The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has urged Defence Minister Kevin Andrews to make the crucial decision to build Australia’s future submarines in Adelaide, saying the Abbott Government had failed to justify its arguments that domestic shipbuilders lacked the capacity to get the job done.
AMWU assistant national secretary Glenn Thompson said the Government’s claims about the cost of building vessels in Australia, the capability gap and the problems with the skill and capacity of Australia’s shipbuilders were unconvincing and untrue.
“Previous evidence to the Senate Inquiry has demolished all these claims and now the Government is trying to suggest naval shipbuilding projects should go overseas because of productivity concerns,” he said on Tuesday, ahead of the Senate inquiry in Adelaide into the future sustainability of Australia’s strategically vital naval shipbuilding industry.
He said that unless a “continuous build” program was adopted, the country’s shipbuilding industry will be severely diminished and thousands of jobs that depend on new shipbuilding contracts will be lost.
“Either the Minister doesn’t understand the point of a continuous build, or he’s setting the stage for pulling the plug on the industry, and blaming workers and the industry rather than taking responsibility himself,” Mr Thompson said in a media release.
“We’re still effectively in limbo and thousands of jobs in Adelaide still hang in the balance because the government hasn’t had a clear commitment to an Australian build for the future submarine project. The government needs to make clear that the build will occur in Australia, and the process underway is a genuine one that does not favour one of the three options over the other.”
Mr Thompson also called on the Government to give certainty to the industry by reopening the supply ship tender, ordering a fourth AWD as outlined in the 2013 Defence white paper, accelerating the Pacific patrol boats tender process and reopening the tender for the Antarctic icebreaker and bringing forward the future frigate build.
“But so far, rather than take actions to fill the ‘valley of death,’ the government’s actions have ensured it doesn’t get filled,” Mr Thompson said.