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The government’s pre-election promise to build new navy submarines in Adelaide has been challenged by a government white paper on the issue.
The Australian reports that a defence white paper to be released this week by Defence Minister David Johnston says that the government wants the submarines to be built locally, but not “at any cost”.
The paper describes the shipbuilding as one of the biggest defence issues and says that the decisions should be based on issues of capability. It says that manufacturing industry assistance or regional assistance should not be involved in the decision.
According to the Australian, a joint venture between Australia and another country such as Japan could be used for the work. Most of the work would be done overseas but substantial amounts would be done locally.
The benefit of such an arrangement would be that we would retain the expertise to maintain and upgrade the submarines.
The Courier Mail reports that South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith described the submarine decision as “probably the biggest advanced manufacturing decision since WWII.” He said it could see the end of Australia’s $250 billion shipbuilding industry.
He added that the death of shipbuilding would have a far larger affect than the death of the local car making industry.
“With Holden we were talking in the billions. With naval shipbuilding we’re talking in the hundreds of billions. There is far more at stake with naval shipbuilding than the automotive industry in the long term,” Mr Hamilton-Smith.