Ararat chance in deal
Ararat remains in the hunt to benefit from a multi-billiondollar military-vehicle development program despite a Victorian bid failing to win the contract.
A proven track record in product quality and supply and well-established business links means Ararat electrical wiring manufacturer AME Systems might still win a significant share of the deal.
But instead of being guaranteed a contract valued between $15-million and $40-million as part of a Victorian bid, AME Systems will now need to present fresh tenders to be part of the project.
AME Systems was one of many firms involved in a Victorian BAE Systems bid to supply the Commonwealth with 225 new military assault vehicles as part of a $5-billion LAND 400 Phase 2 project.
But the Federal Government decided to award the contract to a Queenslandbased bid led by global defence manufacturer Rheinmetall, a move that prompted a savage response by a disappointed Victorian Government.
AME Systems general manager Nick Carthew confirmed his firm had won a listing as a company with an opportunity to tender for contract work.
“We’re not out of the running – not by a long shot,” he said.
“There is still a major opportunity to secure a win for Ararat.
“While our bid with BAE was unsuccessful, we have strong relationships with both Supacat and Rheinmetall and western Victoria could yet be a significant winner.
“I have already had promising communications with Rheinmetall regarding the project.”
Supacat, a global provider of defence-focused products and services, is part of the Rheinmetall LAND 400 bid and has already collaborated with AME Systems on other defencevehicle projects.
Mr Carthew said it was important, during the next few weeks in particular, that the State Government continued to lobby for Victoria’s small to medium enterprises.
“That of course, includes us. We’re still in the hunt and we need the state to continue to go into bat for us and regional Victoria at a federal level,” he said.
“We might be in a situation where circumstances for Ararat might be just as good with a new deal.
“But nothing is guaranteed. What we know is that we have an opportunity to be involved as a skilled supplier to the defence force in our own right.”
Mr Carthew said it would be several months before AME Systems knew whether it remained in contract negotiations.
He added the level of financial benefit based on a role of AME Systems in a new deal was unknown.
“We’ve been working on this for three-and-a-half years and have been to countries such as Germany, Finland and Sweden as part of the project. It’s a difficult game to play,” he said.
“But if we do manage to get a share, all the work we do will happen in Ararat.”
The State Government, on hearing the Federal Government’s LAND 400 contract decision last week, described it as a betrayal.
State Industry and Employment Minister Ben Carroll said the decision denied Victoria of almost $1-billion in economic activity and more than 2000 jobs.
“This is a disgraceful decision based on the political interests of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his desperation to cling to marginal seats in Queensland, not the national security interest of our country,” he said.
But Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan, also responding to the decision, said the Federal Government would still spend more than $630-million in Victoria and create about 170 jobs in the state.
“Victorian companies such as AME Systems, AW Bell, CAS, Cablex, Supacat and Tectonica will benefit from the project,” he said.
“This project is an exciting opportunity for the Victorian industry to play a vital role in delivering leading-edge technology to Australia’s Army.”
AME Systems is busy, with Mr Carthew reiterating that the manufacturer still needed about 50 more employees to service existing projects.
He said the firm employed a workforce of just under 400, with more than 320 based in Ararat.
AME Systems’ workforce is made up of a broad cross-section of employees from electrical engineers and drafting technicians to operations, quality-assurance and management staff.
The armoured fighting vehicle now at the centre of the Land 400 Phase 2 Department of Defence contract is Rheinmetall Defence Australia’s Boxer 8x8 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle.