A DOWNTURN in mining prompted boilermaker Shane Pukallus to risk a complete shift of business focus and location. Confirmation this week of a $5 billion government contract for Rheinmetall Defence Australia to build 211 Boxer CRV tanks in southeast Queensland has backed up his belief in the potential of his new industry.
Mr Pukallus moved from Mackay about a year ago to be a part of setting up APAC Infrastructure at Bells Creek. His firm now specialises in military radar and portable communication systems. "We started a new company pretty much to gain some traction on this sort of military stuff,” Mr Pukallus said.
"I think in a few years' time you will see a lot of people transitioning from mining to defence.” His company has secured solid work, exporting two portable communication systems to the US for unmanned air vehicle monitoring. He said another two systems were last week sent to Spain.
His industrial estate neighbour, Billet Proof boss Ralph Francis, has used his specialist machining skills to help out. The combination has proved fruitful for the relatively new Coast businesses. They both see the Land 400 contract as something they could capitalise on in years to come. Mr Francis moved to the Coast from South Africa about two years ago, starting production at his business about eight months ago.
He has previous defence industry experience, having built 400 gearboxes for Husky mine-clearing vehicles used by American and Australian troops in the Middle East. "I'm very excited that they (Rheinmetall) are coming to Queensland,” Mr Francis said. He said he looked forward to bidding for work. "There are a lot of gears in a tank.”
He said he had only one other team member but expected that to change, especially in light of the five shipping containers of machines he had imported from his native country. "I can't run them all.” Mr Pukallus said he had been in contact with other defence-related businesses and hoped to get a foot in the tank door through subcontracting work.
He was also grateful for the support afforded by Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace. "It is really good to see someone going out of their way to push an industry.”