Judge merit, not pol­i­tics

Herald Sun - - OPINION -

THE Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion on the $5 bil­lion con­tract for the nextgen­er­a­tion ar­moured ve­hi­cle fleet must be driven by se­cu­rity, skills and the busi­ness case, not pol­i­tics.

As Aus­tralian De­fence Force eval­u­a­tions con­tinue on whether Vic­to­ria or Queens­land is best placed to de­liver the Aus­tralian Army’s Land 400 project, Vic­to­ria’s fed­eral MPs must en­sure this state is not over­looked in favour of blunt elec­toral strat­egy.

Queens­land — with five seats hold­ing swing mar­gins of 1 per cent or less, and an­other three un­der 2 per cent — is a state the Coali­tion must win to re­tain power when a fed­eral poll is called in late 2018 or early 2019.

Coin­ci­den­tally, the win­ning bid for the Land 400 com­bat and re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cle project is sched­uled to be an­nounced in the first half of 2018. The project, to re­place the army’s ex­ist­ing fleet of Aus­tralian Light Ar­moured Ve­hi­cles and M113 ar­moured per­son­nel car­ri­ers, is far too im­por­tant to be­come an ex­er­cise in ugly cam­paign pork-bar­relling.

Na­tional se­cu­rity, op­ti­mum de­sign and main­te­nance, cost-ef­fec­tive­ness and track record in de­liv­ery of sim­i­lar projects must bring the gov­ern­ment, based on Aus­tralian De­fence Force rec­om­men­da­tions, to an ob­jec­tive and rea­soned de­ci­sion.

En­gi­neer­ing ca­pac­ity and skilled work­force are in­te­gral to the bid. Vic­to­ria has them in spades. De­fence gi­ant BAE sys­tems, with sup­port from the An­drews Gov­ern­ment, is spear­head­ing Vic­to­ria’s bid to build state-of-the-art AMV35 mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles as phase two of the Land 400 program. The first phase of the ten­der rep­re­sents 225 ar­moured ve­hi­cles as part of a long-term $20 bil­lion project which will create thou­sands of jobs as one of the na­tion’s largest de­fence con­tracts.

BAE has pro­posed a ma­jor new man­u­fac­tur­ing hub at Fish­er­mans Bend with 500 di­rect man­u­fac­tur­ing and sup­ply chain jobs, and gov­ern­ment mod­el­ling shows the in­dus­try could gen­er­ate 2000 po­si­tions longer term.

Vic­to­ria’s com­peti­tor for the work, Rhein­metall De­fence Aus­tralia, at Wa­col, Queens­land has cur­rent con­tracts un­der the Land 121 project for medium and heavy trans­port ve­hi­cles. But with Vic­to­ria’s proven record on ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing and mil­i­tary re­search and devel­op­ment, this state has the work­force and re­sources to best de­liver on Land 400.

Vic­to­ria was awarded a $1.3 bil­lion con­tract in 2015 for Hawkei light ar­moured per­son­nel car­ri­ers for the army to be built by Thales Aus­tralia, which also makes the highly suc­cess­ful Bush­mas­ter ar­moured per­son­nel car­rier, in Bendigo. Added to the heavy en­gi­neer­ing as­pect, Vic­to­ria is the heart of state-of-theart weaponry devel­op­ment through De­fence Science and Tech­nol­ogy Group, BAE and others.

Be­tween now and De­cem­ber, the ADF is con­duct­ing ten­der eval­u­a­tions from each of the ri­val states and com­pa­nies.

Vic­to­ria’s fed­eral MPs, in­clud­ing Josh Fry­den­berg, Dan Te­han, Kevin An­drews, Dar­ren Ch­ester, Greg Hunt, Michael Sukkar, Sarah Hen­der­son, Alan Tudge, Kelly O’Dwyer, Rus­sell Broad­bent, Tony Smith, Ja­son Wood, Mitch Fi­field, Scott Ryan, Tim Wil­son, Jane Hume, Ju­lia Banks, Chris Crewther, James Pater­son, Damian Drum, Brid­get McKen­zie and An­drew Broad, must en­sure they are do­ing all they can to get Vic­to­ria this cru­cial con­tract.

And the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment — for the sake of de­fence se­cu­rity — must de­cide on merit, not pol­i­tics.

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