Liberals yet to indicate support for Thales Hawkei program

Labor Candidate for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, has demanded the Federal Coalition indicate it will support Thales’ Hawkei PMV-L program should it win the election on September 14th this year.

Ms Chesters said Liberal leader Tony Abbott fell short of guaranteeing future defence contracts for Thales during a visit to Bendigo on March 5th 2012, and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has said he was against giving Australian manufacturers and businesses preferences for Government contracts.

She challenged Liberal candidate for Bendigo, Greg Bickley, to gain a firm commitment from the Coalition that they would continue to fund the Hawkei development program.

“Despite considerable opposition from both the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and the former Howard Coalition Government, Bendigo Labor has an excellent track record of support for the Bushmaster program and is continuing that support for the Hawkei program.”

“Former Liberal Defence Minister Peter Reith tried to cancel the initial Bushmaster contract in 2001 and it was only Labor that spearheaded the campaign to save that contract”.

“It was only after Labor led a successful deputation to the new Liberal Defence Minister, Senator Robert Hill, in March 2002 that a new contract was negotiated, but with a reduced number of vehicles.”

“Now we have 1,000 Bushmasters all built at the Bendigo plant and Defence sources have said that these vehicles are responsible for saving around 300 lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Ms Chesters said the DMO and the Coalition had always preferred the “off the shelf” option by purchasing defence equipment from overseas manufacturers while Labor has a proven track record of strong support for the locally built Bushmaster program, and that support is continuing with research and development funding for the new Hawkei Light Protected Mobility Vehicle.

“In fact the DMO had said on April 23rd 2009 that they didn’t believe Thales was capable of designing and building Light Protected Mobility Vehicles, however Labor and Thales have proven that to be wrong.”

“Federal Labor has provided $47 million in prototype development assistance for Hawkei since it was finally chosen as the preferred option by the Defence Materiel Organisation, the very same department that said Thales could never produce a Hawkei type vehicle.”

“We are now well on the way to a successful contract for Thales worth between $1.3 and $1.5 billion and the only obstacle that may jeopardise our chances is the election of a Federal Coalition Government”.

“Mr Bickley must insist on an unequivocal commitment from his party to continue the Hawkei program, should they be elected. Bendigo’s economic wellbeing and over 300 direct jobs may depend on it”.