Federal Politics


Nick Xenophon and Defence Minister target Defence Materiel bureaucrats over army boots

Bob Katter has now joined a chorus of critics lashing the decision by federal public servants to buy up to 100,000 pairs of army boots made overseas as protectionist pressure builds to change procurement rules to favour more Australian-made goods.

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Bob Katter's shoeless cameo

The colourful politician removed his shoes to make a point in question time on Tuesday.

In question time on Tuesday Mr Katter outlined a number of Defence items he said were manufactured overseas while asking the government whether it would launch an inquiry into procurement.

It followed news South Australian company Rossi lost out on a tender to supply the boots and instead the footwear would be made in Indonesia by an Australian company.

Mr Katter said Australian combat troops refused to use the Austrian Steyr rifle and instead used the American Armalite which could be produced in Australia for half the price.



"At ANZAC Day, soldiers marched in their socks since the soles had fallen off their Chinese made boots," he said.

"Australian ordinance/ammunition is manufactured mainly by a French owned company. The slouch hat is partly foreign."

Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said the tender previously covering industrial footwear for soldiers was previously held by an Australian company, Lymington Pacific, which had the boots made in China.

"Now they'll be manufactured in Indonesia by an Australian company," Mr Robert said.  

Defence Minister David Johnston on Monday said he would scrutinise the tender because he was "very concerned"  over the best value for money for taxpayers.

The issue has been taken up by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon who asked Senator Johnston on Monday whether the tender would be re-opened.  

All of what has happened with respect to this particular tender was without my knowledge or the knowledge of any other member of the government.

Defence Minister David Johnston

Mr Xenophon and Senator John Madigan have been pushing to have procurement rules changed so bureaucrats would be forced to spend more taxpayer dollars on Australian-made products to protect local jobs.  

"Can the minister guarantee that the imported boots will be as durable and well-made as the Rossi boots?" Mr Xenophon asked.

"Further, what tests and measures are carried out to ensure the comparative durability and whole-of-life costs for such a procurement?" 

Minister Johnston said at the time the tender was released there was no expressed requirement for Australian content in the tender.

"The tender was conducted as a routine procurement that did not exceed the threshold requirements that necessitated notifying the minister's office," he said.

"So all of what has happened with respect to this particular tender was without my knowledge or the knowledge of any other member of the government."

Minister Johnston said the procurement rules Defence was complying were those which had been supported by the previous Labor government and the Coalition.

These included rule 5.3 which state all potential suppliers must be treated equitably and not discriminated against due to their degree of foreign affiliation or ownership.

"Rule 5.3 is potentially a problem for Australian manufacturers," Minister Johnston said.

"That is why we are bringing down a white paper that deals with industry policy, and these matters will be considered in the broader context of the way we do our business in Defence.

He said the army boot purchase was about the differential between manufacturing here and overseas.

"Given the high dollar and all of the other issues, I am very concerned about this particular aspect," Minister Johnston said.

"I am concerned that the amount of money involved is such that this...might well have gone to an Australian manufacturer."


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