Journalist: Can you tell us why you are here today?
Jason Clare: I’m here to say hello to the workers that work here at Bruck and thank them for the important work that they do. They make the material that makes the uniforms that you see our soldiers, our sailors and our pilots wear. And if you’re watching TV and you see our soldiers in Afghanistan or working, helping with the flood crisis in Queensland then they’re wearing uniforms that are made of material made by Bruck, right here.
So they do really, really important work and then the material gets shipped off to Bendigo and to Footscray where it’s turned into these sorts of uniforms, and it’s important that we get it right, that they are cool , that they are comfortable and that they are made of the right material to suit lots of different conditions. And Bruck’s being doing that for years, and years and years here.
It’s also important that they are made in Australia. Last year I got a report that said that this material and these uniforms could and should be made overseas. Well I’ve rejected that report and I’ve made it very clear that these uniforms should and will continue to be made in Australia. Now that doesn’t guarantee that any particular company will do the work, but what it does guarantee is that there is going to be local competition and that local companies in Australia are going to make Australian made combat uniforms.
Journalist: How important do you think it is that the work stays here in Wangaratta or you don’t mind where it gets done?
Jason Clare: Well its Aussie jobs that I’m concerned about, I want to make sure Australians do this work but you know what the people at Wangaratta do this bloody well and they’ve proven that year, after year, after year. And the team at Bruck have shown me the work that they do here today and I’m really impressed with the work they do.
Journalist: You can provide a guarantee that the work won’t go offshore while you’re Minister?
Jason Clare: Yeah what I’ve said is that the standard combat uniform, what you see here, it’s made in Australia now and it’ll continue to be made in Australia while I’m the Minister of Defence Materiel.
Journalist: And you’ve obviously been around the state today Minister, how impressed are you with Victorian manufacturing, I know you’ll obviously be visiting Albury on the other side of the Murray this afternoon. But how impressed have you been with what you’ve seen so far?
Jason Clare: Well there are about 29,000 workers in the defence industry across Australia, a lot of them are here in Victoria making things like uniforms but also making the body armour, the combat body armour that our soldiers wear in theatre. I was in Bendigo today where we launched the first of the new combat body armour that’s going into theatre. It’s lighter than the body armour that they are wearing in Afghanistan right now and it’s creating 50 new jobs for Bendigo, which is good news.
The fact is there’s a lot of defence work in Victoria because Victorians are very good at it.
Journalist: Minister I understand that the defence force socks are being made in China, is that correct?
Jason Clare: I’m not sure I’ll have to check. But what you’ll find is that around about 85% of defence clothing is made in Australia and then there are some things which come from overseas. So raincoats, gloves, the cold weather boots come from different countries, but about 85% of the Defence force clothing are made in Australia.
Journalist: Bruck’s been concerned in recent years about contracts being held up in the Defence, is that something you discussed today?
Jason Clare: Yeah it has, and there’s been a bit of a log jam as we’ve gone through this policy process of deciding where uniforms should be made and that’s now finished. The report came to me late last year, the report said make it overseas, I said no – we’re going to continue to make them in Australia.
Journalist: Last year Bruck went to a four day working week, apparently because of back log with the orders, has that been resolved? Are they now full-time again?
Jason Clare: I understand they are, that was what the team were telling me here today, but to double check Alan will be able to help you with those sorts of things.
Alan: Back on five days – good news all round (inaudible)
Jason Clare: There you go
Journalist: So you’ve increased business here in Wangaratta?
Jason Clare: Yeah there’s more work going on here now as Alan said.
[Enter Alan and Mike]
Journalist: Mike, ill just ask you firstly what’s the quality of material like that comes out of here in Wangaratta?
Mike: The quality of this material is excellent; it meets what we ask Bruck to produce so it’s suitable for use on combat operations. It meets our requirements, its enduring, so we are completely satisfied.
Journalist: Would you be keen to see manufacturing stay here at Bruck in Wangaratta?
Mike: I’m keen to support Australian industry as I think any Australian would be, as long as we have a competitive, cost effective industry I’m all for it.
Journalist: Alan, run us through, what’s the situation with the working week with the staff here at the moment?
Alan: Staff are back, guaranteed till about Easter and with all likelihood until the end of June. As you know these things are reviewed on a six monthly basis on a full-time working week. I don’t anticipate there will be any change after June as I put the order book forward however these things are fluid so ill see when we stand then. But at the moment the outlook is very positive.
Journalist: What’s your contract like with the Defence Force at the moment, in terms of how many years is left on that?
Alan: Oh well there’s numerous contracts and they all vary. But let me say the most important message that has to come out of today – the visit of this Minister and his team who are senior decision making people and the fact that this goes against political lines, I would say is the most positive engagement in my time at Bruck in ten years.
I wish to thank the Minister and everybody for making the effort to visit us today.
Journalist: Are you satisfied with the assurances that the Minister has given here today that the work won’t be going offshore?
Alan: I am totally satisfied. I was totally satisfied that the work never would go offshore and I think at the end of the day, if people allow us to engage ourselves in business like manner and with the mutual respect which we have for each other I think that we’ll enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for many, many years to come.
Journalist: Last year when Tony Abbott was here, touring Bruck, you said that there’s too much Government policy, too much bureaucracy and that you need to increase competition here. Is that still the case? Has the Minister put moves in place to help that for you?
Alan: Isn’t nice to be able to say nice things and good effort. I’ll say two things.
First of all isn’t it a pity that he’s not wearing Lycra and secondly this is the man you has cleared already, with the assistance of the team a good deal of that bureaucracy and backlog.
There were reports necessary as a result of the furore over the last twelve months and id like to think that we are through that period – I’m positive that we are.
Journalist: Did you have anything you wanted to add to that Jason?
Jason Clare: Terrific – No, no I think that covers it.
Sof I don’t know if you wanted to..?
Journalist: Contract constipation Alan?
Alan: Contract constipation, don’t know quite how you want me to relay this but, I feel as if my Berocca has kicked in.
Journalist: Sophie if I would just get some quick words from you? Sophie are you happy with what the Minister has said here today that jobs are guaranteed here?
Sophie Mirabella: Look I’m always very proud as a local from Wangaratta and the local member to be able to showcase to members of the Government and senior members of the opposition the innovation and the pride in work that is produced here in Bruck. The workers are an integral part of the operation of the success of Bruck and to have a local firm that is innovative, that is at the forefront of what it does to produce fabric that dresses our Australian soldiers who go overseas in harms way is something that we are all very proud of.
Now it is very important that the Minister has come to see first hand how it’s done and the degree of quality. Nothing beats being on our home turf seeing how we do it and I’m very pleased the Minister has come and that there has been a resolution of some of the problems that have existed in the past. I’ll continue to work with Bruck and continue to provide as much support for Bruck made, Australian made uniforms for Australian soldiers. Because our serving men and women want to be clothed in material that is made in Australia. When you send soldiers overseas the least they can expect is that they’ve got Aussie made uniforms and it’s good to have those types of assurances and hopefully we’ll go into the future and that will continue to be the case.
Journalist: You mentioned pride there a moment ago, this is obviously an issue that across party lines. How important has that been in resolving the issues that Bruck appeared to have?
Sophie Mirabella: Well, defence and the security of our serving men and women is a very emotive issue right across political boundaries, right across the community and we saw that where there was talk and possibility of uniform fabric being made overseas there was a lot of concern, and that crosses political boundaries and it’s good to see that the Minister has made the effort to be here and to understand not only the importance of that in the community, but to understand that Bruck’s role in being an integral part in providing material to Defence.