In what is a massive blow for regional Victoria, the Albanese Government is reportedly planning to cut $1 billion from the Howitzer defence project located at Avalon Airport near Geelong.
Tomorrow’s release of the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) is expected to confirm that the Albanese Government will axe Phase 2 of the Howitzer defence vehicle manufacturing project for the Australian Army.
This would cut from 60 to 30 the number of self-propelled Howitzers to be manufactured by Hanwha Defense Australia, in partnership with local industry, with the number of ammunition resupply vehicles to be reduced from 30 to 15.
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 our government announced an additional $1 billion for phase 2 in 2020.
“This news is a significant blow to Australia’s sovereign defence manufacturing capability and a terrible attack on Geelong manufacturing jobs by the minister for defence and member for Corio, Richard Marles,” Senator Henderson said.
“After spreading so much false hope before the election, Mr Marles has delivered nothing but funding cuts and axed jobs for Geelong, Senator Henderson said.
“Labor’s failure to stand up for women’s maternity services, Geelong fast rail and now Geelong defence jobs shows Labor’s contempt for our region.”
While construction of Hanwha’s Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Avalon is scheduled for completion in late 2024, the Albanese Government has undermined Australia’s reputation as a stable place to invest in sovereign manufacturing capability.
“With Hanwha one of two down selected bidders for Land 400 Phase 3, Geelong has also been strung along for months by Labor’s failure to announce the winning tender, with reports that this program also faces savage cuts,” Senator Henderson said.
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.
As the Opposition has announced, we will consider the DSR findings and recommendations and continue to hold the Government to account at this challenging time to ensure the safety and security of our country in the national interest.