Abbott needs to show support for Thales' Hawkei program

Tomorrow’s visit to the Bendigo electorate by Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is an opportunity for him to guarantee any government he leads would continue prototype development funding for Thales’ Hawkei program, Labor candidate for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said today.

“Federal Labor has clearly backed the project allocating $47 million towards Hawkei development, but there will be a need for more research and development funding in the final phase of prototype development,” Ms Chesters said.

“Labor has also secured Thales’ immediate future with orders for an additional 214 Bushmaster vehicles however, the long term future of the Bendigo facility will depend on the Hawkei program.”

“This project is vitally important, not only for direct jobs at Thales and its suppliers but for Bendigo’s economy as a whole, of which defence manufacturing is a major component.”

Ms Chesters said Federal Labor has consistently supported Thales Bendigo over the past decade while the Coalition has refused to give any worthwhile commitments.

“Mr Abbott toured Thales’ Bendigo facility on 5 March this year, but refused to commit any future Coalition Government to current and future contracts for the Bendigo plant.”

“Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey then told the Bendigo Advertiser on 16 July that he was against giving Australian manufacturers and businesses preferences for government contracts and that we have got to be able to compete with the best in the world.”

“Mr Hockey also said: ‘I am strongly opposed to industry assistance that simply distorts the playing field and ends up making us less competitive over time and not more competitive.’”

Ms Chesters said Mr Hockey chooses to ignore the fact that the Hawkei offers the same high level of protection as its outstandingly successful stable mate, the Bushmaster Protected Mobility vehicle.

“Mr Abbott’s visit to the electorate today is an ideal opportunity for him to commit 
the Coalition to following Labor’s lead and show support for Bendigo and its 
world-class defence industry.”