ROLL OUT THE BIG GUNS
Push to bring huge defence contract to Queensland
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.”
DOING BATTLE: A Rheinmetall Boxer CRV during testing in Victoria earlier this year; ( below) Queensland- based Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.