Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters believes there may be a glimmer of hope for a manufacturer in the region following the federal government’s decision to award a $5 billion defence contract to a Queensland-based company.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday announced that Rheinmetall had won the contract to build 211 new vehicles for the Australian Army, ahead of Victorian-based BAE systems.
Despite this, Ms Chesters believes there is still an opportunity for Thales, which has a long history of manufacturing armoured vehicles from its Bendigo site, to become a supplier for the successful contractor.
“I’m hopeful and Thales has said they're keen to work with the successful bidder to become one of the suppliers given their expertise in armoured vehicles,” she said, adding it was disappointing for Victoria to miss out on the contract.
Thales’ North Bendigo site manufactures the Hawkei armoured defence vehicle, of which it is building 1100 for the Army under a contract worth $1.3 billion.
The first Hawkeis were deployed overseas in January, undergoing testing in Iraq.
Thales’ Bendigo workforce also builds the Bushmaster armoured personnel carrier, which has been exported to four foreign defence forces including the United Kingdom and Japan.
Ms Chesters’ comments come after a political fall out following the announcement on Wednesday, with the state government claiming the prime minister had “betrayed” Victorian workers.
Minister for industry and employment Ben Carroll said the decision had prioritised politics over national security.
“This is a disgraceful decision that’s based on the political interests of Damian Drum, Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition’s desperation to cling to marginal seats in Queensland – not the national security interest of our country,” he said.
“Damian Drum and Malcolm Turnbull just can’t help themselves – whenever they get the chance to dud Victorians they dud Victorians.”
The deal will create up to 1450 jobs over the 30-year life of the vehicles, according to the federal government.