LT GENERAL ANGUS CAMPBELL - CHIEF OF ARMY:
Welcome to Gallipoli Barracks, the home of the Australian Army in south-east Queensland. On all of our behalves, I acknowledge the Turrbal people the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today and also as the Chief of the Army, the Chief of one of our tribes, I acknowledge all of those nations, those peoples here on the continent that we serve and defend and protect together.
Today is a very special day for the Army, I think also for Australia. I’d like to acknowledge our very distinguished visitors to the barracks today. The Prime Minister of Australia the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, the Defence Minister Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, the Minister for Defence Industry the Hon Christopher Pyne MP. Also joining us is the Home Affairs Minister, Hon. Peter Dutton, the Assistant Minister for Social Services Jane Prentice, my very good friend Jane Prentice, and the local member Trevor Evans.
I’d also like to welcome members of the Rheinmetall Board and in particular Ben Hudson and Gary Stewart and the rest of the Rheinmetall team. Looking over to my left here, I acknowledge the presence of members of the 2nd/14th Regiment, some of our soldiers who will be using these new vehicles. Can I just acknowledge the hard work that many, many people across the Defence and Army teams have put together to bring to Government, a recommendation that we will see today announced by the Prime Minister. I am absolutely delighted at the vehicle that the Army is going to receive, the decision that has been made, it is an outstanding addition to Army capability and a quantum leap forward in our capacity to prosecute the mission given to us by our Government and to take care of our people in doing so.
I look forward to a long and very productive relationship between Army, Defence and Rheinmetall as we use these vehicles and develop the capability over the coming decades.
Ladies and gentlemen I’d like you to join me in welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP to the barracks.
Well thank you very much Angus and it’s great to be here with my ministerial colleagues and my parliamentary colleagues from Queensland, but above all, with you, the men and women of the Australian Army. Because what we’re doing today is ensuring that you have the vehicle that will enable you to complete your mission with the best capability the greatest lethality but also that will protect you and ensure that when you have completed your mission, you will come home safely. That is what this is about.
As one of the troopers said to me just a moment ago: “This is about lethality and survivability, this is about capability and protection”.
The Rheinmetall Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle brings that all together.
This is the largest single acquisition that has been made for the Australian Army and it is part of our $200 billion re-equipping of the Australian Defence Force, to ensure that the men and women who we send into harm's way have the capabilities to keep us safe in the 21st Century.
That’s why we’re investing and acquiring the Joint Strike Fighter. It’s why we’re investing in Future Frigates and the Future Submarines, the Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Navy. It's why we're investing in these armoured vehicles for the Army. This is about Australia's security.
But it's not simply or solely about capability in a military sense. It’s about ensuring that we have, for the first time, a fully integrated national sovereign defence industry.
You know, we have had a big defence budget for a long time. It is a big defence budget. But we have not spent enough of it in Australia. We have not spent enough of it with Australian workers, with Australian steel, with Australian technology, building up the means to enable us to build our own capabilities and, indeed, export them to the world.
We're starting to do that. We are creating for the first time a sovereign national enterprise, a sovereign defence industry. That's our commitment.
These vehicles will be built here in Queensland, but it is a national enterprise. There will be hundreds of jobs around the nation. Of the total $2.8 billion of Australian content going into these vehicles, $1,800 million will be in Queensland – this is the acquisition cost. $600 million for example, will be in Victoria. The steel - the specialised tempered steel - will be made in New South Wales.
Right around the nation, the whole nation is coming together behind this project.
So, this is a great day for Queensland, but above all, it's a great day for Australia.
It's a great day for Australian jobs.
You know, there's 1,450 jobs that will come, high-quality jobs, technical jobs, advanced manufacturing jobs, that will be delivered by this project. But it goes much further than this, it really does. These advanced manufacturing projects, the cutting-edge of defence technology, they spread through the economy. There are these big spillover effects and there will be other firms and other businesses that will build up. That's why it's so important that we combine national security in the military sense with economic security.
