700 SA Submarine Jobs at Risk

26 May 2019

"The Morrison Coalition Government is planning to shift Collins Submarine Full Cycle Dockings jobs of 700 skilled workers from Osborne in South Australia to Henderson in Western Australia,” said Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick. "The incoming Defence Minister, WA Senator Linda Reynolds, who has strongly advocated for WA's naval shipbuilding industry in the past, will act as steward for the move unless the wider national interest prevails.”

"The Defence Department, who play a very long game, have been examining the idea of shifting submarine Full Cycle Docking (FCDs) to the west for almost a decade."

  • A 2011 submarine basing study, obtained under FOI in April 2018, made mention of the fact that Defence may need to develop an FCD capability in WA.
  • Heavily redacted documents obtained under FOI by Senator Patrick show that Defence were working with ASC back in 2016 on a Collins Class Submarine Transition Project Study for "the transition of all CCSM maintenance activities to WA".
  • In May 2018 ASC revealed to Senator Patrick at Senate Estimates that a further 'initial draft discussion document' relating to the "feasibility of the relocation of Full Cycle Dockings to Western Australia as an alternative to them remaining in South Australia" had been delivered to Defence. 
  • In February 2019 ASC advised Senator Patrick at Senate Estimates that it had received a tasking statement to look at options of a potential FCD move to Western Australia, one with a time frame in 2022, one in 2024 and one in 2026. The analysis is to be delivered to Defence in June.

Senator Reynolds told The Advertiser this week, "We have two naval shipbuilding hubs, WA and SA. We will continue to develop both sites; there are going to be multi-generational jobs at both.”

"That's not a rejection of the proposition, Senator Reynolds would like nothing better than to shift more naval shipbuilding jobs to WA, and has said so on many occasions. She is completely conflicted in this," said Senator Patrick.

"Anyone who thinks a push to move submarine jobs to WA won't happen is just naive. But apparently SA Premier Steven Marshall fits into that category. He told media that there's been absolutely no suggestion by the Coalition Government of any changes to the current commitments. How politically silly is he? It would be funny if it wasn't so serious".

The Chief of Navy advised the Senate in February that he had provided no advice, direction or requirement to locate submarine Full Cycle Dockings in WA. The head of Australian Naval Infrastructure testified that there is plenty of room at Osborne to do both a Future Submarine build and ongoing Collins sustainment work.

"Shifting the task to WA makes little sense," said Senator Patrick. "Adelaide is the national repository of submarine build and sustainment knowledge. Adelaide sits halfway between the east and west coast, where both Collins and Future Submarines will be based. It is likely most of the skilled workers at ASC would not move west, which would result in a great loss of Collins Submarine corporate knowledge."

"Shifting FCD work to WA would damage the SA economy, impose an unnecessary and heavy additional cost on taxpayers and be damaging to national security. We don’t want this work rolling across the Nullarbor in a large pork barrel."

"Now is the time for Simon Birmingham along with Senator Anne Ruston and David Fawcett to stand up for SA jobs."

"If they don't, Centre Alliance will."

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