The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has called on the Government to deliver on its pre-election commitment and provide stability and certainty for the shipbuilding industry in the wake of claims from Defence Minister Johnston that the current Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs) are over budget and overdue.
“The AWD will be one or two years late if we are lucky and several hundred millions over budget,” the Minister said, as reported by IHS Jane’s 360.
“People are not wanting to be frank about how bad this project is.”
Minister Johnston’s comments did not sit well with the representative body of Australia’s Naval Shipbuilders, with AMWU’s National Assistant Secretary Glenn Thompson placing the guilt for the delays on the Federal Government’s stop-start approach to the shipbuilding industry.
“The Government is just as guilty of ramping up then ramping down the activities of our shipbuilders. It is clear that what we need is certainty in our projects so we can develop our national skill base beyond a project-by-project basis,” Mr Thompson said in a media statement.
“It was a pre-election commitment that this Federal Government would build the replacement Collins class submarines in Adelaide. Minister Johnston comments today appear that the Abbott Government is walking away from this commitment.”
According to him, the public expected Australia to build the skills and capacity to be in a position to undertake a project of this magnitude and build its own submarines.
“Minister Johnston must provide certainty for a rolling build of our future Navy’s ships. Anything less than an ongoing commitment to build the future of Australia’s defence here in Australia is short changing our shipbuilders and the Australians national interest. It would also amount to a broken election commitment.”
Mr Johnston added the country currently has $250 billion of Naval Infrastructure, with 48 vessels that will need to be replaced in the next three decades.
“If you value something, you invest in it. The Australian defence forces need to know that when their ships need repairs, we have the best-trained, best skilled people ready to do their bit. Sadly what is clear is that the federal Government has no vision, no forward thinking for this sector,” Mr Thompson said.
“The AMWU is calling on the Federal Government to give certainty to the industry that Australia will continue to build skills and capacity for the future to protect our borders and our jobs.”