Victoria’s Defence industry advocate is bullish about the state’s ability to provide the ideal workforce for the LAND 400 Phase 2 project.
Speaking to Defence Connect, former parliamentary secretary for defence procurement Greg Combet said BAE Systems Australia will have no trouble establishing a skilled workforce if the company is chosen over Rheinmetall for the $5 billion project, with the state's struggling automotive industry ready and able to fill the roles.
"The last time we spoke, I also put it in the context of the closure of the commercial automotive manufacturing industry ... Toyota closed at Altona, and, of course, Ford has closed previously, the engine plants stopped producing and the state will take ownership of that shortly from General Motors, so that industry's closing down," explained Combet.
"It affects a lot of suppliers. A lot of trades people in particular, and people who have worked on ... automotive manufacturing, are in the marketplace and I don't think that's going to be an issue at all in BAE finding the skilled workforce that they need, and that can happen fairly quickly."
Rheinmetall has chosen Queensland as the state to build in if successful in securing the project, while BAE Systems has selected Victoria, a move Combet said gives a distinct advantage because of an already existing, and strong, supply chain.
"The supply chain of course is extremely important, and I think on that front there's clearly an advantage being in Victoria," said Combet.
"It's a very well developed supply chain, many of whom supply military vehicle production to Thales at Bendigo."
But if BAE is unsuccessul in landing the project, Combet says its supply chain will still play a key role in the project.
"The most important thing is to support the suppliers, help them diversify their businesses and to support the [automotive] workers affected and their local communities," the former federal politician said.
"And that's why it's important, from my point of view, that we do everything we can to win LAND 400 and expand the military vehicle supply chain and we win a number of these other things, so that there are opportunities for manufacturers. As a former trade union official, the wellbeing of the employees is a pretty big issue for me.
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"But the fundamental [thing] is the capability of the vehicles, of course, and the value for money assessment by defence.
"if Rheinmetall wins, quite a number of suppliers in Victoria will also participate in that program."
BAE Systems has put forward the Patria AMV-35 for the project, while Rheinmetall has offered the Boxer CRV. The winner of the multibillion-dollar project will be announced in the first half of 2018.