ROLL OUT THE BIG GUNS

Push to bring huge de­fence con­tract to Queens­land

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - RE­NEE VIELLARIS

A POW­ER­FUL bloc of Queens­land’s fed­eral Coali­tion MPs has united to fight for a multi­bil­lion- dol­lar con­tract to build 007- type war ma­chines in a bid to help re­set the state’s econ­omy and guar­an­tee jobs for the next three decades. Putting aside per­son­al­ity ten­sions, “Team Queens­land” has launched an au­da­cious cam­paign to kill off Vic­to­ria’s chances of se­cur­ing the project by lob­by­ing Mal­colm Turn­bull and the two multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that are in the run­ning.

Land 400 is one of the De­fence Depart­ment’s big­gest projects in his­tory. Un­der Phase 2, about 225 state- of- the- art com­bat re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cles will be built, cost­ing up to $ 5 bil­lion but gift­ing lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers with sup­ply chain and main­te­nance work for about 30 years.

A POW­ER­FUL bloc of Queens­land’s fed­eral Coali­tion MPs has united to fight for a multi- bil­lion- dol­lar con­tract to build 007- type war ma­chines in a bid to help re­set the state’s econ­omy and guar­an­tee jobs for the next three decades.

Putting aside per­son­al­ity ten­sions, “Team Queens­land” has launched an au­da­cious cam­paign to kill off Vic­to­ria’s chances of se­cur­ing the project by lob­by­ing Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and the two multi­na­tional com­pa­nies in the run­ning.

Land 400 is one of the De­fence Depart­ment’s big­gest projects in his­tory. Un­der phase two, about 225 state- ofthe- art com­bat re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cles will be built, cost­ing tax­pay­ers up to $ 5 bil­lion but gift­ing lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers with sup­ply chain and main­te­nance work for about 30 years.

About 150 of the killing ma­chines will be based in Queens­land to sup­port bri­gades in Townsville and Enog­gera. The win­ner of phase two is likely to win phase three – build­ing 450 in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cles and 17 ma­noeu­vre sup­port ve­hi­cles, worth up to $ 15 bil­lion.

Rhein­metall De­fence Aus­tralia and BAE Sys­tems Aus­tralia are vy­ing to build the ve­hi­cles and have both said they will set up their base in ei­ther Queens­land or Vic­to­ria. They will make their fi­nal de­ci­sion soon.

The tanks on wheels can with­stand a direct bomb at­tack, their can­nons let rip 200 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion a minute, and the Rhein­metall model can de­fend it­self by us­ing a pulse to blow up an in­com­ing mis­sile.

The De­fence Force is now try­ing to blow- up the ve­hi­cles to de­ter­mine how much pun­ish­ment they can take.

Cab­i­net Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said Queens­land could win thou­sands of direct and in­di­rect jobs if it se­cured the con­tract.

“We shouldn’t un­der­es­ti­mate how big this could be for Queens­land. With thou­sands of jobs and bil­lions in rev­enue, this could be the next min­ing boom equiv­a­lent,” he said. “Queens­land hasn’t de­vel­oped a de­fence in­dus­try like other states and this is our big chance.

“All of us in Team Queens­land have pushed hard for this to hap­pen and if it does, thou­sands of Queens­land fam­i­lies will have ex­tra dol­lars in their pock­ets. It will be a mas­sive in­jec­tion into the Queens­land econ­omy.”

The Queens­land and Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ments have of­fered in­cen­tives – likely land, pay­roll tax hol­i­days and train­ing – to lure the job­spin­ning pro­gram.

The Vic­to­ri­ans are also us­ing for­mer Gil­lard gov­ern­ment Cab­i­net min­is­ter Greg Com­bet to pri­vately and pub­licly woo the bid­ders. Vic­to­rian tax­pay­ers, who bought the Fish­er­man’s Bend fa­cil­ity from Holden last year, are of­fer­ing the site to the win­ner.

The Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment has pre­ferred to ne­go­ti­ate be­hind the scenes.

The De­fence Depart­ment will by the end of the year make a sub­mis­sion to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee – which in­cludes Mr Dut­ton and At­tor­ney- Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis – on which ve­hi­cle is best. The Gov­ern­ment will de­cide who wins the con­tract early next year based on price, ca­pa­bil­ity and lo­cal job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

At the heart of the Team Queens­land cam­paign is a parochial and prac­ti­cal stand – the Fed­eral Coali­tion has 26 Queens­lan­ders in the joint party room, yet it has just four Cab­i­net min­sters, and MPs be­lieve the state is not get­ting its fair share of big spend­ing projects.

Fair­fax MP Ted O’Brien, who has been lead­ing the charge for Team Queens­land, said the Coali­tion “pack” was unashamedly go­ing af­ter Land 400.

“There’s a long way to go yet, but we’ve been ‘ re­verse lob­by­ing’ if you like. In­stead of the usual ap­proach where com­pa­nies lobby gov­ern­ment, Team Queens­land has been lob­by­ing the com­pa­nies to choose Queens­land,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Mean­while, we’ve met as a full team with the Prime Min­is­ter where we put our in­ter­est in Land 400 on the PM’s agenda.”

“As a united pack we have also de­scended on the of­fice of the Min­is­ter for De­fence

In­dus­tries to put for­ward the case for Queens­land.

“While in the first in­stance it’s up to the bid­ders to choose their pre­ferred lo­ca­tion, if we suc­ceed in see­ing one of them choose Queens­land then the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion on the win­ning com­pany will, by de­fault, also be a de­ci­sion about which state wins the deal.”

Main Pic­ture: DE­FENCE DEPART­MENT

DO­ING BAT­TLE: A Rhein­metall Boxer CRV dur­ing test­ing in Vic­to­ria ear­lier this year; ( be­low) Queens­land- based Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton.

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