THALES will build 214 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles after a $205 million contract was awarded to the Bendigo plant yesterday.
Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare made the announcement in Darwin.
Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons said Bushmasters had a proven legacy for saving lives and the new contract reinforced the government’s commitment to Australian defence manufacturing.
“This new investment follows $10 million for existing Bushmaster modifications, $38 million for further Hawkei prototype development and now $205 million for extra Bushmasters, and brings the total new contracts for Thales’ Bendigo plant to around $253 million since December last year,” he said.
“The extra 214 vehicles were negotiated with Defence and Thales to enable the company to maintain the employees and skills required between the end of Bushmaster production and the commencement of the Hawkei program.
“This should secure the plant’s future and safeguard jobs in Bendigo well into the future.”
City of Greater Bendigo mayor Alec Sandner praised Mr Gibbons for his commitment to the plant.
“This $205 million invest-ment in the Bushmaster vehicles is great news for Thales and for manufacturing in Bendigo,” he said.
“This contract will provide employment for existing staff at the Thales Bendigo plant which will enable the company to retain a valuable skilled workforce here in Greater Bendigo.”
Mr Gibbons said the new contract would be subject to the local factory meeting performance measures for both the Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles.
“I have no doubt, based on past performance, the company will comfortably meet any requirements asked of it by the Department of Defence,” he said.
“Today’s announcement brings the total number of life-saving Bushmasters purchased by the Australian Defence Force to 1053.
“This is another gratifying result for me personally because of inaccurate speculation from some media and others alleging that the December 2011 commitments were ‘just a smokescreen’.”
The federal government announced in December that Thales had missed out on a contract to supply Bushmaster utes to the Australian Defence Force.
On the same day, Mr Smith announced Thales was the front runner to secure a $1.5 billion contract to build Hawkeis to replace part of the army’s fleet of Land Rovers from 2016.
Thales will develop six new prototypes of the Hawkei and is the only company that will enter into negotiations to supply 1300 light protected mobility vehicles.
The company announced 46 redundancies in the wake of the Bushmaster ute contract failure.