Policy Position – Submarine Construction

April 22, 2015

This policy position relates to concerns raised about the future of defence shipbuilding in South Australia.

There is not presently a submarine construction industry in South Australia, and has not been for 12 years. The present work in South Australia has been on sustaining the Collins Class submarines.  When the original Collins class submarine procurement process began, nine tenderers were invited to participate from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  Australia did not then have, nor does it continue to have, domestic submarine design capability sufficient to meet Australian defence requirements.  An international partner was always going to be necessary.

The current Government made a reckless pre-election commitment to build submarines in South Australia unaware, firstly, of the $30 billion black hole the previous Government left behind in the national budget, and secondly, unaware that no preparatory work had been done by the former Government on the next generation of submarines.   This is particularly disappointing for South Australia, as the imminence so-called ‘valley of death’ for SA defence jobs was well known for some time, and the submarine contract was a major component of ensuring there was little, or no, loss in defence jobs.

The present debate regards which country will build Australia’s next generation submarines and the extent to which they will do so in partnership with the Government-owned Australian Submarine Corp (ASC) and, thereby, enhance South Australian employment prospects.  We also trust the Defence Materiel Organisation and our defence forces to advise government and frame procurement in terms of what is in the best interests of our nation.

In the context of the submarines debate, Senator Day has been advocating longer-term thinking towards the option of nuclear-powered – not nuclear armed – submarines used by our British and American allies, and many other nations.   Conventional defence wisdom is that we need 6 diesel-powered submarines, and 6 nuclear submarines which have by far superior range to diesel-powered submarines.  Senator Day has expressed his position on nuclear submarines in the context of the Weatherill Labor Government’s Royal Commission into South Australia’s nuclear capabilities, although we later discovered the SA Labor Government expressly ruled out defence use of nuclear technology in the Royal Commission’s terms of reference:
http://australianconservative.com/2015/02/nuclear-royal-commission-a-boost-for-sa-subs-%E2%80%93-bob-day/
http://indaily.com.au/news/2015/02/24/nuclear-inquiry-missed-opportunity-subs/

As a Family First Senator for South Australia, Senator Day has been lobbying the Government to secure a strong and long-term shipbuilding future for South Australia.  At present, Australia has 6 submarines, and the Defence White Paper says we need an additional 6.  The additional construction and sustainment work alone will be beneficial for defence jobs, and we will be holding the Government to its commitment to see South Australia get a strong share of such work as will occur in South Australia.  We do note the South Australian Premier has made a compact with the Victorian Premier to collaborate on defence jobs, so it is likely Victoria will also get a significant share of construction and sustainment jobs also.

The nation will also need further navy vessels and other vehicles to be produced, and Senator Day is lobbying the Government to ensure South Australia has the most significant role possible in meeting future defence needs.

Related Link: “Three-way submarine race” – The Australian

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