Interview with Leon Byner, Radio FiveAA

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The Hon Melissa Price MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for Science and Technology

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2 March 2020

Subjects: Submarine maintenance jobs, Australian Industry Content, attracting automotive workers to the defence industry

LEON BYNER: …and I'm very pleased to have, and we’ll introduce her in a moment, the Defence Industry Minister, Melissa Price.  But just to give you a little bit of background: South Australia is in a race to secure up to 15,000 construction and supply chain jobs associated with shipbuilding projects. And what's happened is that Defence Department officials and Naval Shipbuilding College, based here, held talks with General Motors' reps last week about redeployment opportunities for Holden staff when the company ends its Australian operations next year. So, let's say good morning to Defence Industry Minister, Melissa Price. Melissa, it's nice to talk to you.

MELISSA PRICE: And good morning, Leon.

LEON BYNER: Before I get to the detail of this, can I just put something on the table. When will we know what sub maintenance jobs will stay in SA? 

MELISSA PRICE: Well, as you know, Leon, issues relating to full cycle docking are yet to be considered. And you will also appreciate that Linda Reynolds, who is the Defence Minister, she is the responsible Minister - I'm the Minister for Defence Industry and my focus is on the new build, like, you know, the 12 submarines that are going to be built in South Australia and, of course, the nine frigates as well.

LEON BYNER: All right. Now, how much of the work will actually be done here in SA, because there's been a lot of - a lot of comment about this percentage, that percentage, 90, 60, 50, 40.  What is it, do you know? 

MELISSA PRICE: Are you talking about the building of the submarines? 

LEON BYNER: Yes.

MELISSA PRICE: In particular? 

LEON BYNER: Yes.

MELISSA PRICE: Well, all of the submarines are going to be built in South Australia.

LEON BYNER: All of them? 

MELISSA PRICE: That is the commitment we've made and that's the commitment from Naval Group, correct. 

LEON BYNER: So, what proportion of jobs? Because, as you know, there's been a lot of speculation about the fact that it wouldn't be the percentage as high as we first hoped.

MELISSA PRICE: Well, you may know that the Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, she met with her French counterpart only last week to ensure that we had a commitment with respect to Australian industry content, which they have committed to once we get beyond the design phase - of course we're in the design phase now, but that will be no less than 60 per cent.  That's talking about Australian industry content. 

LEON BYNER: Yeah.

MELISSA PRICE: But what I'm focused on is ensuring that we maximise that amount.  And, as you said at the outset, what we need is more shipbuilding jobs in South Australia when across our ambitious shipbuilding program, we are going to need, as you quite rightly say, we're going to need 15,000 shipbuilders to be able to build the submarines and also the nine frigates. Don't forget those as well, which is another significant program.

LEON BYNER: Sure. So we can get some of those 15,000 from former GMH and manufacturing. Where do the others come from? 

MELISSA PRICE: Well, as you pointed out, you know, you've got the likes of the national Naval Shipbuilding Office that are working very hard. They've mapped where the gaps are, and they're working with the local TAFEs and the local unis, and the South Australian Government indeed has a very ambitious program, you know. But the Holden jobs I think are a great opportunity and this is why we've reached out to General Motors Holden.

Out of the affected workforce there's some 240 engineering staff and about 130 design professionals.  And, you know, many of these individuals have undertaken similar sort of project-based work for the past 20, 25 years. So there is significant skill set there. And we're not suggesting for one minute that they'll be able to walk straight into a shipbuilding job. Some of them might be able to but, you know, what we need to identify is where's that transitional course; perhaps a bit of upskilling so that, indeed, you know, they could actually join, you know, our ambitious shipbuilding program.

LEON BYNER: Is this a job for TAFE? 

MELISSA PRICE: Well, it's a job for TAFE but it's also a job for universities because it's not just blue collar workers, you know, whether we're talking welders...

LEON BYNER: Sure.

MELISSA PRICE: But it's also about engineering, it's also project managers, schedulers, you know, the full raft of that project management workforce that we're going to need to build the subs.

LEON BYNER: So are we really saying that those people who thought they mightn't have work because Holden is leaving might actually be in luck? 

MELISSA PRICE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so the work that we're doing with General Motors Holden is to determine well, where are the opportunities for redeployment and what's the skill set? And so we understand that General Motors were very happy to map out the skills and the experience of the Holden workforce so that we can see well, how is there a match with respect to the shipbuilding jobs? But, you know, I think we need to be honest about it and say well there's potential there.  Of course, there is. And what I want to do as the Defence Industry Minister to make sure I fill those 15,000 jobs. And, frankly, I don't really care where they come from but we need a skilled workforce and there may be, you know, a desire for further upskilling but, you know, that's still to be determined.

LEON BYNER: All right. Now, I understand that there is a Naval Shipbuilding College Workforce Register that people can go? 

MELISSA PRICE: That's right. That's right. And if people are interested in being a part of our government's ambitious shipbuilding program, then they need to contact the National Naval Shipbuilding Office which is, of course, located in South Australia.

LEON BYNER: And you've had 2000 or so register so far? 

MELISSA PRICE: Yes, that's right. And growing every day. So this is a really exciting story for South Australia, very positive and the point of us reaching out to those Holden workers is that we think that maybe they've got a skill set that we need in South Australia.

LEON BYNER: Minister, thank you for joining us today. That's the Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, telling us that there may well be a very good transformation opportunity for GMH engineers and others to work across, and be part of, shipbuilding. 

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