The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has once again called on both sides of the government, asking them not to neglect the Australian naval shipbuilding industry because it is an opportunity that the country cannot afford to throw away.
“We make great ships. We make world-class ships that not only meet the needs of our defence force but exceed the capability of foreign vessels while providing the confidence of Australian standards to our front line personnel,” said Paul Bastian, AMWU’s National Secretary, via a media release.
Bastian said that the capacity to build defense ships domestically will be undermined if the industry is unable to maintain the jobs and skills, as well as the failure to bring forward the contracts flagged in the White Paper.
“Around the country we’re at risk of losing jobs, which in turn will mean losing the opportunity to build our economy and look after our national interest.”
“We cannot afford to throw away the opportunity to have a highly skilled, strategically vital industry that can grow in the future as we requisition our navy fleet.”
Bastian criticized the fact that Australia can allot a huge budget for defense, yet fail to recognize the potential benefits of designing, building and maintaining naval vessels in the country.
“There needs to be greater recognition of just how important this is to our people, our nation and the overall economy. We are an island nation – our borders are our seas,” stressed Bastian. “Having skilled people who can do this work provides a flow on of skills to other parts of the economy for a generation.”
Last week the AMWU has been successful in helping secure a majority of dockyard jobs, with AMWU members looking forward to the long term growth of Australian shipbuilding after the release of the Federal Government’s Defence White Paper two weeks ago.
According to the AMWU, “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.”
Meanwhile, Bastian cited the Jones Act of the United States, which means that it is against the law to build US naval ships anywhere other than in the US.
“What a novel idea. Australia should be building its own ships here. We should be defending our people, our industry and our skills development by standing together and demanding that we have an industry that provide our nation’s needs.
“The national interest is simply not served by importing ships, by being dependent on other nations for the building and sustaining of our military hardware or by delaying projects that protect vital jobs, skills and the industry.”
Bastian said the idea of saving a quick dollar now is a short-sighted approach that will make the country poorer in the long run as Australia loses the capacity, the skills, the income and the self-reliance that comes with large industries such as the shipbuilding industry.