17 April 2024

WA sends business mission to US to drum up more AUKUS work

| Andrew McLaughlin
Start the conversation
US Navy Los Angeles class submarine

A US Navy Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarine visits HMAS Stirling earlier this year. Photo: ADF.

A delegation of Western Australian business leaders and government officials has returned from the United States after an international mission to draw more work to the state in support of the AUKUS construct.

Led by State Defence Industry Minister Paul Papalia, the delegation sought to identify work opportunities for WA businesses to supply materials and technology into US industry supply chains, in particular in the domains of maritime technology, cyber security, unmanned systems and space.

Minister Papalia held meetings at the White House, the Pentagon and Congress, and toured Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Norfolk Virginia, and the US Navy’s Pearl Harbour shipyard in Hawaii, often in company with Federal Minister for Defence Industry Senator Pat Conroy.

The Minister also met with most of the large US defence companies participating in AUKUS activities, and he and the delegation also attended the huge Sea Air Space 2024 maritime exposition in Washington DC.

READ ALSO South Korea’s Hanwha Group launches surprise bid to acquire Australia’s Austal

The HMAS Stirling base on Garden Island and the nearby Henderson shipbuilding precinct are expected to feature prominently in Australia’s and the AUKUS alliance’s shipbuilding and nuclear submarine operations and maintenance aspirations.

The base is receiving a massive upgrade to be able to base and sustain US, UK and later Australian nuclear-powered submarines operating in the region. Henderson is where the Navy’s Arafura class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) and Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats (ECCPB) are being built and will be the likely site for the frigate build program to replace the Navy’s ANZAC class frigates.

Minister Papalia said the meetings he held reaffirmed the state’s commitment to building a nuclear submarine sustainment capability, and he actively sought advice on opportunities for WA companies to enter the US defence supply chain.

He also said the state was an essential player when it came to the trilateral AUKUS alliance.

“The Cook Government remains committed to growing our local defence industry capabilities,” he said.

“The US mission was a unique opportunity for WA’s defence industry to be able to interact with key AUKUS stakeholders firsthand and establish relationships which will no doubt prove fruitful in the future.

READ ALSO Henderson-based Austal to build two more Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats for Navy

The stop in Hawaii also saw the Minister visit Hawaiian Airlines with a view to establishing direct airline services to the state in the future.

“Approximately 700 US Navy personnel will relocate to WA in the coming years as part of AUKUS arrangements, many of whom will be bringing their families,” he said.

“When word of WA’s incredible lifestyle and tourism attractions spreads, more of their friends and relatives will no doubt want to witness our beautiful state for themselves.”

Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti added, “Securing a direct flight between Perth and Honolulu is a process that will take years to establish, but we’ve made it clear to Hawaiian Airlines that we are keen to continue discussions to introduce the service when it can support the route.

“Western Australia is already a popular destination with American travellers, and we know that having direct flights from Western Australia to Hawaii would serve both regions well from a business and tourism perspective.”

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.