THE FATE of the Ipswich job market rests in the Federal Government's hands.
Military manufacturer Rheinmetall Defence Australia is one of two companies in a bidding war for a $5 billion Australian Government Defence contract to build and supply specialised armoured vehicles.
Rheinmetall has committed to establishing its $80 million manufacturing centre in Ipswich, if its bid for the LAND 400 phase 2 project contract is successful.
The products manufactured in Ipswich would not only flow to the Australian Army but to other agencies around the world.
Securing the contract would create 350 long-term jobs with lucrative export opportunities for existing businesses in Ipswich over the coming decades.
The jobs boost would be significant for the city given the shock news last month that two major businesses would close, taking 900 jobs out of the local economy.
Yesterday, after climbing down from one of the vehicles Rheinmetall hopes to be supplying to the army soon, Mayor Andrew Antoniolli pleaded with the Federal Government to keep Ipswich in mind.
"We'd ask the Federal Government to think of Ipswich when awarding this contract," Cr Antoniolli said.
"We have a proud military heritage in Ipwich, with 7500 defence force workers in the city."
The LAND 400 program involves the supply of 225 combat reconnaissance vehicles, like the one put on display in Ipswich, to the Australian Army, as well as infantry fighting vehicles for global markets.
The new vehicles will replace the entire existing fleet.
Rheinmetall's managing director Gary Stewart said Ipswich would be the ideal location for its manufacturing 'Centre of Excellence' for a variety of reasons, including its proximity to Brisbane and access to the Amberley air base.
"When you look forward to when this equipment has to be deployed overseas in operations, the fact you have the C17 (Globemaster aircraft) strategic air lift right there, it's in the right location to be able to get this equipment where it needs to be quickly, so it makes sense in a lot of ways," Mr Stewart said.
Rheinmetall is already the largest supplier of military vehicles to the Australian Defence Force, delivering more than 2500 logistics trucks to the Australian Army under a previous LAND 121 program, which are being deployed from Wacol now.
Mr Stewart was tight-lipped on his level of confidence when it came to winning the latest contract.
He said the vehicle his company had produced was in line with the army's needs and had been rigorously tested by the army over a period of about one year.
"We know we have highly precision engineered German technology with a strong Australian industrial solution...." Mr Stewart said.
"The fact we are still able to have (the Boxer CRV vehicle) here in Australia, after the (testing phase)... the vehicle has performed admirably."
The top of the range vehicle has travelled Australia as part of a road show to connect Rheinmetall with businesses that could be involved in delivering the defence contract, should Rheinmetall win the bid. Rheinmetall delivered its final offer to the Commonwealth on Friday August 11 after 52 weeks of comprehensive testing and evaluation.
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