600 BUSHMASTER military vehicles are sitting idly at Bendigo arms manufacturer, Thales, waiting to be collected by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
In a visit to the regional manufacturing site on Friday, shadow defence minister Brendan O'Connor criticised the federal government's defence spending, arguing the coalition has a history of cutting local manufacturing funding.
"We need to make sure we have the capacity to build defence assets in this country," he said.
"This means that as a nation that we can be better placed to defend ourselves and make our own decisions, particularly at a time when the region and the world is less stable than it was, this really underlines the importance of having companies like Thales to provide the best possible defence assets."
In the midst of a federal election set to be dominated by questions of national security, Mr O'Connor was quick to point out that the coalition cut Kevin Rudd's manufacturing plan in 2014.
"They scrapped that, and then they sought to cut billions of dollars in research and development," he said, "this meant companies were going offshore."
The shadow minister said Labor's national reconstruction fund would ensure the government would be working with local manufacturing companies, to reinvigorate local economies and tighten national security.
Also joining Mr O'Connor at the Bendigo site was Bendigo federal Labor MP Lisa Chesters.
Ms Chesters said Bendigo has the potential to be the face of Australia's national security efforts.
OTHER BREAKING NEWS: Chain reaction: two riders hospitalised in Junortoun triple motorbike crash
"Ex-army men and women come to Thales and say thank you to the staff for saving their lives on the ground with the Bushmasters," she said.
However Ms Chesters raised concerns about the federal government's handling of the Bushmaster and Hawkei projects, noting the contracts were about to expire and jobs were on the line.
"That's the next story, we have to figure out how we can keep it all here," she said, "I will be asking questions of the federal government about what comes next for our region."
Ms Chesters pointed out that more than 600 Bushmasters were sitting unused at the Bendigo Thales site, waiting to be picked up by the ADF.
"When will Defence come and get them?" Ms Chesters said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.