Doorstop, Puckapunyal Army Base – 19 February, 2015

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Thank you very much Brigadier James to you to Lieutenant General David Morrison, the Head of Army, to Major General Paul McLachlan the Head of Land Systems, my friend and Parliamentary colleague Sarah Henderson, the Member for Corangamite, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a particular pleasure for me to make my first visit here to Puckapunyal as the Defence Minister for Australia. This has been a facility which has served this country, that many generations of members of the Australian Armed Forces have been here over many years and it’s great to be here with all of you today. Can I begin by stating that the first priority of a national government is the safety and security of its citizens and the first responsibility therefore as Defence Minister is to ensure that our military forces have the capability to be able to maintain that safety and security of this nation and the people of Australia. And where is it consistent with that we also wish to encourage Australian industry to participate in the requisite capability that we need as a nation. And there are many examples over many years of industry working together with defence to ensure that we have the capability that we require in Australia. And even in the past few weeks I’ve visited a number of defence industry establishments; TAE at Amberley, BAE, Polaris yesterday here on the outskirts of Melbourne. All Australian industry contributing to that number one priority, namely the security and the safety of this nation and its citizens. And so a strong partnership has been built over many years and decades in this regard. And this project LAND 400 represents another significant opportunity for that partnership to continue into the future. What we are announcing today is the First Pass Cabinet approval, in other words the opening for tender of part of a $10 billion project which will involve up to 225 vehicles and as part of this the tenderers will be asked to look at how they can maximize local industry content. These will be military off-the-shelf vehicles to replace the ones before us, behind me, and they are the current Light Armoured Vehicles. They’ve been in service for many years, a couple of decades now, they’re coming to the end of their life and we are looking as part of that capability requirement to replace them with a combat reconnaissance vehicle. And so that tender process will be open for companies and there are a range of these vehicles that could potentially meet our needs around the world at the present time and so we will go through a thorough process to ensure that we get the best vehicles to meet our capability and to meet the future needs in Australia. So once again great delight to be here at Puckapunyal, a great delight to be able to announce this project and I look forward to the ongoing partnership between the military forces in Australia, the defence forces in this country and the defence industries in Australia. Thank you.

QUESTION:

The military commission review has set aside David Hicks conviction; I guess does Australia have questions to answer?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look that’s a matter which will obviously be considered by the Government and by the Cabinet; I’m not in a position to advance any further thoughts at this stage.

QUESTION:

What direction have you given Defence over the competitive evaluation process in the past week for the submarines tender?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

We are working through a process with the Defence Department at the present time, we are obviously taking their advice about how we should go about this and we will be in a position to make some further announcements about this in coming days and weeks.

QUESTION:

Is this project, the LAND 400 will be an open tender, is that right?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

This process will be an open tender for a military off-the-shelf option, in other words there are a range of vehicles operating in different parts of the world at the present time, and Major General McLachlan can probably say some more about this, but we’ll be looking at those vehicles, a range of vehicles which are currently in operation and looking at how they would need to be modified if necessary to meet the conditions that we require for the Australian forces but if Major General McLachlan would like to add to that.

MAJOR GENERAL MCLACHLAN:

Yes it is an open request for tender. We will be seeking to have that tender available on the AUS Tender website barring any technical hitch by about 4 o’clock this afternoon and that will be available publicly.

QUESTION:

Minister what sort of expectation do you have and how can Australian industry benefit from this? What, is there going to be a set requirement for Australian content?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

There will be an admonition, if I can put it in general terms like that, that where Australian industry content can be maximised in this project that will be part of the criteria which will be in the assessment of which vehicle we ultimately select. This is the first phase, the first pass obviously as a result of these open tender considerations and the deliberations that go into that, it will come back to Cabinet as is the standard process now for a second pass and we will move on from there.

QUESTION:

Will you put a requirement on say a percentage of Australian local content?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No we can’t do that because that will depend on the various firms that come forward in terms of their vehicles and they all vary in different ways. So this is about staying consistent with our number one priority and that is to ensure that we have the capability to defend and assure the safety and security of this nation and its people, consistent with that where we can maximise Australian industry involvement we will.

