TAMWORTH’S $2 billion fight to keep the lucrative Basic Flight Training School contract has been taken all the way to the prime minister’s office.
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce revealed yesterday he had pushed the city’s case for the Australian Defence Force contract to Tony Abbott and Defence Minister David Johnston.
It comes as The Leader discovered tenderers for the project were being asked to propose two locations – their preferred site and the RAAF Base East Sale – raising fears the Victorian regional city could be the frontrunner.
But Mr Joyce said he had “clearly stated” to the prime minister and defence minister that, on flying days and on cost, Tamworth was a better proposition.
“I’ve made my position abundantly clear,” Mr Joyce said.
“It stands to reason that it would stay in Tamworth and I’ve stated that case even before I was the member.”
Mr Joyce said he didn’t know why RAAF Base East Sale had to be part of each tender, but that the military wanted to centralise operations.
He said he couldn’t see an issue with operations running out of Tamworth as it was already doing.
“I haven’t heard anything back (from the Prime Minister or Mr Johnston), but when I spoke to them, I was encouraged by their response,” he said.
“I think it should stay here and the business plan makes more sense for it to stay here than for it to go away.”
Tamworth Business Chamber president Tim Coates said Tamworth had demonstrated its support of defence by having 80 per cent of businesses sign on as defence reserve supportive employers.
Mr Coates said the tender process was not a level playing field, due to each requiring an East Sale proposal.
He said Tamworth was the only place in NSW pushing for the project that he knew of, and the city had NSW government support.
Mr Coates said Lieutenant General (retd) Kenneth James Gillespie AC DSC CSM was “advocating very strongly for Tamworth”.
“As a community we need to be vigilant about what’s going on, what we hear and what we see and we need to be vocal,” he said.
“At this point in time we’ve got all the stakeholders in NSW on board, including Tamworth Regional Council and the NSW government, so at this time I don’t see the need for a petition.”
Tamworth’s BAE Systems has provided the basic flying training for the ADF since 1992 and won the interim contract in 2011, with the tenders for the 25-year contract to close on February 17, 2014.