That's why it's vital to ensure our future and that of our children and grandchildren, that we have a strong sovereign defence industry.
So I'm delighted to be here today. I'm proud to be here in the company of the men and women these vehicles are designed to empower, to deliver the mission that Australia send them on and keep them safe.
Capability and protection, lethality and survivability.
Congratulations to Gary Stewart and Ben Hudson from Rheinmetall and I'll now ask Defence Minister Marise Payne to address us. Sorry, straight to Ben, there you go.
BEN HUDSON – RHEINMATALL DEFENCE:
We'll execute a short change here as a wet weather plan so I'll try to make this nice and quick. Prime Minister Turnbull, Minister Payne, Minister Pyne, Lieutenant Campbell, Minister Dutton, Mr Gilles, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honour to be back home in Australia this week for such an historic announcement that will cement the Rheinmetall’s partnership with the Australian Government and the Australian Army for decades to come.
The Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle you see standing here is without peer. It is the most capable, survivable and adaptable field-armoured fighting vehicle available today. The Boxer CRV is highly protected against both asymmetric threats that are being faced in the Middle East by our soldiers, while also being highly protected against conventional battlefield threats that our soldiers may face one day in a conventional war-fighting scenario.
This vehicle will ensure our soldiers return to their families in one piece, like no other vehicle can. The lance turret that you see fitted is uniquely aware of its environment and has a high level of automation that reduces workload on the crew and allows them to focus on the mission. The turret features a range of effects that allow the crew to use different systems to engage threats in a scaleable and measured way, from non-lethal effects, to the missile system that can engage the most aggressive threats on the battlefield. The Boxer CRV is a veritable Swiss Army Knife that allows our soldiers to deal with the ambiguity of modern peacekeeping and future war-fighting scenarios.
For Rheinmetall though, this isn't just about ensuring our soldiers have the most capable combat reconnaissance vehicle. We will utilize the Land 400 project as a catalyst to see more than $250 million of investment in new technologies and products and the development and manufacture or building of a world-class military vehicle centre of excellence based here in Queensland. This will allow us to establish as sovereign military vehicle industry, as the Prime Minister has just spoken about, here in Australia that will underpin the enduring partnership with the Government to design, manufacture, deliver, support and modernise this world-leading capability.
Our military vehicle centre of excellence will become an integral source of technology and products for the Rheinmetall group and will export into the global military vehicle market, with forecast opportunities worth tens of billions in the medium to long-term.
Our military vehicle centre of excellence may be based in Queensland, but it is a focal point for our national endeavor to deliver this capability. Our partners stretch across the nation and there will be substantial jobs and opportunities created in Western Australia, in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales in addition to those created here in Queensland.
I must pay tribute to the Federal Government's vision for enriching the Australian economy, with high technology jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector and leveraging the Defence portfolio to not only deliver the best capability to our military, but also to create jobs and opportunities for all Australians to participate in the development and production of the advanced technologies that will underpin our future society.
I must take a small amount of time to thank some key people and organisations that have been an integral part in arriving at this point today. Firstly to the Rheinmetall team both here in Australia and in Europe, along with our partners across the nation. Thank you for your trust, faith and hard work over the last three years. Without you, this day would not have happened. To the Government project team led by Brigadier Greg McGlone. Thank you for your tireless dedication, persistence, the leadership that you and your team have shown is exemplary. Minister Pyne, you've systematically changed the defence industry landscape here in Australia in the last two years. I must personally thank you for that. You've created an environment that has allowed world-leading capability to be delivered to our military, while at the same time, ensuring that a larger portion of government investment remains in Australia to enrich the economy and provide long-term opportunities for all Australians. And lastly, General Campbell, thank you for the trust you have placed in us. We will not let you and your soldiers down in delivering this vital capability for the Australian Army.
Ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister, thank you.
Very good, that's fantastic, thank you. Okay well, we'll take questions first on the vehicles, on the investment. Then, we'll deal with those and if there are questions on other matters, which I imagine there will be, we'll deal with those last. So any questions?
