The Minister for Defence David Johnston today announced the first set of key initiatives in the Abbott Government’s long-term strategic naval plan.
Within a year of taking office the Government is moving decisively to tackle Labor’s Defence mess and to ensure that Australia does not face major capability gaps as a result of Labor’s defence cuts and failure to take crucial decisions, including on maritime capability.
As a result of our plan, Navy will be properly equipped in the years ahead and Australian industry will have the long-term strategic direction that has been lacking for the last six years. Further steps in our strategic naval plan will developed as part of the White Paper process.
We are moving now to address the most urgent capability shortfalls created by Labor.
Replenishment vessels are essential to support sustained naval deployments. Navy’s current replenishment ship HMAS Success is in urgent need of replacement. And HMAS Sirius only provides limited replenishment capability.
In light of the urgent need to forestall a capability gap in this crucial area; the current low productivity of shipbuilders involved in the AWD program; and value for money considerations, the Government has given First Pass approval for Defence to conduct a limited competitive tender process between Navantia of Spain and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) of South Korea for the construction of two replacement replenishment vessels based on existing designs.
“Navy is in urgent need of large support vessels that we assess are beyond the capacity of Australia to produce competitively at this stage. In this instance it would not serve anyone if we were to provide a challenge to industry that was beyond its capabilities.”
“Competition between these two experienced shipbuilders is the best way to ensure delivery of capable, cost effective vessels in the time frame required,” Senator Johnston said.
Bringing forward work on future frigates
The Government has also agreed to bring forward preliminary design work to ensure Australia maintains the necessary capabilities to retain the option of building the future frigate in Australia. This work will focus on continued production of the current AWD hull, suitably adapted and utilising capabilities from the cutting-edge Australian companies CEA Technologies Australia and SAAB Combat Systems. Further decisions on the future frigate will be taken in the context of the 2015 Defence White Paper.
The Government has committed $78.2 million to bring forward preliminary engineering and design work necessary to keep open the option of building the future frigate in Australia. In parallel, the Government is reviewing Australia’s shipbuilding requirements, capabilities and capacities in order to inform a long-term strategic naval plan that provides the ADF with leading-edge capabilities and Australian taxpayers with value for money.
“Naval shipbuilders and Unions must understand that naval shipbuilding in Australia is at a critical crossroads. Demonstrating that the AWD Program is able to provide value for money will be a crucial test for the Australian shipbuilding industry. No responsible Government could consider providing further work to an industry that is performing so poorly,” Senator Johnston said.
Pacific Patrol Boat
The Government has brought forward an open competition with Australian industry to construct more than 20 replacement Pacific Patrol Boats. This important project will boost the maritime security and resource and fishery protection capabilities of partner countries in the South West Pacific and generate additional work for yards around Australia.
“These will be steel hulled vessels designed to support fisheries, Exclusive Economic Zone enforcement and other maritime security missions,” Senator Johnston said.
Naval Capability Plan
As part of its 2015 Defence White Paper the Government will announce further steps in its Naval Capability Plan. This plan will provide for an enterprise level shipbuilding plan that will bring together navy capability requirements, available resources, and recommendations around Australian industry requirements.
“The decisions announced today move us in the right direction in working towards a revitalised naval shipbuilding industry in Australia, but this is just the first step to fix the problems we have inherited from Labor, and more work needs to be done.”