THE importance of Tamworth’s Basic Flight Training School to the nation’s defence efforts has been highlighted in a NSW government defence paper.
The defence position paper, released yesterday at the BAE Systems facility at Williamtown in Newcastle, notes NSW is home to more defence bases and facilities than any other state or territory.
“We will aggressively make the case for ... defence facilities in this state, advocating the importance of the NSW defence sector to the nation’s defence efforts,” Deputy Premier and minister for trade and investment Andrew Stoner said.
Mr Stoner said he would be pressuring Canberra to give more consideration to Tamworth in its tender for basic flight training services.
“These services have been successfully delivered at Tamworth for over 20 years,” he said.
The contract for Tamworth’s flight training school, managed by BAE Systems, will end in 2015 with significant pressure coming from Sale in Victoria for the new 25-year, $2 billion Air 5428 contract.
NSW defence industry advisor Ken Gillespie, who was at yesterday’s defence paper release, was in Tamworth last week where he committed his support to Tamworth’s bid.
Tamworth Regional Council deputy mayor Russell Webb was invited to Newcastle yesterday for the announcement, along with Tamworth Regional Council general manager Paul Bennett and New England North West NSW Business Chamber president Tim Coates.
Cr Webb said he’d been very encouraged by the government’s defence paper and the assurances from Mr Stoner.
“He understands the work that needs to be done (to secure the contract) and the benefits to Tamworth and the state,” he said.
“It would be a huge hit if we lost it and (Mr Stoner) said to me (the government) will do whatever it can to keep it here.”
Cr Webb said Mr Stoner emphasised the current Tamworth facility met all the required operational needs and it made no sense to spend tens of millions of dollars to move it somewhere else.
“It will only be a political decision that moves it,” he said.
The NSW government was angered by recent suggestions by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the naval facility at Garden Island could be relocated to Queensland.
“Defence and the defence industry should never be used as a political football,” Mr Stoner said yesterday.
Mr Coates praised the NSW government for releasing a coherent strategy to maintain and grow the state’s defence assets.
“NSW offers tremendous advantages with its long history in defence, the location of many military bases in the state, a vibrant and capable defence industry, and support from a world-class tertiary sector,” Mr Coates said.
“This new approach from the government is welcomed and the NSW Business Chamber is enthusiastic to provide support to accelerate defence industry growth in our state.”
Nationals candidate for New England Barnaby Joyce said he had written to Coalition leader Tony Abbott and Opposition spokesman for defence Senator David Johnston calling for their support to keep the training school in Tamworth.
Mr Joyce said if elected as the new member for New England on Saturday, he would “argue the strongest case” to retain the defence contract.
The Tamworth facility was mentioned alongside the more than 80 defence facilities across the state, including the Williamtown RAAF base, Singleton army base and Garden Island.