I have a question, why Queensland and not a Victorian company that has spent a lot of money and a lot of effort with a national advertising campaign to get the contract in Victoria? Why did you choose Queensland?
This is all about capabilities. This is a decision based on the capability of the vehicle both in terms of lethality and survivability. So this is a decision taken absolutely on the merits. By the way, it was a very, very clear choice, unambiguous.
So a better vehicle, not a political decision?
It’s all about the vehicle. You know, actually, I say it's all about the vehicle, it's all about these guys. It's all about making sure that they have got the capability to do the dangerous missions we send them on and the protection to make sure that they can come home safe.
But with the bulk of the jobs in Queensland –
Hang on, I’ll ask Marise Payne to add to that?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE:
Let me just add a couple of words. This has been a three year process of rigorous testing, rigorous trialing of the contenders in the Land 400 program.
We've put them in the heat. We've put them in the cold. We put them in the wet. We put them in the dry. We shot at them, we tried to blow them up. The outcome of that assessment is that this is the capability to provide the mobility, the lethality and the protection that will support the men and women of the ADF in doing the job that we ask them to do every day.
HON CHRISTOPHER PYNE MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY:
Can I also add to that? In terms of the national nature of the project, $1.8 billion of the acquisition is here in Queensland. $635 million of it is in Victoria, 330 jobs in Queensland, 170 in Victoria and then the balance of the Australian industry content is spread in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
The nature of these very large projects - and this is the biggest acquisition in the Army in its history - is that they're not confined to one geographical area. Rheinmetall chose Queensland to be the base of the construction but that's $1.8 billion out of a $2.8 billion Australian industry content as part of the acquisition program of $5.2 billion.
There will also be upgrades to the bases in Edinburgh, Western Australia, Puckapunyal, Townsville and here at Enoggera. There's a large infrastructure component, so not one state has won this contract. The nation has won this contract.
In years gone by, we would have bought the vehicles from overseas and imported them into the country. Because of the Turnbull Government's policies, 54 per cent of the acquisition will be value to our economy here and 70 per cent of the whole project out of $15.7 billion.
So it means jobs here, supporting our steel industry here and growing the skills and the capabilities of our workforce here.
Can the public have confidence the best vehicle was chosen, not just the most politically expedient vehicle that secures marginal Queensland seats? Is it absolutely the safest vehicle?
I think that we've just answered that, absolutely yes.
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY:
There's only one recommendation from the Department of Defence, it wasn't a ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ choice of the National Security Committee. It was a very clear recommendation based on capability and technical assessment.
Okay so any other issues?
Can I just ask about Bill Shorten’s tax announcement yesterday Prime Minister? He said on television this morning: “I’m going to choose the battler over the top end of town” and he’s also accused you of using a few pensioners as human shields to justify feather-bedding the very rich. Is Mr Shorten playing class warfare on this issue?
Bill Shorten is robbing pensioners and self-funded retirees of tax refunds. He's effectively taxing them twice. He's hitting people on lower and middle-incomes. His latest tax grab is not going to affect the very rich, at all. This is basically going to affect people on low incomes. That's why 97 per cent of the people that are going to be affected directly by it, are on incomes of less than $87,000. More than half are on incomes of less than $18,000. 3.5 million superannuation accounts are going to be worse off as a result of this.
This is an attack targeted on people on lower and middle-incomes.
It is taking money from people who have worked and saved all their lives and are battling. Right? They are battling.
They have got money that is coming back to them, it is money, tax that has already been paid by the company. Bill Shorten now wants pensioners and self-funded retirees to pay that tax again. This is an attack targeted on middle-income Australia and on people on low incomes, as the statistics demonstrate amply.
So he can dress this up as much as he likes, but I tell you, Australian pensioners, self-funded retirees, know who it's targeted at. It's targeted at them.
