The Yanks are coming!

The WA Government is tooling up for a big rise in US visitor numbers following the historic AUKUS defence alliance, which is also expected to see thousands of Americans relocate to Western Australia, including 700 US Navy personnel from 2027

As everyone in Fremantle knows, but not everyone in Fremantle is entirely happy about, AUKUS – well, mainly the Americans – are coming!

And in case we needed reminding, WA’s Minister for Defence Industry Paul Papalia has just completed an international – well, mainly US – mission to identify more opportunities for Western Australia’s defence sector, and to exhibit the State’s ability to support the AUKUS alliance.

As it transpires, Minister Papalia was accompanied by, or accompanied, the Federal Minister for Defence Industry, Senator Pat Conroy, at least for the mainland US leg of the visit.

WA’s Minister for Defence Industry Paul Papalia

Minister Papalia led a delegation of WA businesses to assist their attempts to enter the international supply chains for AUKUS related opportunities, with a focus on maritime technology, cyber security, unmanned systems and space.

Out of interest, the following WA companies were part of the WA delegation –
Civmec Construction & Engineering
Griffin Marine Services Pty Ltd
Curtin University
Hofmann Engineering
Hofmann Industrial
Franmarine Underwater Services
Matrix Composites & Engineering


Like Senator Conroy, the Minister also met with officials at the White House, Pentagon and Congress, and visited the largest military shipbuilding company in the US – Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard, Newport, RI, 2019. Source Newsroom Huntington Ingalls.

Minister Papalia said he 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.

The Minister also toured the Pearl Harbour Naval shipyard in Honolulu.

Pearl Harbour Naval Shipyard Credit US Navy and Marshall Fukuki and Wikipedia

Mr Papalia also led a delegation of WA defence industry representatives to promote WA’s defence industry, where they showcased their businesses at Sea Air Space 2024 in Maryland – the largest maritime exposition in the US. Senator Conroy also attended.

The meetings Minister Papalia held with senior US officials were designed, he said, to reaffirm the State’s commitment to building a ‘nuclear submarine sustainment capability’ and to obtain advice on opportunities for WA companies to enter the US defence supply chain.

USS Mississippi at HMAS Stirling, December 2022. Credit Chief Petty Officer Yuri Ramsay

While in the US, Minister Papalia took the opportunity to have 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, the Minister 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’.

Honolulu. Credit Wikipedia

Interestingly, the US is currently WA’s sixth largest international visitor market and one of WA’s largest visitor markets without a non-stop service. Having a direct flight Perth-Honolulu would change that. US visitor numbers are expected to grow following the historic AUKUS defence alliance, which is expected to see thousands of Americans relocate to Western Australia, including 700 US Navy personnel from 2027.

Credit Public Policy Institute of California

More generally, Minister Papalia observed –

“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.

“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.”

Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti, who is also the State’s Deputy Premier and Treasurer, not to forget Minister for Transport, said –

“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.

“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.”

So much happening.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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