Sub jobs in SA questioned after govt releases statement on next generation submarine procurement

The federal
government has released more information regarding its plans to procure new
submarines, but details on creating additional jobs for SA have been
questioned.

On Friday, the federal government released a statement on the strategic direction of its
Future Submarine program. Worth “in the order of” $50 billion, the next
generation of submarines will replace the Collins fleet by the mid-2020.

The
contenders to partner with Australia for the new submarines have been narrowed
down to Japan, Germany and France, with Sweden apparently ruled out.

“The
Government expects that significant work will be undertaken in Australia as
part of the build phase of the future submarine including, but not necessarily
limited to, combat-system integration, design assurance and land-based
testing,” the ABC reports defence minister Kevin Andrews as saying.

“This
will result in the creation of at least 500 new, high-skilled jobs in Australia
for the life of the program, the majority of which will be in South Australia.”

The
announcement was welcomed by industry groups, who also wanted more detail, but
the SA government and the Adelaide-based Defence Teaming Centre questioned why
Sweden’s Saab was not being considered, and just how many jobs would be created
in the state.

It is
believed by some critics that Japan has already been chosen to build the subs.

“The government has not moved away from a
process which could appear to industry to be rigged to bring about a
pre-determined outcome,” SA defence minister Martin Hamilton-Smith told AAP.

“I’m mystified that the prime minister and the
minister for defence have ruled the Swedes out of contention without even
giving them the chance to present their offering in a competitive
process.”

There was no guarantee on what local work would be
awarded in the government’s statement.

Chris Burns of the Teaming Centre said Japanese
submarines had a lifespan of 15 years, required maintenance only every seven
years, and sustainment would likely be carried out in Western Australia.

“So, based on the premise that
they don’t have major upgrades and overhauls in Japanese submarines, we don’t
believe there’ll be any major work for Australian industry,” Burns told
the ABC.

“We do believe that Adelaide
would miss out.”

The Australian Industry Group said
that the timeframe of 10 months for the “competitive evaluation process” was “perhaps
too short”.

Chief executive Innes Willox also said the announcement, “falls short of Australian defence industry’s preferred
arrangement of a full Australian build of the submarines and lacks recognition
of the heft of the multi-national defence industry prime contractors now
residing in-country.”

The Australian Advanced
Manufacturing Council said that whatever country partnered with Australia, it
was vital that the high-tech component of the submarine building be carried out
in Australia.

“It is important that whatever
the outcome, at a minimum the government insists the high-end
technology development is done in Australia,” said John Pollaers, the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council chairman.

“The acquisition of a new fleet of submarines to replace the Collins Class
is the most important project with nation building potential that
Australia will do in coming years.”

Image: AAP