Bill Shorten is coming for the savings, for the incomes, for the lifestyles, for the affordability of the cost of living of people on lower and lower middle-incomes in retirement.
Prime Minister didn’t a Coalition discussion paper though, in 2015, talk about the significant drain on revenue? Aren’t you concerned about that, or is that not the case?
Well, this is Bill Shorten's cash grab. This is a Labor cash grab. Let's be quite clear about this; this is going to hit 3.5 million superannuation accounts.
It's going to hit self-managed super funds right across-the-board.
It's going to hit a million individuals, over 200,000 of whom are on the pension.
That's who Bill Shorten is going after, pensioners. He's going after pensioner’s income.
He's seeking to take money from pensioners and self-funded retirees, money they're entitled to.
This is not a tax loophole or anything like this. This is a case where companies have paid tax, they've paid tax. They pay a dividend with a franking credit and if somebody doesn't have other tax liabilities to offset that, they're entitled to get the difference in cash. That is completely fair. It's been the case for nearly 20 years and when it was introduced, it was welcomed and supported by the Labor Party. It is perfectly fair
This is how desperate Shorten is. It's a cash grab, because he cannot manage the Budget. He knows that his spending plans need a huge tax grab. Do you know he's up to $200 billion of additional taxes? That's about $8,000 for every Australian. This is a massive tax grab and he's going after people, overwhelmingly, on middle-incomes and indeed on low incomes. Think about that.
50 per cent of the individuals that will be hurt by this tax grab, are on incomes of less than $18,000.
These are pensioners and self-funded retirees. That's who he is going after, that’s Bill Shorten's target, he's coming after them. To dress this up as some sort of an attack on the wealthy is nonsense.
Prime Minister, just on that point, you say Labor is making life harder for low-income earners, but the Coalition has proposed cutting welfare for job seekers. It’s proposed cuts or pauses in pensions and is hiking the Medicare Levy for everyone, is this a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’?
You know exactly what Bill Shorten is doing. You should have a word to your parents. Have a word to your and they'll tell you how they feel about it and their friends, I can tell you. You're smiling, because you know I'm right. Bill Shorten is going after the savings of your parents and their friends and their contemporaries.
He's going after them because his spending plans are so out of control.
He's so incapable of managing the Budget.
Look, do you know in six years of government, do you know how many Australian naval vessels the Labor Party commissioned? Zero. Zero. None. They did nothing. So we have been, we are managing the Budget, bringing it back into balance, ensuring that there are the incentives to deliver Australian jobs.
403,000 jobs last year, quarter of them, over 100,000 of them were here in Queensland.
42,000 of them were for Queenslanders between 15 and 24.
You know, youth unemployment has been a big issue. It’s a big everywhere and it’s been a big issue in Queensland. We're delivering over 1,100 jobs a day. We’re delivering that with policies that support investment, enterprise, innovation, technology and keep Australians safe.
We're bringing the budget back into balance by 2020/21.
Shorten's Budget plans are completely out of control and now he's robbing pensioners to pay for his incompetence.
Prime Minister on another matter, the sacking of Rex Tillerson, what was your reaction to that this morning, and via tweet?
Well, I want to thank Rex Tillerson for the great work he's done as Secretary of State. He's been a terrific partner for us and we thank him for that and congratulate him on his great work. We look forward to working with Mike Pompeo, or continue working with Mike Pompeo. We know him very well. He's a great friend of Australia. The transition will be absolutely seamless. Our relationship with the United States, as you know, is outstanding at so many levels, from the President and myself, right through the military, intelligence, diplomacy, business.
Is there any risk that Mr Tillerson’s sacking could imperil arrangements we’ve already got in place with the United States like the tariff exemption deal?
No, no. Not at all. The exemption from the steel tariff was agreed between me and the President on Saturday morning our time.
OK, thank you all very much. Great security - national security, economic security, keeping these guys safe, giving them the capabilities they need to do their job and come home safely and thousands of jobs in advanced manufacturing, here in Queensland and across the nation.