Today’s report by the Senate Economics References Committee on Australia’s shipbuilding industry adds to overwhelming evidence that the Abbott Government’s mismanagement is sinking the industry and putting highly skilled Australians out of work.
After almost two years in power, the Abbott Government has failed to ensure meaningful work for Australian shipyards and their workers. At the same time, it has happily sent work overseas.
Labor's Shadow Minister for Defence Senator Stephen Conroy called on the Government to heed the report’s findings and take urgent action to save Australia’s strategically vital shipbuilding industry.
"Australia is an island nation with one of the biggest coastlines in the world. A viable domestic shipbuilding industry is vital to our national security," he said.
The Committee report expresses grave concerns with the Government’s Competitive Evaluation Process for Australia’s future submarines, calling the Government’s decision not to undertake a proper competitive tender process “poorly-considered and highly risky”.
It also slams a decision by the Abbott Government to send the Navy’s replacement supply ships offshore, a decision that was made without appropriate consultation with Australian industry and had “damaged industry confidence”.
Labor's Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence David Feeney expressed serious concern over the report’s findings that the Abbott Government is failing to consider the strategic and economic benefits of a robust domestic shipbuilding industry.
"A substantial amount of public and private capital has been invested in Australia's shipyards over decades. To squander this by allowing these yards to wither on the vine and die is outrageous," Senator Feeney said.
With no work and no certainty, the impact of the Abbott Government’s incompetence on the Australian shipbuilding industry has been staggering.
On Tony Abbott’s watch 610 jobs have been lost at Forgacs in Newcastle, 120 at ASC in Adelaide and hundreds more at BAE in Williamstown. Thousands more jobs are at risk.
Labor's Shadow Minister for Industry Senator Kim Carr said that the Government’s willingness to send work overseas while doing nothing for Australian shipyards was a betrayal of Australian industry and highly skilled Australian workers.
“Australia's shipbuilders are excellent at what they do. They've proven time and time again that they can build the ships to meet the Australian Navy's needs. We cannot let the skills and capabilities in this highly specialised industry die," said Senator Carr.
Labor had a plan in 2013 that would have maintained industry capacity, created jobs and maximised value for Defence acquisitions.
After the election the Abbott Government abandoned this plan and is decimating Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capabilities.
Tony Abbott must act immediately to reverse these negligent decisions, provide certainty for the shipbuilding industry and its workers, and secure Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capacity for generations to come.