SA government urges Commonwealth to stop eroding state’s naval skill base

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The South Australian state government has called on the Commonwealth to act swiftly and deliver on its promise for new jobs and investment from naval warship construction.

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It comes after naval defence company ASC announced on Wednesday that it will be forced to reduce the number of workers on the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) project by about 175 by the end of October.

The move would climb ASC’s job losses to more than 600 in the past 18 months, with the company’s chief executive Mark Lamarre stating that a further 1100 of the remaining 2230 permanent employees are expected to be laid off by 2018.

“The ASC yesterday provided 175 reasons why the Commonwealth needs to move faster to get the results it has promised,” Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said on Thursday.

“175 ship building jobs have been lost this week, with a further 1100 jobs at risk by the end of 2018. There is no time to waste.”

He said the South Australian Government called on the Coalition to take 5 key actions to secure the future of naval shipbuilding.

According to him, the plan includes measures to accelerate the timetable for the nine Future Frigates program – a $35 billion investment – and committing to the amount of Australia supply chain opportunities on the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels project.

It also demands action on the promise that at least 90% of the work on the submarine project will occur in Australia and consultation with ASC stakeholders upon the company’s future ownership structures and preferred arrangements of the ownership of infrastructure at Osborne.

“Much has been promised and so far there are few signs of delivery. Australians are right to be concerned at the lack of progress on the OPV project,” the Minister said.

“There has been no confirmation of when and how the Commonwealth Government intend to progress the Frigate and Submarine projects.”

He said communication from both Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne had been poor, adding that there was “uncertainty” as to who is the senior minister.

“The South Australian Government has already taken action on Master Plan options for Techport and its associated shipbuilding infrastructure. In October we are taking a large delegation of defence industry companies to the global naval shipbuilding showcase Euronaval in Paris where we have established a significant exhibition presence. Little has been forthcoming from Canberra,” Mr Hamilton Smith added.

“As each day goes by, the job losses and erosion of the skill base increases. Australian businesses and workers and their families want the Federal Government to maintain the highest priority in bringing the OPV project forward to protect the efficiency and integrity of the industry.”