Bendigo manufacturer secures billion-dollar contract

IMPRESSED: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets behind the wheel of a Hawkei light-armoured vehicle as Defence Minister Marise Payne looks on. Thales Australia has won the right to manufacture 1100 of the vehicles from its Bendigo plant.

IMPRESSED: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets behind the wheel of a Hawkei light-armoured vehicle as Defence Minister Marise Payne looks on. Thales Australia has won the right to manufacture 1100 of the vehicles from its Bendigo plant.

BENDIGO-BASED manufacturer Thales Australia has been awarded a $1.3 billion contract to build armoured vehicles for the Australian Defence Force.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne announced Thales as the successful applicant during an event outside of Melbourne this morning.

The contract involves the delivery of 1100 vehicles and over 1000 trailers. The three-and-a-half year production phase is scheduled to begin from mid-2017.

Thales Australia chief executive officer Chris Jenkins said it was a “great day” for both the ADF and Australian industry.

“Hawkei is a highly capable vehicle that will serve this country well for many years to come, and we are delighted that the Department of Defence has recognised the importance of this vehicle by reaching this milestone,” he said.

RUGGED: The Hawkei vehicle is put through it paces at the Monegeetta proving ground outside of Melbourne yesterday.

RUGGED: The Hawkei vehicle is put through it paces at the Monegeetta proving ground outside of Melbourne yesterday.

Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters said the announcement secured the jobs of about 300 workers employed in Bendigo in both the manufacturing and design spheres.

“It secures and creates jobs at the Bendigo Thales site and will lock-in manufacturing for at least the next five years,” she said.

“I know a number of these workers and their families quite closely and they have been waiting, hopeful that this contract would be signed.”

The Hawkei contract comes after Thales manufactured the larger Bushmaster vehicle, which has been used by Australian and other troops in battlefields around the world.

Thales said soldiers on operations will benefit from increased protection and mobility in a powerful 4x4 vehicle, which can be adapted for different missions.

Mr Jenkins said: “We are proud to have been chosen to deliver this next generation of protected vehicles to our armed forces, and we stand by them ready to support and adapt it as their requirements evolve,” he said.

“We also thank our many suppliers on the program – companies in Australia and overseas that have been with us on this long journey, and who have played a significant role in shaping the Hawkei and contributing to its success.

SIGNING OFF: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne sign a $1.3 billion contract for Bendigo's Thales Australia to build 1100 Hawkei vehicles.

SIGNING OFF: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne sign a $1.3 billion contract for Bendigo's Thales Australia to build 1100 Hawkei vehicles.

“It’s a great story about what Australian industry and international partnerships can achieve.

“As we move into the manufacturing phase, we will now be able to consolidate the work already begun across the Thales group worldwide to ensure the export success of this impressive vehicle.”

Greater Bendigo City Council mayor Peter Cox described it as a “ticker tape day” for Bendigo.

“You hear people claiming that manufacturing is dead in Australia,” he said. “Well, it’s alive and thriving in Bendigo.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement is fantastic news for our region. It secures a future for the employees at Thales in Bendigo and it further builds on our city’s reputation as a hub for high quality manufacturing.”

Councillor Cox said the manufacturing sector is worth around $2.2 billion and contributes around 6936 direct and indirect jobs to the Greater Bendigo economy.

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