Ararat at heart of contract campaign
Ararat’s chances of being a major beneficiary of a multibillion-dollar military deal remain in the balance, with state leaders demanding the Federal Government award the contract to a Victorian bid.
The State Government has put Ararat manufacturer AME Systems ‘front and centre’ in a renewed campaign to win the contract to build next-generation military vehicles.
Victoria is in partnership with BAE Systems Australia, which has put forward an AMV-35 assault vehicle in a bid to win a $5-billion LAND 400 project. LAND 400 is Australia’s largest land military-vehicle procurement program.
If Victoria wins the contract, it is likely to create up to 2000 jobs, some of them with AME Systems, a key supply-chain company involved in the bid.
A Victorian win would land AME Systems a $20-million share of the deal and create at least 25 new jobs in Ararat.
AME Systems would have the responsibility of manufacturing electrical cables and harnesses for 225 combat reconnaissance vehicles, which would replace the Australian light-armoured vehicle fleet.
Acting Trade and Investment Minister Ben Carroll said a Victorian win would mean jobs for Ararat and a boost to the regional economy.
“LAND 400 belongs in Victoria. We have the proven workforce, the expertise and the supply chain to get it done, and get it done well,” he said.
Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said LAND 400 was an incredible opportunity for Ararat.
“It will create secure, well-paid jobs, boost the local economy and entrench the town’s standing as a leader in advanced manufacturing,” she said.
The State Government has described Victoria as Australia’s leading manufacturing state, backing the claim with 12 consecutive months of growth in manufacturing – the longest run of expansion since 2003 – despite the closure of automotive manufacturing.
Victoria’s defence sector is worth $8-billion to the economy every year and includes about 20,000 workers and more than 400 businesses.
Estimates are that if BAE Systems won the LAND 400 contract, it would add close to $1-billion to Victoria’s economy and create up to 2000 manufacturing and supply-chain jobs.
The State Government has also fired a shot across the Federal Government’s bow, declaring the decision should be based on the merit of the bid, not how many marginal seats the contract might win for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Queensland.
But Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said he was a strong supporter of the Victorian bid and AME Systems’ role in the project.
“LAND 400 is one of the national defence’s biggest projects and basing the project in Victoria would be fantastic for the state,” he said.
“LAND 400 would create 2000 jobs, give our advanced manufacturing sector a significant boost and create significant supply chain opportunities, including at AME Systems in Ararat.
“I have told Defence Industries Minister Christopher Pyne that Victoria is the outstanding candidate in the bidding process for LAND 400.”
Ararat Mayor Glenda Mclean said she welcomed and was delighted with government help in efforts to support AME Systems and the Ararat community.
“AME not only fuels significant industry for Ararat but it is also renowned for its philanthropic approach to, and generous support of, the community,” she said.
“It ticks a lot of boxes for federal and state government projects that might not seem that obvious on the surface.
“It is renowned for its cultural sensibility towards its employees. For example, apart from a simple financial contract, if the Federal Government came in behind the Victorian bid, it would be ticking several boxes, one of them being the support of cultural diversity.
“It is a key supporter and employer of Ararat’s important and influential Filipino community.
“As a council we are highly tuned into promoting the benefits of a diverse community and different groups of people are more than welcome here.
“If the contract bid is successful, we’re keen to be involved in or drive any projects that encourage a diverse cultural mix of people and their families to our part of the world.
“This could only be beneficial, at so many levels, for the municipality, so much so that we’re exploring different examples where this has worked for other councils.”
The Federal Government has shortlisted BAE Systems and Queenslandbased Rheinmetall for the contract.
The expectation is for the government to announce a winning bid in the first quarter of 2018.
AME Systems has an overall workforce of about 360, with sites in Bayswater and Malaysia as well as its headquarters and factory in Ararat.