Naval shipbuilding industry and workers need a multi-generational plan, not more delays and dithering

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday October 3, 2018

Australia’s defence shipbuilding industry needs an immediate and definite plan that Federal and South Australian Liberal Governments are failing to deliver amid more delays and redundancies in this vital, multi-generational manufacturing sector.

Years of delay from the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government means Australia’s Collins-class submarines could be kept in service for another three decades while we continue to wait for 12 new subs to be built.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne needs to take time out of his busy media schedule to do his job before the people of his home state South Australia fall into another “Valley of Death”­­.

The Electrical Trades Union of Australia is demanding the Morrison Government act before the nation’s defence capability and our defence industries collapse like a Liberal leader’s support base.

“South Australian shipbuilders are staring down at another ‘Valley of Death’ because the Liberal Governments that have been running this country for the past five years have been too busy fighting amongst themselves to pay attention to our highly-skilled workers,” said ETU Assistant National Secretary David Mier.

“In recent years we’ve had Christopher Pyne go from Defence Industry Minister to Defence Minister, but the nation’s major submarine project has gone nowhere.

“Pyne needs to stop popping up on TV and radio every five minutes and knuckle down to do some hard work for the men and women who work in our defence forces and the industries that support them.”

ETU National Industrial Coordinator Matthew Murphy said the Liberal Government has sat on its hands for two years while vital defence projects in Port Adelaide have wrapped up and highly skilled workers have been made redundant.

“We’ve seen 40 electricians with the hands-on experience needed for these massive multi-generational builds take redundancies this month and there are 35 more to be let go soon along with boilermakers and other trades,” he said.

“Australian tradespeople are losing their jobs but the Liberal Government ministers’ only concerns are protecting their own jobs.”

Mr Murphy said it was unacceptable that Australia is looking to plug another defence gap with ageing technology at a time of rising tensions within the region.

“The Collins-class subs are remarkable machines that, thanks to the highly skilled Australian manufacturers who built them, far exceeded their requirements and sunk their critics. But the time for obsolescence and the end of their service life will come soon,” he said.

“Yet we hear from the Morrison Government they are being flagged for continued 30 years of service because of more dithering from Defence Minster Pyne.

“It beggars belief that Minister Pyne is incapable of negotiating a service delivery agreement with Naval Group; clearly, the minister couldn’t negotiate a kink in a road.

“This is policy on the run from the Morrison Government. It’s no way to run our defence forces and it’s a strategic shambles that diminishes Australia’s defence standing in our region,” Mr Murphy said.

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union South Australian Assistant Secretary Simon Pisoni deplored the leadership deficiency from both state and federal Liberal Governments.

“Every day of delay means more of South Australia’s skilled people are going to be laid off and looking for work elsewhere, in other states,” Mr Pisoni said.

“It would be more cost effective to pay these tradespeople to stare at the wall than to let them go in hope they will come back when we come through this Valley of Death.

The Assistant State Secretary said the CEPU was supportive of members looking for work in other states, but governments must formulate a multi-generational plan for the shipbuilding industry.

“With the Port Adelaide TAFE campus flagged for closure, it’s clear neither the Marshal or Morrison Governments have any foresight about how to maintain our highly-specialised shipbuilding industry.

“That needs to change now with leadership and a plan at the state and federal levels or our shipbuilding industry will continue to coast to disaster,” he said.

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Nicholas McCallum

0419 499 886, [email protected]

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