australian Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne and French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly. Minister Pyne explained that “Australia is giving some texture to its bilateral relationship with France thanks to this symposium”.
Speakers discussed in particular the concept of national strategic autonomy and the requirements that come with it, in a context of diversification of security threats. Sovereign capability is the combination of three key elements:
Knowledge transfer to enable innovation,
Relevant investment to deliver the capability,
Sustainability to be competitive globally.
The French-Australian submarine contract plays a significant role in forging Australia’s strategic autonomy. According to Christopher Pyne, this contract between Naval Group and the Commonwealth of Australia is “the largest investment in Australia’s history, […] while Australia wants to have sovereign defence capabilities”. More broadly, French companies support the resilience of Australia’s defence industry through partnerships, joint ventures or cooperation. Both countries reinforce each other’s defence capabilities: France by sharing its technology with Australia, Canberra by sharing its regional expertise with France in the Indo-Pacific. According to Minister Parly, “France and Australia are robust, proud independent nations but this autonomy comes with a price, an effort, requiring strong defence industries”.
Florence Parly insisted on the fact that autonomy also means cooperation with like-minded countries, quoting De Gaulle’s Memoirs: “independence does not mean solitude”. The French-Australian armament and defence partnership demonstrates this vision, in which two independent nations team up to face new challenges. French-Australian defence cooperation is meant to go beyond the submarine contract and embrace every possible facet of armament cooperation on a long term enduring effort. France and Australia intend to be innovation focused, for example regarding space technologies and artificial intelligence. “We have so many challenges and opportunities, we must face them together” concluded Florence Parly.