Rear Admiral named WA defence advocate

Retired Rear Admiral Raydon Gates will be WA's first defence advocate.

The man who famously led the sea rescue of yachtsmen Tony Bullimore and Thierry Dubois 20 years ago has been employed by the WA government to fight to get more defence contract work for the state.

Retired Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Raydon Gates has been appointed WA's first defence advocate and will divide his time between Perth and Canberra.

He served in the navy for 37 years and held positions including Maritime Commander Australia, Commander of the Australian Defence College and Defence Attache and Head Australian Defence Staff in Washington.

Rear Admiral Gates was also chief executive of major defence contractor Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand for more than five years before he retired earlier this year.

He was a captain when Premier Mark McGowan was in the navy.

Mr McGowan said WA shipbuilders had the expertise to build the next generation of navy vessels, but the state was only receiving $3.5 billion out of the federal government's $89 billion spend.

"Over the last decade or so we've missed out on important defence work. We want to turn that around," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Rear Admiral Gates described his role as being slightly outside of the political frame and said in the coming months he would identify what capabilities WA had and then put that forward to Canberra.

"It's identifying what we can do here and then making sure that we get an equal opportunity as other states to put that forward."

Rear Admiral Gates is perhaps best known for being captain of the HMAS Adelaide, which against the odds rescued British yachtsman Mr Bullimore from the Southern Ocean five days after his vessel capsized during a round-the-world race in 1997.

Rear Admiral Gates described the rescue mission as one of the highlights of his career and recalled seeing 3000 people gathered at the wharf in Fremantle.

"To go down that far in the Southern Ocean and for the bugger to be alive when we got there, that was the highlight," he said.