Hunter keen for defence contracts

The Hunter region should push to secure lucrative defence contracts, a defence forum in Newcastle has heard.

The Newcastle Herald reports that the Hunter Defence Forum took place yesterday at the Honeysuckle headquarters of peak manufacturing body HunterNet.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen told the forum that Williamtown could become a maintenance hub for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters if the region’s manufacturing came together to push for it.

‘‘If we play our cards right, and we collaborate and do the legwork, we will be able to come to the table with a competitive, well-structured bid for the deeper maintenance of that aircraft,’’ Owen told the Newcastle Herald.

He also said that he had met with US defence officials on Monday and discussed Australia’s JSF program and added that such a project would be worth billions of dollars to the Hunter.

The federal government is expected to reveal its acquisition plans early next year in its defence white paper.

As the ABC reports, there are also hopes that the region could compete for a defence land vehicle contract, known as Land 400.

HunterNet's director of Defence Projects Ian Dick told the ABC that, in order to ensure the Hunter is in the running for the project, the Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert was invited to the region to consider the possibility.

The Land 400 project would be worth more than $10 billion and it is known that other Australian regions, such as Geelong in Victoria are keen to secure the contract.