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“We Build Ships” Governement’s boost to shipbuilding

May 13, 2013 • Featured

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has helped secure a majority of dockyard jobs over the next few years, with AMWU members looking forward to the long term growth of Australian shipbuilding after the release of the Federal Government’s Defence White Paper last week.

We build ships: Shipbuilding delegates from around the nation plan to campaign. Image: www.amwu.org.au

We build ships: Shipbuilding delegates from around the nation plan to campaign. Image: www.amwu.org.au

This week’s Budget is set to allocate ‘hard dollars’ to the promising Defence White Paper, which places priority on the building of 12 next-generation submarines in Australia and brings forward the replacement of at least 12 Armidale Class patrol boats, supply ships and new frigates.

AMWU revealed “the immediate good news for 1,100 workers in Victoria was the decision to transfer at least four blocks for the third Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) from Forgacs at Newcastle to Victoria’s BAE Williamstown dockyard. That work secures the jobs by seeing the BAE Systems facility over the “valley of death” work shortfall due this year but will not disadvantage the Forgacs site in NSW, which has other ongoing AWD work.”

National Secretary Paul Bastian revealed the Defence requirements which are outlined in the White Paper should be used to streamline vessel orders, noting the Government is considering moving forward the replacement of the current Anzac Class frigates with the new model expected to be built in Australia.

“This is a positive result for our members, rewarding their efforts to date in lobbying ministers and other MPs. But we won’t stop campaigning until we make sure the aspirations of the White Paper are delivered and given all-party support and that the work is done here by our people, growing jobs and skills for the future,” Mr Bastian said.

“We’re now waiting for the funding detail and the timeframes and we’re seeking a commitment from the Federal Opposition to get behind Australian shipbuilding.”

Mr Bastian has described comments disparaging the Collins Class program by Opposition Defence Shadow Minister, David Johnston, as ‘deeply disturbing’, believing the Opposition’s poorly informed commentary on the Collins Class submarines demonstrated a lack of understanding or denial of truth in their policy.

“We know how to build and design world class ships and naval vessels. We call on Senator Johnston and all political parties to rule out the wasteful notion of off-the-shelf purchasing and commit to an Australian design and build, which respects the achievement of our shipbuilders in making the Collins the world’s most potent conventionally-powered submarine,” said Mr Bastian.

In a statement from the union, AMWU delegates have noted that the Defence Material Minister, Mike Kelly was actually enthusiastic about the Spanish-designed Navantia SA Cantabria supply ships as possible replacements for the HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success, which is expected to cost up to $1 billion. However, delegates remain opposed to any repeat of the Landing Helicopter Deck purchase, “which means the vast majority of the work is done in Navantia SA’s Spanish shipyards before the superstructure of the two vessels is added at Williamstown.”

“We don’t want this hybrid-style of build at all, this has to be a home grown national project,” said ASC Adelaide delegate James O’Connor.

Mr O’Connor revealed a plan by Australian Submarine Corporation to build new supply vessels with BMT Defence Services in Britain and DSME shipyards in South Korea will only result in one of three ships built wholly in Australia.

BAE Systems delegate Jon Primrose believes that despite the navy’s aluminium Armidale Boats having been built at Austal in WA, it would work in Australia’s favour for the 12 replacement vessels to be designed and built amongst yards to ensure skills were retained across Australia.

“The opportunity before us to build a world class maritime design and construction industry shouldn’t be missed by choosing short-term options. Let’s build something lasting together” he said.

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