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Wednesday, 2 February 1994
Page: 257


Senator SANDY MACDONALD (7.30 p.m.) —I rise to speak very briefly tonight in support of the Hunter Valley bid for the $1 billion Royal Australian Navy minehunter contract. Three companies have been invited by the Commonwealth to tender for the project which involves building and fitting out six state-of-the-art minehunters. The companies are Australian Defence Industries, Australian Submarine Corporation and Transfield Shipbuilding.

  New South Wales—and particularly the Hunter region—is far ahead of the other centres vying for the contract. The Hunter Valley is one of the powerhouses of the Australian economy, with the resources and industry necessary to grow and add much to the nation's wealth. Let me outline some of New South Wales', and particularly Newcastle's, advantages over its competitors.

  New South Wales has the highest concentration of advanced high technology, electronic and computer system suppliers. New South Wales has the largest glass reinforced plastic facility in Australia. It is the home of both of the preferred sonar suppliers, and most of the other potential suppliers of the crucial elements to the combat systems. It has a greater concentration of manufacturing and high technology research and development companies than the other locations. New South Wales houses the Navy fleet base, maritime headquarters, mine warfare base and mine warfare systems centre. The vessels will be based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney. The Navy trials, training and evaluation programs will be carried out in Sydney. Being close to the Navy is both cost-effective and convenient. Forty five per cent of Australia's electronic and electrical engineers, and 40 per cent of our computer professionals, live in New South Wales.

  The project will create up to 1,000 jobs, which will last during the eight year life-span of the project. The successful bidder and its overseas design partners are required to build the vessels achieving at least 60 per cent Australian content. New South Wales is the only state where the necessary breadth and depth of skills and technological capacity to facilitate this level of Australian content can be achieved at an acceptable price.

  The project will attract more investment to Australia from businesses wishing to capitalise in the attractive infrastructure base of the Hunter Valley. It will also underpin great export opportunities for the nation; exports essential for our continued economic recov

ery, especially in the light of today's weak balance of trade figures.

  It is only fair that the region receives the contract after losing the frigate and submarine contracts over the last few years. Newcastle has established shipbuilding sites, the expertise and, most of all, the will to complete this project to world class standards. It is an area of great economic and social potential, and Newcastle and the Hunter Valley need to be nourished by government. The area needs to be nourished for the benefit of all industry. What better nourishment could there be than this $1 billion contract?

  Newcastle has a long tradition when it comes to shipbuilding. It is a wonderful port, has a wonderful harbour, has a concentration of the necessary skills and has a commitment to excellence. It is a natural choice for a project of this magnitude. I commend Newcastle to the three bidders, and I commend Newcastle and the Hunter Valley to the government.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 7.34 pm