Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Minister Wong. My question is regarding Land 400 Phase 3 bravo. I think congratulations are deserved on choosing Hanwha's Redback infantry fighting vehicle, or IFV. The Army has been calling for this capability for decades. Can the minister outline the key reasons this IFV was chosen to protect our men and women in a fight?
Thanks to Senator Van. I know he has a great interest in defence procurement, and I also know that the Land 400 project has been one of the projects of great interest to quite a number of members of parliament and senators. Obviously the focus that the government has had has been on capability. As you would know, Senator Van, the government announced, on 27 July, Hanwha Defense Australia as the preferred tenderer to deliver 129 infantry fighting vehicles. The Redback will be a significant upgrade to the M113, the current vehicle used by Army to protect soldiers. The Redback infantry fighting vehicle will come with latest-generation armour, cannon and missiles, providing protection, mobility and firepower that is needed by our soldiers when in close combat. This is a capability that the government believes is needed for the ADF in its work.
Under the government, we have also accelerated the delivery schedule of the project to provide certainty to both Army and the defence industrial base following the Defence Strategic Review. We are looking to have these vehicles delivered two years earlier than they would have been under the former government's plan. I also note this was a project on which the former government did not make a procurement decision during the life of the government. I can provide more detail or a briefing about the capability of the Redback, but the advice to government was clearly that it came with superior capability, particularly protection, mobility and firepower, and that was necessary, obviously as a capability, and it was the best available provider.
The former government lacked the ticker before the last election to announce the winner, thereby locking in the full complement of 450 that was originally tendered. Given the government has only ordered 129, just 70 per cent of the original 450, will the government review this cut capability?
I think there are two points. The first is, obviously—as I alluded to in my primary answer—that there was competition for this tender, and there was interest from both members and senators and more broadly. I understand that. This happens, but obviously we took the view that, whatever the different views from different tenderers and the different locations in Australia that had a particular interest in this, what was more important was the best decision on capability, and that is the way in which the government approached this decision.
In relation to the numbers, I don't agree with the simple assertion that this is a cut to capability. You will know, Senator Van, that we have had a defence strategic review. That review looked to what is the appropriate shape of the Australian Defence Force, what is the capability we need— (Time expired)
Thank you, Minister. Given that Hanwha has undertaken to still build the redbacks in Victoria but will likely need to build export sales to make the plant profitable, what assistance will be government contemplate providing Hanwha to help them grow their exports?
Just on the number, because I think it's an important point: the Defence strategic review looked at what is the capability the Australian Defence Force needs across the board. It made a recommendation to reduce the number of infantry fighting vehicles to 129. That is about transforming the Army to operate in the littoral environment, which is consistent with the recommendations and the direction of the Defence strategic review, given the circumstances Australia faces.
Subject to commercial negotiations, these vehicles are intended to be built in Australia. This requires, as you allude to, establishing capability in Australia to build more. We understand the importance of the building of exports to grow and sustain the defence industry businesses. The Defence Export Office is working closely with Defence attaches and Austrade's managers in key markets— (Time expired)