CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Firstly, I would like to thank Professor Don Winter, who has been assisting government now over several years, assisting us particularly with our submarine build over a period of time, and other important parts of this naval shipbuilding capability that we’ve been trying to build in Australia. And he has- because of his good work, we have continued to want him to be with us, and he will now head up the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board.
Can I thank our friends from the United States and Australia, of course, and elsewhere for joining this Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board, and in opening this first meeting of what will be a very regular affair for many of you coming to Australia – and I’m sure many of you have been to Australia before. It’s important to understand that this is a vital part of the Turnbull Government’s agenda. The naval shipbuilding continuous build, the naval shipbuilding project, is a national endeavour and we want to build a naval shipbuilding capability in this country, and we’re not just talking about it – we’re actually doing it.
We’ve put 54 vessels on the table to make sure that this naval shipbuilding project continues for decades into the future. The 21 Pacific Patrol vessels, which obviously are quite small vessels in comparison to the others, the offshore patrol vessels, which again are slightly bigger, but then we have nine frigates and 12 submarines. And as you would know, the 12 submarines is one of the biggest contracts for submarines in the world right now, if not the biggest submarine contract around the world, and to go with this of course is massive changes to infrastructure.
We have made difficult political decisions around shipyards and decided to have two shipyards, one at Henderson and one at Osborne, in South Australia and Western Australia. Therefore there are significant decisions around infrastructure that need to be made, and we’re now massively increasing the workforce. So a lot of the media like to focus on the redundancies that are occurring as the air warfare destroyers come to an end in terms of their build phase, but we need to build with 5000, minimum, skilled artisans and engineers and scientists and specialists over the next five or six years. So the skills component is a very big part of the workforce development that we’re looking for you to help us with in terms of advice.
And overall of course, what we’re trying to do is not just have as a priority the most potent defence force in the region, from the point of view of Australia’s national security capability and being able to project our strength and be a good ally to our allies and friends – like the United States and others – in doing so, we want to build our manufacturing base here.
We have been the sixth highest importer of defence materiel in recent years. That’s not a statistic about which we are proud; we want to change that. We want to do as much of that as possible, of this work here in Australia, creating jobs – advanced manufacturing jobs in high tech industries and high value industries. We can’t compete with certain countries around the world in making t-shirts; our labour costs are simply too high. We can certainly compete in making frigates and submarines and offshore patrol vessels, et cetera.
So thank you very much for your preparedness to come on board and help us with this great national endeavour, we’re doing good work creating jobs and investment in this country. So let’s get down to work.
Rory Grant: 0439 764 809, pynemedia [at] defence.gov.au ()
Eleisa Hancock: 0427 981 990, pynemedia [at] defence.gov.au ()
Defence Media (02) 6127 1999, media [at] defence.gov.au ()