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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11696

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (12:45): It is great to hear members of the government acknowledging the top work that goes on in Bendigo at the Thales manufacturing facility. It is great to hear them recognise the hard work of so many men and women at the Bendigo Thales facility, where we have proudly built the Bushmaster and now have the opportunity to build the Hawkei defence vehicle. Everybody acknowledges what this vehicle will be able to do. I agree with one part of this motion—where it notes the importance of providing ADF personnel with the equipment and the capability they need to perform their roles. We need to acknowledge from the beginning the importance of ensuring that our ADF personnel have the equipment and the capability to do one of the toughest jobs you can be asked to do in this country.

I do want to set the record straight on a few things, particularly when it comes to Hawkei. This contract to develop the prototype was first awarded under the former Labor government. Defence manufacturing is not simply 'Let's go to a shop and buy a product off-the-shelf.' In defence procurement, first and foremost the Defence Materiel Organisation makes a decision about what product or vehicle they wish to purchase. The opportunity to develop the Hawkei vehicle prototype and do the testing was first awarded to the Bendigo Thales facility by the former Labor government. The prototype was developed, tested and handed over to Jason Clare, who was the Minister for Defence Materiel under the former Labor government. After the change of government, it took two years before this government would sign the Hawkei contract which would give the men and women of Bendigo the opportunity to continue to build the vehicle. Unfortunately this does not create 170 new jobs but it does secure the existing jobs that we have in Bendigo—high-skilled, high-paid defence manufacturing jobs. Now that we have this $1.3 billion contract we are hoping that we will have some new apprentices in the factory, because that is what we have missed out on the last two years. The delay in this government putting a signature to paper has meant we have had no new apprentices at the Bendigo Thales facility for the last two years. This is a shame. Many people in Bendigo did their apprenticeship at the old ordnance factory, today known as Bendigo Thales. We are hoping that, with this contract finally being locked in, apprenticeships will start up again at the facility.

This government has also failed with uniforms. At the Australian Defence Apparel facility in Bendigo we also manufacture the uniforms that the men and women of our ADF wear overseas. The former Labor government awarded contracts solely to Australian manufacturers. When the contract came up for the utility belt—again, something that has been designed and tested at the Bendigo ADA facility—rather than having it manufactured here in this country this government signed a contract so ADA could import the belt. They were to have it manufactured overseas in Vietnam and import it. Even although we had the capability in Bendigo and Coburg, this government said they would go for option three—100 per cent import with manufacture overseas. That is a disgrace when we have the capability to manufacture here in this country.

That is not the only case where this government has dropped the ball when it comes to defence procurement and locking in good quality manufacturing jobs in this country. We have to mention the debacle around submarines. Both parties committed before the last election to manufacture subs in Australia. Yet one party is continuing to drag its feet. Labor is committed to what we committed to at the last election—to have these 12 subs built in this country. Delays by this government are costing jobs. We have heard that a thousand workers have lost their jobs in shipbuilding yards. Every day this government delays on defence manufacturing, we see more jobs lost.

I will finish where I began. I am relieved that this government finally signed the Hawkei contract—at five minutes to midnight—before we saw job losses in Bendigo. It is great news for us, but other towns should have the same opportunity for defence manufacturing and procurement.

Debate adjourned.