A Senate Inquiry into naval shipbuilding has today been told that two new Navy supply ships should be made in Australia.
The Abbott Government has excluded Australian companies from building the ships, sending potentially hundreds of ship building jobs offshore.
Shadow Industry Minister Senator Kim Carr said for the first time a public official had explained how Australian industry was cut out of the build, while highlighting how important it was for the new Australian frigates to be built in Australia.
“Defence Materiel Organisation chief executive Warren King was more forthcoming than any Government minister in explaining the thinking behind the Government’s decision to cut Australian firms out of $1.8 billion worth of work in replacing supply vessels for the Navy,” Senator Carr said.
“Mr King highlighted the critical importance of Australia building the replacement for the Anzac Class frigates onshore, a proposition Labor endorses.”
In evidence to the inquiry, Mr Glenn Thomson from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said, “Australia’s shipbuilders are skilled, productive and have the capacity to supply Australia with the vessels our Navy will need into the future.”
Acting Shadow Minister for Defence, Gai Brodtmann said, “This evidence is being ignored by the Abbott Government, which is undermining Australia’s ship building industry with its job-destroying decision to send this work to Spain or South Korea.”
“This decision will result in skills and training that are vital to this industry being lost, as well as undermining our ability to build the Future Frigates and Future Submarines in Australia.”
Labor went to the last election with a commitment to fast-track the replacement of the supply ships HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius.
Before the election, Minister David Johnston said: “I get really fired up when I find us giving away our manufacturing base in the Defence space to foreign manufacturers, it’s just not on.” David Johnston, ABC Newcastle, 9 August 2013
“Yet this is exactly what the Abbott Government has done,” Senator Carr said.
“There appears to have been no consultation whatsoever with Australian firms and relevant State Government bodies before this decision was made, demonstrating once again the Abbott Government’s reckless short-sightedness when it comes to investing in Australian industry.
“We see a pattern from this Government when it comes to critical industries. They stall, they fudge the issues and break their promises, then they pretend there was nothing they could have done.
“What we need is a long term-plan, so that industry can get over the trough and keep investing in the skills and technologies for the future.”
Labor had a $1.5 billion plan to bridge the Valley of Death by bringing forward the purchase of new supply ships and patrol boats to be built here in Australia. Through our Future Submarine Industry and Skills Plan we ensured the strategic maritime capability of Australia, and our future as a ship building nation.