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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2565

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (11:34): It was a pretty big day in the electorate last week. The old ordnance factory, as it's affectionately known, Bendigo Thales, came together to celebrate its 75th year of Defence manufacturing. The facility opened just after the Second World War, and since then there has been a proud and long history of Defence manufacturing in my electorate. Thales is the current owner. They have owned the facility for about 20 years. I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to many of the people either currently working there or who used to work there. If you doorknock around the facility in Finn Street, at every third house you will meet someone that got their start at the ordnance factory. Boilermakers and people who worked in heavy metal did their apprenticeships there. They have worked on a number of Defence projects for our country over the years. Many were acknowledged on the day for their 40, 50 years of service, some of whom are still working at the site.

But the facility has not always had a happy history. During the early eighties, it faced shutdown. The Fraser government's razor gang tried to sell off the facility in a fire sale and shut down the manufacturing site. When we caught up last week, some of the workers reflected on the rallies they had in the heart of town when the former federal member for Bendigo refused to meet with them. It is a site where Defence manufacturing has survived because of the way in which the community, the union and the workers rallied together.

Today it is known for the Bushmaster; Bendigo designed, built and made. The new Defence vehicle coming online, the Hawkei, is another proud prototype developed, designed, built and made in Bendigo. Both of these armoured vehicles, when in full production with the Australian armed services, are credited with saving lives. The Bushmaster is credited with saving the lives of over 300 Australian troops. That is the design of the Bushmaster. We are starting to export Bushmasters from Bendigo to places like Japan, the UK, the Netherlands and Indonesia. Bushmasters are going to other countries around the world. There is hope that we will be able to export more Bushmasters into the future. Equally, there is hope that we will be able to export the Hawkei, a vehicle that has similar capabilities to the Bushmaster.

To Thales, the new owners and custodians of the site, I say we would like to see investment from them in the next generation of tradespeople. From talking to many of the men and women who have worked there for decades, their greatest hope is that in another 50, 75 years their children and grandchildren will have had the opportunity to work at the facility. There is a call, as the Hawkei production comes online, for Thales to employ apprentices, giving that next generation a go. That is definitely part of Labor's policy: for any major Commonwealth contract over a certain size, one in 10 of the workforce will need to be apprentices. Unfortunately it is not the policy of the current Liberal National government, so that guarantee about apprentices was not locked into the Hawkei contract. We are very hopeful, knowing how committed Thales is to Bendigo and the Defence manufacturing facility, that they will invest in the next generation and bring apprentices onto the site.

Congratulations to all of those that fought to keep the facility alive for over 75 years. As I said, it has faced closure over the years. While the Bushmaster is celebrated today, it was a real struggle to get that contract signed and to get it manufactured. I pay tribute to the previous members for Bendigo who stood up and fought to keep the facility open and thriving.