Unions have called on the Prime Minister to commit to a minimum level of local industry involvement in the upcoming nuclear submarine program after a senior Defence official reportedly said there would be no mandated minimum level.
A high-ranking Defence official this week told an industry conference the department is “maturing beyond ascribing a percentage” of local industry involvement and was unlikely to set a minimum like previous major ship builds, according to The Australian.
In response to subsequent concerns from local industry, Defence minister Peter Dutton said Australia would “get the balance right” between supporting local industry and securing capabilities in response to rising foreign conflicts involving China.
“We need to get the balance right between continuing to build our defence industry and acquiring capability so that we can be in a position of strength, not weakness,” Mr Dutton told the ABC on Thursday.
“In terms of the jobs in Adelaide, we have billions of dollars invested in Adelaide, thousands and thousands of jobs will remain and be created into the future. And that’s the balance that we need to get, but ultimately, the first order for me is to keep Australians safe.”
The minister did not commit to a minimum level of local industry participation in submarine contracts.
In response to the earlier report that Defence’s Capability and Sustainment Group chief counsel Fran Rush had said the government was more focused more on securing capability than building local industry, unions called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fulfil a commitment to build at least eight nuclear powered submarines in Adelaide.
“Scott Morrison promised South Australia that it would receive billions in investment and thousands of jobs from the AUKUS submarine contract, making up for the significant losses caused by his tearing up of the French Naval Group contract, under which many South Australians were already employed,” SA Unions Secretary Dale Beasley said.
“Now, we find out that the new $100 billion AUKUS subs deal is unlikely to have any local content mandate and may deliver absolutely nothing to the South Australian economy and workers.
“First Scott Morrison betrayed the French, now he’s betraying South Australians, by ripping away promised jobs and investment.”
The union said more than 1,100 South Australian workers had lost their jobs because of the government’s decision to scrap the French agreement.
Nearly 150 officials, including private contractors, are part of a government-led taskforce currently exploring options for acquiring submarines.
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