WA defence industry misses out

The decision to not relocate the nation’s submarine Full Cycle Docking (FCD) program to WA is a lost opportunity to bolster the State’s defence industry and supply chain capabilities, says CCIWA CEO Chris Rodwell.

The Federal Government on Thursday (September 16) announced that South Australia had been selected to spearhead a major expansion of Australia’s naval capabilities amid a new enhanced security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US.

Australian Marine Complex

Credit: Australian Marine Complex.

Several new naval projects were confirmed for SA, including the construction of nuclear-powered submarines, upgrades to the Hobart Class destroyer combat management system, and the continuation of FCD of the Collins class submarine fleet as part of a Life-of-Type Extension to the fleet from 2026 in SA.

Rodwell said though significant defence industry work will continue in WA on a variety of patrol vessels, the decision not to relocated FCD to WA is a setback for WA’s defence industry businesses and jobs.

“It is a lost opportunity for more small and medium-sized WA businesses to further develop, transfer and apply recognised expertise in oil and gas, mining and advanced manufacturing to a large and complex defence project,” he said.

“It is critical that our State and Federal Governments continue to invest in the expansion of the defence industry in the West, because it is in our national interest to do so.”

The case made by CCIWA, its Members, and the State Government was based on sound principles, noting that the co-location of maintenance with operations was well recognised as best practice – creating efficiencies and improving knowledge transfer between operations and sustainment.

“WA has significant defence industry support infrastructure at the world-class Australian Marine Complex, and a highly-skilled workforce, already delivering Collins class maintenance and grown via State Government initiatives,” Rodwell said.

CCIWA notes that workforce capacity issues posed by an excess of projects distributed to SA could also have been alleviated by repositioning FCD work to WA.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the FCD decision did not recognise WA’s innate industrial strength and shipbuilding capability.

“While we are extremely disappointed, we know that Western Australia’s superior capability to undertake job-creating defence projects at Henderson remains,” he said.

“We have the industry expertise, the infrastructure and the capability to accommodate a much larger share of Australia’s defence industry work.”

CCIWA’s Industry Capability Network can connect suppliers with mining, construction, infrastructure, defence and other major projects.

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