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Federal Government’s past promises a distant dream

Friday, 20 February 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has provided the clearest indication yet that the Federal Government is moving to break its promise to South Australians.

South Australian Minister for Defence Industries said the announcements fall well short of the unqualified promise made to Australian industry and workers prior to the Federal election, that there would be 12 submarines built in Australia based in Adelaide.

“Firstly, the Prime Minister raised the probability of building 8 submarines not 12, while making no commitment to an Australian build,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

“Secondly, the Defence Minister has today called for an overseas build, or an Australian build, or a ‘hybrid approach.’ This is not the Australian build that was promised.

“Thirdly, the competitive evaluation process appears to be contrived to deliver a preordained outcome. Any process that appears to be “rigged” will be rightly criticised by industry.

“Why have we not been guaranteed the proper project definition study and competitive tender that almost every industry expert has been calling for?

“Why has Sweden’s Saab been eliminated from this competitive process without a fair hearing, given that Australian industry has built 6 Swedish designed submarines that we still maintain and operate today?

“Was it because the Swedish option would most certainly have been built in Australia?

“The Federal Government has today deployed tricky language in regards to securing local jobs. Expert economic modelling found that the submarine project would provide 120,000 man years of wages and work, but today the Prime Minister said that Australians should be thankful for 500 jobs, without explaining how, when or where,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

There are 10 year olds today who will graduate into the workforce in 12 years time – today Mr Abbott just wiped out their job prospects.

“Which ever bidder is successful, the Federal Government tender process must mandate maximum local industry participation.

“Without a defence industry capability, we do not have a defence capability.

“It is wrong to say that Australia will be guaranteed sustainment work if we have not played a principal role in building the ships.

“The Federal Government is placing Australia at risk of being dependent on an overseas nation for our national security, for everything from parts to expertise.

“A better vision for the Federal Government would be to deliver on its promise to build 12 submarines in Australia based in Adelaide, while going further by guaranteeing the future frigates to Australian shipyards.

“With a deal-flow and continuity of work from Canberra, Australian businesses and workers will be completive shipyards. This will involve Adelaide shipyards working closely with shipyards in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

“Today’s announcements do not go far enough. We must have a full project definition study, a competitive tender, and a guarantee that our naval ships will be built in Australia. We also need decisions on extending the life of Collins and the frigate build.”