05 Agustus 2015

Tony Abbott to Reveal Defence Plans: $89bn in Ships, Submarines

05 Agustus 2015

New frigate will replace six Adelaide class and Anzac class FFG (all photos : Aus DoD)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed construction of new offshore patrol vessels will start in 2018 and new frigates in 2020 under a $40 billion plan for continuous shipbuilding in Australia.

A restructured surface naval shipbuilding industry could be competitive and provide the best possible ships at the best possible price, he said.

From 2020 onwards there will be build-up to about 2500 workers employed continuously in surface naval shipbuilding and most of them will be in Adelaide, he told reporters in the South Australian capital this afternoon.

“The frigates are coming as the first prize and one way or another the subs will be coming as a further prize,” Mr Abbott had told ABC radio earlier, ahead of the formal announcement.

“You shouldn’t assume that the subs won’t happen here.”

The submarine contract is subject to a competitive evaluation process being contested by Japanese, French and German shipbuilders who will be required to outline local involvement in any tenders. The prime minister conceded Australian shipbuilders would not be able to avoid entirely the so-called “valley of death” — the gap between the end of existing contracts and the start of new ones — with jobs in the sector likely to halve from 2000 to 1000 over the next few years.

But it should rebuild to about 2500 ongoing positions by 2020. “This is the best possible outcome for service shipbuilding in Australia,” Mr Abbott said.

Independent SA senator Nick Xenophon conceded it was better to have the warships built in his state than not, but he was still critical of the announcement.

“You need critical mass in the industry and that would also need to involve building the submarines as promised,” he told ABC radio.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said there was no question both the warships and the submarines should be built in Australia. “Mr Abbott views these multi-billion dollar, multi-thousand job contracts as political prizes aimed at just saving his own job,” he told reporters outside Victorian-based shipbuilder BAE Systems today.

The Abbott government’s plans for a major defence announcement were revealed by The Australian on Monday.

Labor Premier Jay Weatherill said the commitment put South Australia in a better position to attract submarine building in the state.

“The logic associated with this particular decision can be applied to the submarine building contract,’’ he said. “Any criticisms about the way in which the submarine building project has occurred in the past, all relate to the stop start nature of the build program, not the skills and capabilities of our workers but the way in which we’ve gone about in the procurement and we believe we have a strong case in for advancing future subs being built in this state.’’

Mr Weatherill said wrong decisions were likely to have had “catastrophic consequences” for the Liberals in South Australia and people saw the common sense of a 30-year continuous build.

“I think this is a good decision and a win for South Australia. But we also have lots of things we want to speak to the Commonwealth about.”

Earlier Defence force chiefs and South Australian Liberal MPs filed into the Abbott government’s Cabinet room in Adelaide for a confidential briefing on the government’s shipbuilding plans.

Among the Defence establishment attending briefings by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Kevin Andrews are Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin and Navy Chief Tim Barrett.

Speakership hopeful Andrew Southcott, Matt Williams and Simon Birmingham had also arrived at the conclusion of the Cabinet meeting. Assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs is absent from the deliberations, instead attending functions in his electorate of Mayo.

Key Points in New Shipbuilding Plan

* Construction of Future Frigates will start in 2020 in Adelaide, three years earlier than scheduled under the 2012 Defence Capability Plan.

* They will replace the navy’s eight Anzac frigates, constructed in Melbourne between 1994 and 2004.

* The new vessels will be larger than the 3600-tonne Anzacs and designed with a strong emphasis on anti-submarine warfare.

* Construction of new offshore patrol vessels will start in 2018, two years earlier than scheduled.

* They will replace 14 Armidale patrol boats, mine warfare vessels, survey and hydrographic ships with a single class of about 20 ships. The government hasn’t said where they’ll be built - but likely Melbourne.

* The new patrol boats will be much larger than the 300-tonne Armidale class vessels, made of steel and able to carry a helicopter.

* Full details will be outlined in the new Defence White Paper. The government says the two projects will cost $39 billion.

* Selection of designs for both vessels will be conducted through a competitive evaluation process, not a tender, starting in October.

* Both will be produced through a process of continuous construction, turning out new vessels about every two years. * The government says starting earlier will save about 1000 shipyard jobs. When both projects are in full swing, there will be about 2500 enduring jobs.

(The Australian)

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