QUESTION:

How many of these vehicles are made within Australia?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

These vehicles are all military off-the-shelf vehicles from overseas countries at the present time. So they are vehicles which are essentially operational in different countries, manufactured in different countries, we’ll be looking at a range of them.

QUESTION:

What’s the timeline for the first vehicle to come into operation?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Ah, 20-21? Yes we’re looking at 20-21, so the vehicles behind us as the Chief of Army Lieutenant General Morrison pointed out are coming towards the end of their life. I think the first ones were here in Australia in 1990 they came into operation in 1994 so that’s been a very long life and a very useful life in terms of what the Chief of Army said but by the end of this decade we are going to need a replacement vehicle which is much more modern and meets the requirements of the future.

QUESTION:

And what about the phase 3?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well we’ll deal with other phases as they come along. This is as I said a careful, methodical way of going about ensuring that the defence forces of Australia have the capability to be able to do what the Government on behalf of the people of this country asks them to do. There is, if you like, a compact between the citizens of the country, through their government of the day and the military to ensure that where we have a national aspiration be it to go to the Solomon Islands, or Timor Leste as we did in the past or Afghanistan or anywhere else that there are problematic areas in the world, where we have an ambition to be able to participate in activities in those theatres, in those operations. Then we must match that with the capability of our defence forces to be able to do that which we aspire for them. And that means providing in the future for the capability given the long timeframe it takes to actually select and have these vehicles operational and then the long life that they have once we have them.

QUESTION:

What improvements are you looking for in the new phase 2 model?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well again, any technical detail I’ll hand over to Major General McLachlan

MAJOR GENERAL MCLACHLAN:

Quite a bit of the discussions been going around is this is seen as a bit of a vehicle replacement program and it certainly is not that. What we are going to be getting with the new combat reconnaissance vehicle is a system not just a platform. We know that there are quite a number of offerings from the platform perspective that will give us what we need to do from a performance but it’s actually what systems we can put on those, what C4i integration can we bring that real advantage to the soldier on the battlefields of the present and the future. So that’s the really biggest difference. You’ll have a look at the one behind you; you’ll see that it has an operational weight of about 18 tonne, at the moment it simply doesn’t have the capacity to put the blast protection, the ballistic protection to survive in the modern battle space as the Chief of Army sort of mentioned earlier. So we are looking for a bigger, heavier vehicle to provide that level of protection when looking for a network platform that will be able to take all of the modern sensors that are now available to us and to bring into bear in the national interest.

QUESTION:

Minister just back on the submarines is there a reason the Government’s not calling it a tender is because the Japanese are worried about appearing to be spruiking their military on the open market?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

We are working through as I mentioned earlier an elaborative process, an evaluation process in terms of submarines. We are looking at the detail of what’s involved in that process at the present time and then once we’ve done that as I said we’ll be able to make some further announcements about it.

QUESTION:

You’re able to put this project out to an open tender but why not the submarines?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Very simple. There are military off-the-shelf options in relation to the vehicles we’re talking about today; there is not a military off-the-shelf option in relation to a submarine. And further I’m advised by Defence that there has never been an open tender for a submarine at any stage, anywhere.

QUESTION:

The ASC’s Chief Executive has just told a Senate Committee that he hasn’t heard from either your office or the PM’s office about this competitive evaluation process, why hasn’t that happened? And would you expect him to of come to you?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Ah well I’ve been on the road and I’m not sure what he’s said to the Senate committee but can I just make two comments; firstly I visited ASC twice now in the short period of time that I’ve been the Minister and secondly as I said in the previous answer we will be releasing more detail about this process in the future.

QUESTION:

Can you explain what the next step in the process is?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

That’s why we’re working through the detail so can I just say, can I remind everybody what I’ve been saying for weeks now. I will take a careful, deliberate, cautious process to all of these projects because of the enormity and the significance of the decisions which are involved. Thank you.