Defence record proof we deserve box seat
AS modern warfare and peacekeeping becomes more complex and multifaceted, the machinery and weaponry needed also needs to be state of the art. This means very large sums of money are required to ensure Australia’s defence can stand beside the best on offer.
Three major procurement and manufacturing projects – the new $50 billion future submarine project, the $17 billion joint strike fighter air fleet and the $20 billion replacement light armoured vehicles – are vital to this nation’s defence this century.
One of these, the Land 400 plan to replace our ageing armoured fighting vehicles, is of special interest to Queensland. The German manufacturer Rheinmetall is committed to basing operations in this state if it is awarded the contract ahead of the British/Australian company BAE Systems Australia/Patria.
The Rheinmetall vehicle, the Boxer, can be used in conjunction with a variety of military options, including sea-going vessels, air transporters and large land vehicles. The Germans have close ties with Australian industry including the military-linked companies Supacat, Northrop Grumman and Tectonica.
Rheinmetall says it is well placed to develop “a world class combat vehicle design, manufacturing and sustainment capability for the Australian Defence Force and the region”. These local associations and the international basis of the company’s operations in Australia and Germany underpin the suitability of the company to be the preferred tenderer.
Having a manufacturing base for the Land 400 project here – and the ability to move on with the next phase of the project quickly and efficiently – is a perfect fit for Queensland’s expanding role as the defence state. We have a major base in Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera in Brisbane, which is home to the 7th and 11th Brigades and houses the headquarters for the 1st Division and the 16th Aviation Brigade. All up, that’s about 5600 men and women.
Townsville, with Lavarack Barracks, is also a growing defence hub with about 5000 personnel and Amberley RAAF base near Ipswich has our strike force as well as heavy-lift aircraft and refuelling capability.
Joint military exercises are becoming increasingly common, affirmed this year by Operation Talisman Sabre which combined troops from the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Canada at Stanage Bay, north of Rockhampton. With 10,000 troops involved, it featured the biggest beach landing by Australian troops since World War II. Staged every two years for more than a decade, it is the showpiece of Australia’s military exercises. Queensland is also the site of training by regional military forces from countries including Singapore and China.
This broad range of activity and the significant base facilities and hardware in Queensland shows why this state is the logical place to build and provide headquarters for a long-term, highvalue project such as Land 400. We also have the workforce needed for such an undertaking – highly skilled engineers, machinists and vehicle builders and the expertise to run a multibillion-dollar contract on the ground.
Queensland also has a relative greenfield attitude to big manufacturing projects, unlike some of the southern states where outdated and sometimes counter-productive work practices can add cost and delay delivery times. When it is all considered and the clear, undeniable advantages of working in Queensland are examined, there is no real alternative.
A historical note that shouldn’t be ignored is that this state propped up the protected manufacturing industries in southern states before tariffs were listed, through our efficient, free market resources and agriculture sectors. It would be more than fitting for Queensland to receive some favourable – but still genuinely deserved – treatment in awarding a major Commonwealth contract.
We have a very good story to tell and all our politicians, regardless of any party affiliation, should be making the case. Coming second is not an option.