The Coalition’s decision to deliver the Howitzer defence project to Geelong has paid very big dividends for our city and Victoria, following the awarding of the Land 400 Phase 3 contract to Hanwha Defense Australia.
While the Albanese Government’s decision is well overdue, I am delighted that Hanwha will be expanding its Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Avalon to produce 129 infantry fighting vehicles for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
This is a major win for local defence manufacturing jobs and our regional economy. This also demonstrates why I fought so hard for such a long time, on behalf of the Coalition, to bring major defence industry contracts to Geelong.
It is deeply regrettable, however, that the Land 400 Phase 3 program has been cut from 450 to 129 vehicles which has degraded our land combat power and weakened our Army.
Along with the Albanese Government’s axing of Phase Two of the Howitzer project (from 60 to 30 Howitzer guns and from 30 to 15 ammunition supply vehicles), the downgrading of Land 400 Phase 3 represents a significant reduction in the economic firepower which should have been delivered to Geelong and Victoria.
With Defence Minister Richard Marles at the helm, the axing of Phase 2 of the Howitzer project represents a $2.3 billion cut in total, taking into account the lifetime maintenance costs of the vehicles. With the original Land 400 Phase 3 project worth up to $27 billion and the revised cost between $5 billion and $7 billion, the Albanese Government must come clean about the economic impact of this decision and how this money has been reallocated.
By his own admission, Mr Marles played no part in advocating for Geelong to become the home of Land 400 Phase 3.
Since 2014, in contrast to Mr Marles who could only criticise, I have fought for defence industry manufacturing jobs for Geelong, and I never gave up. I congratulate Hanwha on its successful bid and look forward to working closely with the many Geelong and Victorian companies in the defence supply chain which will benefit from this investment.
- Between 2007 and 2013, the Australian Defence Force was run into the ground by Labor’s spending cuts and chronic under-investment which saw Labor drive defence spending to its lowest levels since 1938 – to 1.56 per cent of GDP. This was reversed by Coalition governments which boosted defence spending by 55 per cent in real terms.
- In 2014, Senator Henderson (as the member for Corangamite), in conjunction with some Geelong community leaders, launched a campaign to bring defence industry jobs to our region. In her sights was the Land 400 Phase 2 program. Mr Marles failed to back the community campaign, opting only to criticise.
- In March 2018, as a direct result of the Victorian Government’s paltry commitment to the tender bid in contrast to the massive investment by the Queensland Government, Rheinmetall moved to Brisbane and then won the Land 400 Phase 2 tender.
- Despite this, Senator Henderson never gave up. In May 2019, after the previous Labor government cancelled the Howitzer program in 2012, the Coalition government announced that, if re-elected, it would invest in Geelong’s manufacturing future by delivering the $1 billion Howitzer defence project for Geelong. This investment was doubled when the Coalition government announced an additional $1 billion for Phase 2 in 2020 (noting the lifetime value of the Phase 2 contract as confirmed by the ADF was $2.3 billion).
- On 23 February 2022, Senator Henderson joined Linfox and Hanwha executives, along with former Prime Minister Morrison, for a sod turn of Hanwha’s Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence which is being built at the industrial precinct adjacent to Avalon Airport. Construction of the centre will be completed at the end of 2024.
- On 24 April 2023, the Opposition condemned the Albanese Government and Mr Marles over their decision to savagely cut the number of self-propelled Howitzer guns, armoured ammunition supply vehicles and infantry fighting vehicles which would be produced for Army, as proposed in the government’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR). While the government announced it would continue with AUKUS initiated by the Coalition, it became clear the DSR was all about cost shifting, funding cuts, the delaying of a national defence strategy and cannibalising defence capability.
- On 26 May 2023, in the face of ongoing delays on the Land 400 Phase 3 tender decision, Senator Henderson called on the Albanese Government to provide certainty and clarity to the Australian defence industry which was causing ongoing harm to Geelong.