Judge merit, not politics
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.