Defence shipbuilding

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (12:17): Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker; what a fine job you are doing. I rise today to make a contribution to the very important motion brought to this house by the member for Colton. It is a very important motion because it is a very exciting time for South Australia. The motion reads:

That this house—

(a) welcomes the federal Liberal government’s commitment to the $90 billion shipbuilding program, which will secure the future of South Australia’s defence industry for decades;

(b) notes the significant work being undertaken by the South Australian government to ensure that South Australians can reap the maximum benefit of the shipbuilding program; and

(c) notes the significant negative impacts on the current workforce as a result of the former federal Labor government’s failure to progress any future shipbuilding contracts during its last term in office.

The Australian government has committed $90 billion over the coming decade to modernise and strengthen Australia’s naval forces whilst building a strong, sustainable, sovereign Australian shipbuilding industry. That naval shipbuilding is set to deliver unprecedented economic benefits to South Australia.

We have always had a history of shipbuilding in South Australia from the very early days. We were a coastal colony, and shipping was very much a part of our small and insular economy even then. Shipbuilding in South Australia began even before formal white settlement. In 1803, American whalers built the 30-tonne Independence at American River on Kangaroo Island—and I have no doubt the member for Bragg is well aware of that.

So shipbuilding began in the very early days and it continued, but a perennial problem for South Australian shipbuilders was the lack of suitable timber. Much was imported from the other colonies, in particular Tasmania and New South Wales. The government dockyard was operating by the 1850s and, along with a shipyard at Goolwa, was producing paddle steamers and barges for the River Murray trade—interesting and exciting times.

Shipbuilding continued and reached a new peak in the 1940s. Whyalla was famous for its iron and steel but also for its shipbuilding industries. We manufactured our first ship for the Royal Australian Navy even before the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. A total of 58 ships were built in the Whyalla shipyards. Ultimately it closed in 1978, which was a sad day, but we proved that we could do it, and it was a really important part of the state’s economy, for Whyalla in particular.

In between times, we had been building coastal ketches, and many wooden and timber boats were made in backyards at home. In fact, my own Uncle Wilf built a boat called the Saucy Ann, which he steamed from Port Lincoln to Coffin Bay, and if he had not had Axel Stenross with him he would have turned back—that is what he told me anyway.

We, of course, were building Collins class submarines in the 1980s. There were a few problems associated with those submarines, as the member for MacKillop pointed out, and we are now about to embark on building Future Frigates and Future Submarines. It is a very exciting time for South Australia. Around 5,200 direct jobs will be created through naval shipbuilding activities in South Australia, and many more supply chain opportunities.

The contract to build 12 Attack class submarines in this state is the next step forward. It is a $50 billion project—huge numbers. It is a mammoth undertaking; we are proud to take on the challenge. It is the largest defence procurement in the nation’s history and is an undertaking of national firsts in size, scale, complexity and duration. In fact, it will define the future of advanced manufacturing in Australia, and it is happening right here in South Australia. It is a critical transition for our manufacturing sector to take us into the 21st century.

The $35 billion Hunter class frigate program, which will deliver nine antisubmarine frigates to the Royal Australian Navy, will create and sustain 1,500 direct jobs, in addition to the 600 jobs needed for the redevelopment of the Osborne South shipyards and opportunities through the supply chain. As well as that, two offshore patrol vessels are being built by ASC Shipbuilding, with production directly employing up to 400 workers at Osborne and creating 600 indirect jobs.

The Defence Landing Pad, which has been spoken about by members on this side, is to be located in Adelaide’s new innovation neighbourhood at Lot Fourteen here in the CBD and will provide a home for global companies to develop their Australian business strategy and plan local operations. This undertaking is attracting global interest. A new one-stop shop supporting international defence companies to establish in South Australia will drive defence industry investment, and where better to do it than right here in South Australia? The Defence Landing Pad will enable international businesses to build relationships with South Australian businesses and create opportunities for supply chain collaboration.

In relation to training and skills, our government is committed to maximising the local benefits for this huge investment into our state, which includes ensuring that we have the skilled workforce needed to deliver this project. We are also introducing measures to further develop South Australia’s skilled workforce by working with industry to strengthen South Australia’s VET system, including giving industry a stronger voice through the re-establishment of the Industry Skills Council.

Most significant in all of this is that we will be creating more than 20,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships utilising the federal government’s Skilling Australians Fund. This is significant: it gives school leavers the opportunity to take on a trade, undertake their training and, more importantly, to live and work in the state they grew up in. I think that is a critical point in relation to this project. I know that we have a number on this side who have undertaken apprenticeships in the past and become skilled in their trades and are very proud of that, and we will be continuing that tradition in South Australia.

So, while continuous naval shipbuilding will create thousands of jobs for decades to come, unfortunately there will be a period of transition as our current shipbuilding workforce redeploys to new opportunities being created across our defence industrial base. But, by and large, it is a tremendously exciting project. It will set up South Australia’s industrial base for the coming decades, and set us in good stead for the 21st century, and really set us up as the defence state in this commonwealth.


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