20/11/2020 - 15:00

No docking decision in sight

20/11/2020 - 15:00


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News of a revived, $300 million maritime underwater tracking range comes as the federal government remains undecided on whether to bring full-cycle docking to WA.

Linda Reynolds, with Channel Nine presenter Gary Adshead, at this morning's Politics & Policy event. Photo: Matt Jelonek

News of a revived, $300 million maritime underwater tracking range comes as the federal government remains undecided on whether to bring full-cycle docking to WA.

That announcement, made this morning by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds at a Business News Politics & Policy event, comes as Australia has begun to shift its strategic focus away from US-led coalitions and towards maintaining influence and security in the region.

This has included securing Australia’s maritime border, with the federal government increasing its investment in its ocean and sea capabilities to $75 billion over the next decade.

Ms Reynolds said the tracking range, which had ceased operating in 2012, would bring superiority to Australia’s submarines and other maritime warfighting capabilities.

“Similar to a three-dimensional laboratory, the range will allow our navy, our allies and partners to fine‑tune our anti‑submarine warfare tactics to deliver the technology edge needed in the future,” she said.

“The delivery of this sovereign capability is also expected to provide a much‑needed boost for Australian industry by creating opportunities for businesses to participate in the installation and ongoing sustainment of the range.”

Those remarks came as Ms Reynolds discussed the federal government’s commitment to naval shipbuilding efforts in WA, noting that approximately $16 billion worth of works is currently undertaken between Austal, Civmec and BAE Systems Australia at Henderson's Australian Marine Complex.

Ms Reynolds said the state government needed to invest further in the Henderson site, which is set to receive an $88 million upgrade as announced in July.

“I’m very proud to say there has been no greater advocate for naval shipbuilding here in Western Australia than me,” she said.

“The state government must now deliver on its much discussed master plan and also start work on the much-needed upgrades that are required in Henderson.

“This will ensure we have the facilities that support higher levels of automation, efficiency and flexibility, and also the scalability it so desperately now needs.”

“This is good for Western Australia, and it’s also great for Australian shipbuilding.”

While boasting of the federal government’s commitment to naval shipbuilding in WA, Ms Reynolds today declined to say whether full-cycle docking of the nation’s Collins-class submarines will be brought to the state.

The state government has lobbied for the works since 2017 and established advocacy body Defence West to help bring it to WA.

Full-cycle docking currently takes place in South Australia and is the only maintenance work on those submarines that is not performed in WA.

Ms Reynolds said a decision will be made when it’s the right time and in the national interest.

“We have an incredibly large and complex naval shipbuilding program,” she said.

“We’re going to be building 23 new classes of vessel in Australia, for not just the navy, but also the army.

“We’ve very deliberately scheduled these programs … we’re building new facilities, we’ve got to ramp up the workforce to 15,000 workers in South Australia and here in Western Australia.

“This is not a binary, standalone decision.

“Both Osborne in Adelaide and Henderson here in Western Australia are growing. Both need to grow.

“We already do the majority of intermediate and mid-cycle docking here in Western Australia.

“We will make a decision but I’m not announcing it today.

“The Prime Minister and I will not be rushed into a decision if it’s not the right time to do it.”

She declined to say whether a decision on full-cycle docking will not be made before the upcoming state election.

“All I can say is Western Australia is doing extraordinarily well out of our naval shipbuilding plan, and many other defence projects that universities and companies are supporting across our state,” she said.

“Let the record speak for itself.”


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