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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7304

Defence Procurement

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:58): My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, representing the Minister for Defence. Can the minister advise the Senate what the $1.3 million agreement to produce Hawkei protected vehicles means for Australia?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:59): Thank you, Senator McKenzie, for that very important question. As you know, Senator McKenzie, the Turnbull government is serious about making Australian more safe and secure. There is no higher priority than the protection of the nation. So last Monday the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence announced that the government will purchase 1,100 locally built Hawkei protected vehicles and over 1,000 trailers to strengthen the defence forces' capabilities for a contract value of $1.3 billion.

The agreement with Thales Australia is in addition to providing the improved protected mobility vehicles for the ADF which will pioneer a next-generation communications management system. The government is investing in the skills and knowledge base of the defence industry to help secure Australia's future. Innovation and technology are among the factors that will be critical to Defence's sustained success. The Hawkei was chosen after a careful assessment of the ADF's needs, a competitive tender and a rigorous testing process. From 2019 the Hawkei will progressively replace the ageing Land Rover Perentie vehicle which has been the backbone of Army's land operations for many years. The agreement is good news for Australian technology and good news for Australian advanced manufacturing. This is a major enhancement of ADF capabilities and will help consolidate Australia's position as a world leader in military transport technology.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:00): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It was considered to be great news in Bendigo in Victoria; I can tell you that, Minister. Can the minister provide more information about how these vehicles will improve our Defence Force capabilities?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:01): First and foremost, the Hawkei will improve the capability of the ADF and deliver the best possible protection for our soldiers. In the face of increasing risks on the modern battlefield, it is essential that the men and women of our armed services are provided with the best equipment so that they can do their jobs. The Hawkei was judged to have the best balance of protection, mobility and survivability and it will enable our soldiers to operate in high-risk areas. The Hawkei will protect our soldiers from blasts and ballistic threats, including threats from improvised explosive devices. The Hawkei is the only protected mobility vehicle in the ADF that can be transported by ADF helicopters. That is important because it adds to the operational and tactical flexibility of the forces which use them.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:02): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate whether this agreement will create more jobs for regional Australians, particularly in my home state of Victoria?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:02): I alluded earlier to the fact that this agreement will not only improve the ADF's capabilities and benefit Australia's technology future but also create jobs for Australians and, in particular—and I know, Senator McKenzie, how proud you are of this—jobs in regional Victoria. The agreement with Thales will create 170 new jobs in Bendigo and another 60 jobs elsewhere in Victoria. That is very significant for the Bendigo region. Production is expected to commence in early 2016 as production of the Bushmaster winds down. That will allow the highly skilled Bendigo workforce to be at full production rate for the Hawkei in 2018.

I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.