Today’s report in the Australian Financial Review paints a damning picture of Tony Abbott’s Defence White Paper.
It also suggests that the Abbott Government will sound the death knell for Australia’s shipbuilding industry in Victoria and New South Wales.
Before the election, Tony Abbott promised to spend two percent of GDP on Defence within a decade. After nearly two years of inaction, fulfilling this promise is now considered somewhere between difficult and highly risky.
According to today’s alarming report, Defence officials have warned the Government that one of the options to meet its funding promise involves ‘a high level of risk’, potentially jeopardising future Defence capability and billions of taxpayer dollars.
The Coalition also promised before the election to build 12 new future submarines in South Australia, a promise it has since walked away from.
Today we have learned that Mr Abbott seems intent on breaking another pre-election promise and will opt to build eight rather than 12 submarines.
This is despite both the 2009 and 2013 Defence White Paper’s concluding that Australia needs 12 future submarines to protect its national interests.
Instead of fulfilling its pre-election promises on submarines, the Abbott Government will seemingly try to buy-off South Australia with promises of work on Navy’s Future Frigates.
The Abbott Government’s scheme would reportedly see only one Australian shipbuilder left, signing the death warrants for shipyards in Victoria and New South Wales.
On Mr Abbott’s watch, we have already seen 610 jobs lost at Forgacs in Newcastle and hundreds of jobs lost at BAE in Williamstown.
Now the future of these shipyards and their highly skilled workers has been thrown into complete turmoil.
Mr Abbott must think South Australians are mugs. He torpedoed the Liberals’ submarine promise and drove away the car industry. Now he wants South Australians to trust him on ships.
Since coming to power the Abbott Government has done nothing for Australian defence industry.
Mr Abbott sent the contract to replace the Navy’s supply ships offshore, without giving local shipbuilders an opportunity to compete.
Mr Abbott invented a sham Competitive Evaluation Process for the future submarines in a cynical move to save his own job and fulfil his secret deal to send our future submarines offshore.
Now Mr Abbott’s Defence White Paper seems poised to go down in history as destroying what’s left of Australia’s once proud shipbuilding industry.
Today's report of a cut to the number of future submarines from twelve to eight also calls into question the viability of a continuous submarine build and risks the Royal Australian Navy being unable to meet future operational, maintenance and training requirements.
It’s time for Mr Abbott to end the uncertainty, keep his Government’s promises, and come clean about his plans for Australia’s Defence Force and our local defence industry.