A delegation of shipbuilders from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) visited Canberra yesterday to meet with Government, Opposition and Independent MPs. The group discussed the importance of shipbuilding for jobs, skills and nation building.
The AMWU said on Thursday that all members of the parliament need to ensure that funding will be available to sustain the building of naval vessels in Australia which will in turn provide certainty for local shipbuilding and enable it to expand on a global scale.
“We need bi-partisan support to give certainty to the industry and ensure that Australia keeps the capacity to build its own naval vessels and ships,” said AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson.
“Our MPs need to understand that it is unacceptable that we spend big on defence – but not realise the potential benefits to our nation of designing, building and maintaining naval vessels here.”
“Australia should be building its own ships here. We should be defending our people, our industry and our skills.”
Thompson said that guaranteeing work in the next couple of years is essential to Australia’s shipbuilding industry.
“We are heading towards the “Valley of Death” – a temporary drop-off in work that would see a loss of skills which damages the competitiveness of the local shipbuilding industry,” he said.
The “valley of death” is inciting fears among naval workers who worry that they could lose their jobs with a drop-off in defense shipbuilding predicted over the next two years. But aside from the loss of jobs, AMWU also worries the loss of critical skills as current work winds down.
“If we lose these skills, it is incredibly difficult to get them back, which means there needs to be more work in the immediate term and planned work over the next few years to sustain and grow the industry,” said Paul Bastian, National Secretary of the AMWU, last month.
Meanwhile, Thompson said the bipartisan support will help secure jobs and create a base for a maritme engineering industry that will provide quality ships for future generations.
“Recent Defence White Papers have outlined a potential build of 48 ships and submarines that will be required by our navy over the next 30 years, with a spend of $250 billion across the design, build and maintenance of the fleet,” said Thompson.
“We make world-class ships that not only meet the needs of our defence force but exceed the capability of foreign vessels.”
“We are calling on all sides of politics, on all members of parliament, to do the right thing by our industry and our nation by pledging their support for our maritime engineering industry.”