INNOVATION: With Pentarch Industrial general manager Annie Bushnell and managing director Chris Deighton in Pentarch’s Wangaratta factory.
Helen Haines says a Department of Defence decision to award a $15 million, six-year contract to Wangaratta-based defence supplier Pentarch Industrial for the continuing supply of ammunition boxes recognises innovation in regional Australia.
Confirmation of the fresh agreement extends a 17-year relationship between the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) and the Australian Defence Force and guarantees the employment of at least 13 permanent staff in Wangaratta to 2026. Periodically, staff numbers will increase.
The business manages specific ammunition packages for the ADF, supplying new and refurbished boxes for small arms munitions and countermeasures. The re-use of boxes returned from the field has grown to more than 800,000 munitions containers in cycle under Pentarch’s management.
“I’ve been very pleased to support Pentarch Industrial in correspondence and discussions with Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price,” Dr Haines said.
“Making the case for investment in North East SMEs was easy.
“Defence industry is a major employer in the region, and the opportunity for a small to medium-sized regional businesses such as Pentarch have a key role in strengthening the local economy.”
Dr Haines said the regional benefits of the contract went beyond the direct jobs it sustained.
Pentarch’s business in Wangaratta has 92 suppliers and presently 55 of these are within a 70-kilometre radius. They prioritise local business engagement and are significant contributors to the economy of the area. 
“This ADF decision also recognises the ingenuity and capacity of a North East business to build national interest capability in Indi and play a role in protecting Australia,” Dr Haines said.
“The new contract, importantly, also confirms Pentarch as a Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities’ supplier – one with critical defence capabilities developed or supported by Australian industry.”
Pentarch managing director Chris Deighton said the contract brought security to the business.
“The Minister has generated real energy in her encouragement of SMEs to innovate and contribute to crucial parts of the Defence supply chain,” he said.
“Importantly, the future for this business model has been rigorously assessed by Defence, proving it an excellent example of high-quality recycling and re-use in a closed loop, and a replacement for the loss of local manufacturing capability.
“It is a strong case in value for money, environmental management and a sustainable employment model. In all respects, we believe, this is a very positive Defence and industry story.
“Dr Haines knows how important the defence industry is to our region.
“She worked hard to understand our role and made valuable representations to the Minister for Defence Industry about the regional benefits our business brings to local business and employment.”
Mr Deighton also said that Pentarch enjoyed strong commercial relationships with the region’s large Defence suppliers, including Australian Munitions, Nioa, Chemring Australia and others who will welcome the continued association this contract brings.
A November 2019 study by Regional Development Australia Hume, titled Defence Industry in the Hume Region, projected defence sector growth in the Hume region of 44 per cent in the next two years, rising from $185m, maintaining 5600 direct jobs, to $266m.
[June 10, 2020]
 Senate report: Impact of Defence training activities and facilities on rural and regional communities (May 2018)