Victorian senator David Van has stepped up calls for the Victorian government to step up its efforts to attract long-term, high-tech, advanced defence manufacturing employment and training opportunities in the state.
Senator Van explained, across Australia, state and territory governments – of both sides of the political aisle – have been partnering with defence companies to lobby for secure, high-skilled, high-value investment projects, research and jobs for their jurisdictions.
“The budget only provided a funding commitment of $6 million dollars over the next four years. Federally, the government has been prepared to do what is necessary to encourage investment and growth within Australia’s defence industry,” Senator Van explained.
Victoria currently has the opportunity to compete for the Australian government’s $18 billion LAND 400 Phase 3 project to replace the Australian Army’s M113 Vietnam-era armoured personnel carriers with either the Victorian-built Hanwha Defence AS-21 Redback or the Queensland-built, Rheinmetall Defence Australia KF-41 Lynx.
Senator Van added, “To ensure we get projects built down here, Victoria has to show a stronger bid than that of Queensland’s. The Labor government in Queensland has gone to great lengths to ensure the sector up north is supported. They understood the opportunities available, partnered with Rheinmetall and now Queensland is delivering the Australian government’s LAND 400 Phase 2 project.”
Without real investment from the Andrews government, Victoria runs the risk of losing not only those jobs but also the opportunity to build a defence precinct in regional Victoria.
Senator Van explained that the economic impact of COVID upon Victoria should be seen as an opportunity for the Victorian government to build its case for the development of an advanced, sustainable and competitive defence industrial base in the state.
“With so many Victorians currently out of work, it is madness to think the Victorian government wouldn’t make a substantial commitment to building our defence industry capabilities. The great thing about defence industry jobs is that they provide long-term reliable jobs at all levels, but particularly high-skilled, high-paying jobs,” Senator Van said.
The Victorian budget set out that the $6 million for the industry will be spent on supporting Victoria’s defence industry and supply chains to secure roles in delivering major defence contracts through advocacy, advisory and capability development activities.
“While this is good in theory, only providing $6 million over four years makes it seem like all they have done is build a bigger bureaucracy, not create further job opportunities. If Victoria is going to have any chance of remaining competitive with other states come future defence industry opportunities, the Andrews government needs to get serious, completely rethink its current strategy and increase its investment to attract high-tech projects, opportunities and the benefits that long-term defence projects bring,” Senator Van added.