It’s not in the national interest for WA to get virtually nothing out of the defence shipbuilding program; it’s not in the national interest to miss the opportunity to ensure that Australia has a properly developed shipbuilding hub on the Indian Ocean; and it’s not in the national interest to put all our infrastructure and workforce eggs in a single basket.
Mr Wilson (10:36am) — The government has a decision to make in terms of the full-cycle docking of the Collins class submarines. For Western Australia it will be a watershed decision that could literally be the difference between the development of a serious shipbuilding hub in WA and a scenario in which shipbuilding becomes a marginal feature of life at the Australian Marine Complex. For South Australia it’s a matter of holding onto existing jobs out of a legitimate concern that the Morrison government is incapable of delivering on schedule the large quantity of prospective work. Make no mistake, the banquet table is set in South Australia. Of the $90 billion defence shipbuilding program, $85 billion worth of work will be focused in Adelaide in the form of the future frigates and the future submarines. The only question is whether Western Australia gets a half-decent meal out of this long-running work program.
There’s no question that consolidating the submarine work in WA is in the national interest. It follows international best practice to have the sustainment occur where the submarines are based. WA has both the proven expertise and the training framework to accommodate the work. The AMC is ready to become a major regional hub for shipbuilding sustainment and sophisticated manufacturing.
It goes without saying that all such decisions should be made in the national interest, but the fact that the government keep repeating this mantra is cause for concern. It’s as if they’re saying that whatever decision they make will be beyond question. That is a dangerous and even arrogant proposition. It’s essentially a form of pre-spin designed to give them cover for a decision that may well not be made in the national interest. I’m surprised that some in the community and some in the media seem to be falling for that, especially when you consider this government’s form on defence procurement decisions under previous ministers. Was it really in the national interest to split the offshore patrol vessel construction program so that the first two OPVs are built in South Australia before the next 10 are moved to WA, if we’re lucky?
It’s not in the national interest for WA to get virtually nothing out of the defence shipbuilding program; it’s not in the national interest to miss the opportunity to ensure that Australia has a properly developed shipbuilding hub on the Indian Ocean; and it’s not in the national interest to put all our infrastructure and workforce eggs in a single basket. It will be a broken promise if the government dud Western Australia again or give us half a sandwich and try to pretend that they don’t take us for granted. We’re not interested in parochialism. We’ve seen that work against us in the past. We want a decision that is fair and sensible, and that means moving the full-cycle docking to WA in 2024. I’ve made those arguments since my election in 2016, and I’ll continue to make them on behalf of my electorate, on behalf of my state of Western Australia and in the national interest.