On Monday (5 February) Premier Peter Malinauskas and BAE Systems workers and union representatives flew to Canberra, wanting a guarantee that frigates will be built in Adelaide as part of the ongoing naval shipbuilding program.
The meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy took place as the Commonwealth Government finalises the outcomes of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface ship fleet review.
This independent analysis – authored by retired US Navy Vice-Admiral William Hilarides, former secretary of the Department of Finance Rosemary Huxtable, and former Commander Australian Fleet Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer – was commissioned as a result of a recommendation made in the Defence Strategic Review (DSR), the public version of which was released in April last year.
But it was reported the “necessary time to consider” the review would not see any decisions made on the Navy’s shipbuilding programs until this month at the earliest.
Described as a “short, sharp analysis”, the review was commissioned to determine whether the planned size, structure and composition of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface combatants will complement those capabilities provided by the planned nuclear-powered submarines being acquired under the AUKUS construct.
Adelaide is already building the nuclear-powered submarines and Hunter-class frigates in naval shipyards like the one at Osborne.
The Premier believes the city should retain a consistent, continuous supply of ships to be constructed there, and for the Federal Government to release the surface ship review.
“We make this case because we know this is the only way this works,” said Premier Malinauskas. “These young South Australians deserve to step forward into their future careers with confidence.”
National Convenor of the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions (ASFU), Glenn Thompson, said many of their members at Osborne “had seen firsthand the devastation that the valley of death caused following the completion of the Air Warfare program and the loss of engineering capability in the state, when [former] prime minister Abbott dared that the automotive industry leaves Australia”.
“The government has a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a sovereign engineering base.
“The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) needs to ensure that we have a continuous shipbuilding program in South Australia and that we build and maintain our design and engineering capabilities for future Navy requirements.”