Richard Marles says Labor wants a “truly Australian” firm to build the Navy’s new fleet of frigates.Labor wants an Australian shipbuilder to assemble the Navy’s new fleet of frigates.
But opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles has promised if Labor wins the next federal election it won’t revisit the contract in the event the Turnbull government makes a different call.
Three foreign shipbuilders in the running to design Australia’s new frigates have officially submitted their bids and are now playing the waiting game with a decision expected before the middle of the year.
The UK’s BAE Systems with its Type 26, Fincantieri of Italy with its FREMM and Navantia of Spain with an updated F100 are vying for the $30 billion Future Frigate program contract.
“Labor calls upon the government to mandate that the build be done by a truly Australian company,” Mr Marles told the National Press Club on Tuesday.
“If we lift our eyes above the next 12 months and look to the decades over which the continuous ship build is intended to occur, then it is self-evident that the company which performs this build must be or become a truly Australian company.”
The new frigates will replace the Anzac-class from the mid-2020s, in a project that will create more than 2000 jobs.
Production is scheduled to start from 2020 at the federal government-owned shipyard in Osborne, South Australia.
Mr Marles insisted Labor won’t interfere with the contracts if it wins office.
“So it is for this government, right now, to get this right,” he said.
He said the confused process of the offshore patrol vessel contract must not be allowed to play out with the frigates.
German designer Lurssen and Western Australian ship builder Austal had been “forced into a shotgun wedding”, he said.
Mr Marles waxed lyrical about Austal’s achievements.
“Austal is a projection of Australia,” Mr Marles said referring to the company’s Littoral Combat Ship for the US Navy.
He lamented the company’s future in Australia was uncertain because it can win naval design work abroad but not at home.
“Given its unique status as the one Australian defence industry company which resembles the profile of the global defence industry primes, to lose it would be a disaster,” he said.
Mr Marles cast doubt on the genuineness of the government’s commitment to establishing an Australian defence industry.
“Until the government starts to base an argument for an Australian defence industry in strategic policy, it will continue to be met with scepticism.”
Mr Pyne on Monday unveiled a blueprint for defence industrial capability aimed at maximising Australia’s stake in manufacturing military equipment.
He said for foreign defence companies establishing a shopfront and getting an ABN (Australian Business Number) was no longer enough – there had to be Australian leadership, board and workforce.
The federal government announced in January an ambitious bid to make Australia a top 10 global arms exporter in the next decade, to help boost jobs.
It’s spending $200 billion in the next 10 years on military acquisitions.
Australian Associated Press