Dutton shoots down overseas plan for defence vehicles

·3-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

The possibility vehicles for the defence force will be built overseas have been labelled a missed opportunity for local companies.

Construction of army infantry vehicles could be done solely overseas, according to the ABC.

The option is being considered by the government to speed up the acquisition of the vehicles, with German and Korean companies bidding for the tender told to submit new plans.

Companies had been told to provide options for a build of the vehicles within Australia or for complete construction overseas.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said companies in Australia should be used more as part of defence projects.

"It's a missed opportunity - there are thousands of jobs here in Australia available within the defence industry," he said on the Gold Coast on Friday.

"We have a situation now where the government is stripping back capability from the Australian army and I think this is why there's a morale problem at the moment in the Australian Defence Force."

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said construction of the vehicles in Australia formed part of the government's decision on the tender.

"The Albanese Labor government is proud that it will spend record amounts on the Australian defence industry," he said.

"In all tender evaluations, Australian industry content is a positive factor in government considerations."

The government's recent defence strategic review outlined an urgency to acquire the military vehicles, despite slashing the number it would seek from 450 to 129.

Mr Dutton said being able to make the vehicles in Australia would enable them to also be exported to other countries.

"It's beyond me why the government would want to lose those Australian jobs and lose that industry," the former defence minister said.

"There's a huge multiplier to the Australian economy and in defence material."

Debate over the tenders came as a senior American officer described the US military as an 800-pound gorilla that overwhelms Australia's slow defences.

In a report called Impactful Mateship, US Army Colonel Alan W Throop says American troops often lack even a simple understanding of how big Australia is and view its forces as lacking capacity and easily overwhelmed.

It's something that could trouble or fracture the alliance, with one US personnel member observing "we speak the same language, but we don't".

Australia has just three per cent the number of personnel as the US, something one American trooper said was not common knowledge.

"We have a tendency to overwhelm them ... because we kind of think that they are larger than they are," they said.

Another respondent in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute report heaped praise on the attitude of the ADF while lashing its ability to get things done.

"I've never seen the ADF tell the US side they can't. When they focus on an event, there's nothing (they) can't do," they said.

"They can do one part of it, but they can't do a whole. You can either move here, or you can move there, but you can't do both."