04/01/2021 - 12:00

New year, no decision on docking

04/01/2021 - 12:00


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The state government has continued efforts to bring full-cycle docking of Australia’s Collins-class submarines to WA, much to the chagrin of the federal government.

New year, no decision on docking
Linda Reynolds has repeatedly called on Mark McGowan to increase funding for AMC, located in Henderson. Photos: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government has continued efforts to bring full-cycle docking of Australia’s Collins-class submarines to WA, much to the chagrin of the federal government.

Full-cycle docking refers to the process by which a submarine is fully raised from the water so that it can be dismantled and reassembled to extend its lifespan.

This process takes place every 10 years and is at present conducted in South Australia.

All other maintenance work for Australia’s six Collins-class submarines is conducted in WA.

Premier Mark McGowan has aggressively campaigned for these works since coming to office in 2017, and led the establishment of the state government’s inaugural defence issues portfolio and advocacy body Defence West in aid of receiving the works.

The federal government had intended to make a final decision on whether to shift the work by January of last year; however, the dual stressors of bushfires on the country’s east coast and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed that timeline.

It was believed at the time that the federal government was inclined to keep the works in SA.

Nevertheless, the state government continued lobbying for the works throughout 2020, and had introduced a national television, newspaper and radio advertising campaign for the works in November.

A further $15 million was announced in December to help promote job opportunities in WA’s defence industry, with funds going towards TAFE short courses, employer incentives and training of apprentices in relevant trades.

Mr McGowan at the time said the funding would supercharge the state’s defence industry.

“Our government is committed to attracting defence projects to Western Australia and working with industry to build a trained and skilled workforce to meet the demand of current and future jobs in the defence sector,” he said.

While a flurry of other initiatives, including grants for SMEs and university projects, have aimed to grow competency and expertise in the state’s defence industry, the federal government has kept mum on whether it will make a decision to relocate the works.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds declined to discuss the issue when asked at a Business News Politics & Policy event in late November, saying she and the prime minister would not be rushed into making a decision.

Appearing at the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson this past Tuesday, she further called on Mr McGowan to fund and commence renovations for the maritime precinct in 2021.

That’s despite the state government having already pledged $88 million in upgrades for the facility as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan, as well as seeking industry support for a $500 million large vessel dry berth at Henderson in December.

Ms Reynolds argued though that works had not physically begun, and pointed to the federal government’s own spending as proof it was committed to WA’s defence industry.

“We need the Henderson facility, the state government facility, to be upgraded,” she said.

“We agreed two-and-a-half years ago on that work, and I call on the state government to do that work so Henderson can continue to grow.”


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