Defence jobs, capabilities in jeopardy as government cuts spending

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is concerned that the jobs of 250 maintenance personnel at the Richmond, New South Wales RAAF base may be at risk following Federal Budget defence cuts.

[Image, right: A Hercules aircraft flies over the Richmond RAAF base. Courtesy of defence.gov.au]

Though the government and Qantas Defence Services – which contracts the workers – have reportedly assured the AWU that no jobs will be lost immediately, the union is still concerned that valuable skills will be lost to other industries.

In its Federal Budget announcements on Tuesday, the government said it would retire the RAAF's fleet of C-130H Hercules aircraft early, leaving the long-term future of the highly-trained employees and contractors who maintain the aircraft in jeopardy.

The RAAF’s woes are part of a $5.4 billion defence budget spending cut, which will result in various defence projects being shelved.

Nine News spoke to Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) budget program director Mark Thomson, who said the cuts will delay a decade’s worth or progress made towards Force 2030 – a government whitepaper released in 2009 setting-out plans to boost Australia’s defence capability to 2030.

He also said the majority of the defence cuts would come from capital investment spending.

Earlier this month, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) called on the government to honour its plans to build the next generation of Australian Defence Force (ADF) submarines in Australia.

AMWU acting secretary Paul Bastian said the plan was a strategically critical opportunity for the nation’s defence and manufacturing industries.

Bastian was speaking in response to a new report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) criticising the way the government had handled the Force 2030 project thus far.

“That’s not going to happen. One way or another, Force 2030 will have a submarine fleet that is a compromise on the original vision,” said the whitepaper authors, Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson, possibly pre-empting the defence budget cuts.

“We’re already past the point at which a force of that size and capability can be in place even by the mid‑2030s.

“So where do we go from here? The Collins class fleet reaches the end of its currently planned life between 2022 and 2031.

“Based on Defence’s own planning figures, new‑design replacement submarines can’t be delivered fast enough to even replace the Collins as they leave service.