South Australia and Western Australia have been engaged in an arm wrestle for decades worth of Collins-class submarine maintenance work.
The war of words has led to accusations of “self-interested” crossbench Senators. The South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has dismissed WA as a “mining state” and warned of “a massive risk” if the work was moved. The Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said Mr Marshall would “not know a submarine from a limousine”, while federal ministers are trying to keep calm and stay out of the crosshairs for fear of losing crucial support in two electorally-important States.
So, what is everyone talking about?
The Federal Government is set to make a decision this year on whether to relocate full-cycle docking of the Collins-class submarines from Osborne shipyard in South Australia to Henderson in WA.
Full-cycle docking is a maintenance and upgrade program where the hull of the submarine is cut, the engines are removed, a number of parts are enhanced and replaced, and the hull is re-welded. The submarine is effectively rebuilt.
Each Collins-class submarine goes through this maintenance every 10 years to ensure they remain at the cutting edge of defence technology, and each maintenance fit-out will typically take two years.
It is crucial that full-cycle docking is brought to WA, which is why the McGowan Government’s newspaper, radio, TV and online national campaign is so important.
The first and most important reason to bring full-cycle docking to WA is to diversify Australia’s Defence infrastructure in case of an emergency situation.
Right now, Adelaide workers are contracted for the $35 billion contract to design and build nine Hunter-class frigates over the next 15-20 years, and the $50 billion contract to build 12 Attack-class submarines to be delivered in the early 2030s.
To leave full-cycle docking in Osborne is putting all our eggs in one basket. We need to do what is in the national interest and diversify these skills across the country, especially in a situation where Australia might have to defend itself.
Secondly, Western Australia has the workers, the skills and the capability to take on full-cycle docking in Henderson by 2024, while South Australia is looking for workers.
Western Australia has a highly skilled workforce, thanks to our oil and gas industry, and world-leading training in defence and manufacturing. These workers are ready to go.
Over in South Australia, Mr Marshall has conceded that there are “more jobs than there are people at the moment”. By moving full-cycle docking to WA, it frees up those workers in Adelaide to focus on the Attack-class submarines and Hunter-class frigates.
And finally, bringing these 3,000 long-term jobs to Western Australia is another crucial step in diversifying the State’s economy to avoid the boom and bust cycle of the mining industry.
For the economic health of both the state and the nation, Western Australia needs to build a more resilient, sustainable and growing economy. It can only do this by investing in a diverse range of industries, including defence and advanced manufacturing.
There’s been a lot of arguments put and a lot of terse words exchanged.
Now it’s in the hands of our Federal Government in Canberra.
For the good of the nation, they’ve got to bring full-cycle docking to Western Australia.
To learn more, search ‘Defence West’.