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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1406

Defence Procurement

Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:01): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister advise the Senate how Australia's new combat reconnaissance vehicle will increase capability for Army?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (15:01): I thank Senator Fawcett for his question and his interest. This is a very significant investment by the Australian government in Army capability, a significant advance in defence capability that will change the way that Army fights. Last week, with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence Industry, I announced that Rheinmetall will deliver 211 new Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles, which will be built in Queensland, creating up to 1,450 jobs right across Australia.

We live in a world of continually advancing and emerging threats. Anti-armour weapons and improvised explosive devices are becoming more lethal and more prolific. To survive in what are very hazardous operational environments, the new generation Australian armoured vehicles have to do several very important things: they have to be able to take a heavy hit, they have to be able to keep fighting and they have to be able to take our soldiers home safely. That's what this new vehicle will deliver. The cutting-edge capability of the Boxer will give Australian troops increased protection, increased firepower and increased mobility on the battlefield over the ageing ASLAV, which it will replace. They're not only much tougher than their predecessors but also much smarter. They will have digital-warfare and information-networking capabilities that our forces have not had before. They'll give our commanders a much better understanding of the battlefield, which will help them to fight, to survive and to win.

What the Turnbull government have laid out is our commitment to ensuring that the men and women of the ADF have the capability that is required to complete the often difficult and very dangerous tasks that we ask them to undertake on behalf of the Australian government.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a supplementary question.

Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:03): Can the minister advise the Senate how Defence goes about selecting a combat vehicle for its capability?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Good question!

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (15:03): It is a very good question. What we have seen, Mr President, is that our current reconnaissance vehicle, the ASLAV, has provided sterling assistance and service to the ADF, both overseas and at home, for more than 20 years. But it is time for it to be replaced. So, over the last three years, we've undertaken an assessment of the options for the next CRV. We put the short-listed vehicles through a rigorous testing program in a range of environments across Australia, and a range of conditions, to test their suitability to Australia's requirements. They were tested with Australia's existing capability, including the Globemaster—the C-17—and our LHD vessels, to ensure interoperability there. They were subject to blast and ballistic testing to assess their survivability from a range of potential threats. In the final analysis, based on capability, the Boxer was assessed as the clear choice, and that is why the government has chosen the Boxer for the ADF.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a final supplementary question.

Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:04): Can the minister advise the Senate what other investments the Turnbull government is making to strengthen Army's capability?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (15:04): Our investment in the new CRV is part of a program of renewal for the Australian Army which is within the government's commitment in the 2016 Defence white paper. It is delivering cutting-edge capability for Army and also creating a significant number of jobs across Australia. We have already ordered over 1,100 Hawkei protected mobility vehicles, which are currently being built by Thales Australia in Bendigo, creating up to 400 jobs around the country; and we are also investing more than $1.4 billion to upgrade Army's battlefield command system, which will create over 120 roles in Brisbane—to cite just a couple of examples. Combined with our historic decisions to create a continuous naval shipbuilding industry, delivering these important capabilities for Defence will be a national enterprise and enable business across the country to invest, create jobs and deliver the capability that the ADF needs.