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Warning Australia too reliant on US, UK

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NIOA Group chief executive Robert Nioa called for ‘urgent action’ to strengthen Australia’s national security. Picture: Martin Ollman/NCA NewsWire

A top weapons manufacturer has argued that Australia’s defence industry is far too reliant on the UK and the US for munitions, declaring that the government must overhaul its defence strategy to favour local procurement.

NIOA Group chief executive Robert Nioa called for “urgent action” to strengthen Australia’s national security on Friday.

He claimed the nation couldn’t afford to maintain its current level of dependence on international partners as they faced their own weapons supply crises.

“The Australian military needs increased assured access to the key consumables of war. These include munitions and missiles, stockpiling, and local assembly of these supplies from foreign firms,” Mr Nioa told the National Press Club.

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Robert Nioa owns the largest supplier of munitions to the Australian and New Zealand defence markets. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“At that level of dependence on foreign supply is not a complete solution. The ADF needs access to assured flows of supplies, not to tiny stockpiles that won’t last long in a conflict and will be impossible to restock.

“This is key to our economic and national security and, frankly, our obligation to support the broader allied effort in maintaining peace.”

Earlier this year, the federal government announced about $4bn in funding over four years to expand Australia’s defence capabilities. This included $1.6bn for long-range strike capabilities and $2.5bn for local production of guided weapons.

The announcement was part of the government’s response to a defence strategic review released in May that warned that the ADF was structured for “a bygone era” and needed to project power further from Australia’s shores.

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Opposition Leader Peter Dutton made an appearance on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

According to Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy, half of military spending on acquiring and sustaining military equipment goes to Australian industry.

Mr Nioa said while local firms were not looking for “handouts”, they held deep concerns about the nation’s current national security outlook.

“The risk of conflict is real,” he said.

“Even our most trusted security partners will be stretched in the event of a regional war.

“Australia must have more independent capacity to defend ourselves and to be a strong partner with our allies in collective defence.”