Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his South Australian counterpart Jay Weatherill have signed a formal agreement to fight to keep the Australian shipbuilding industry alive.
As the Age reports, the industry is facing a “valley of death” – a time when defence contracts come to an end and there is no work for ship builders from the two states to do.
According to AAP, under the agreement the two states want the Federal Government to commit funds to a 30-year plan for new naval ship projects and thereby avoid the valley death.
They also want assurances of minimum local content for all defence purchases and for the navy’s next generation submarines to be built locally.
And they are calling for the Federal Government to commit to funding for a fourth air warfare destroyer and to reopen tenders to allow Australian shipbuilders to bid for construction of two new supply ships.
In response to the accord, Federal Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the Premiers were playing politics instead of working constructively on the issue.
“If the Premiers actually cared about the future of the defence industry in Australia they would have lobbied the former federal Labor government who, over their six years, did not commission a single naval vessel from an Australian shipyard,” he said in a statement.
He added that the Government “ is prepared to commit to a long-term investment to make sure this important industry enjoys a future in Australia and these critical skills are maintained”.
“One of the options being considered by the Government is to the feasibility of a continuous build strategy. This would sustain a shipbuilding industrial base, and avoiding the peaks and troughs currently being experienced,” he said.
Andrews defended the defence commitments the Government has already made.
“Over the forward estimates the Government will invest at least $4.6 billion in Defence materiel acquisition and sustainment in South Australia and at least $3.8 billion in Victoria,” he said.