$2b defence contract war looms



QUEENSLAND'S powerful bloc of LNP parliamentarians will ramp up pressure on the government to award a sensitive $2 billion defence contract to a Brisbane company.

In a rare public show of force, the Coalition's largest state-based block of parliamentarians has swung in behind arms supplier NIOA's bid for a 10-year contract to replace every Army weapons system from grenades to machine guns.

Brisbane-headquartered NIOA is locked in a battle with Thales, from France, and Babcock, from the UK, for the lucrative LAND 159/4108 deal expected to be awarded within weeks.

Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien said the "full force" of Team Queensland was backing the NIOA bid as the type of project Queensland needed to get the economy going again.

"This is more than a parochial call to arms, it's about putting the interests of Australia first and doing everything we can to support jobs for Queenslanders," he said.

The last time the block went public was to pitch for a $5 billion contract to build the Boxer armoured fighting vehicle, ultimately won in 2018 by Rheinmetall, which based construction in Queensland.

Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien.
Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien.

The grouping expanded from 26 to 29 after Coalition gains at the 2019 election giving it the size to send a clear message to the government that the decision is being closely watched.

With parliament resuming today, MPs and Senators will take every opportunity to lobby colleagues including Defence Industry Melissa Price, who will sign off on the final decision.

NIOA's bid has gained support after the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of national supply chains and defence sovereignty.

First-term MP Julian Simmons said awarding the contract to NIOA would "send a powerful signal to local manufacturers boosting confidence as they get back on their feet after COVID".

"If COVID has taught us one thing, it's that we have to look more to our home grown talent to provide critical supply chains necessary for our national security and self-reliance," he said.

Longman MP Terry Young said NIOA should "absolutely" be awarded the contract as it was 100 per cent Australian owned.

"We simply must encourage Australian companies to have a go and the place to start is surely obtaining government contracts," he said.

Originally published as $2b defence contract war looms

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