WA naval precinct gets a $4.3 billion federal upgrade

Brandon How

During his visit to Western Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the state would receive $4.3 billion for a naval precinct upgrade.

WA will get its first large-vessel dry berth, and associated infrastructure, to allow the construction and sustainment of large naval and commercial vessels. Work at the Henderson shipyard will be undertaken by Commonwealth owned Australian Naval Infrastructure from 2023-24, while operations are expected to commence in 2028.

The federal government has announced a $4.3 billion investment to upgrade the Henderson shipyard just south of Perth.

The federal government says the project will create 500 construction jobs and at least 2,000 shipbuilding jobs upon completion. A master plan will be produced in collaboration with the state government to ensure effective support for the national shipbuilding enterprise.

Over the last two years, the Department of Defence has been working the WA government’s defence capability body Defence West to bring about the precinct upgrade. The Prime Minister said there were almost $30 billion worth of shipbuilding projects planned for Western Australia (WA) until 2040.

The Prime Minister also said that by the second half of 2022 the government would complete investigations into the infrastructure required to support United States and United Kingdom nuclear-powered submarines being stationed at submarine base HMAS Stirling, in WA.

“The ability of US and UK nuclear powered submarines to be based here on the west coast and ultimately we’d like to see them on the east coast as well, is all part of what our plan is as we continue to push forward our AUKUS partnership,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“We’ve been working through those initial phases and as [we’re working] towards the selection of the appropriate vessel that will be part of that nuclear submarine fleet that we’ll have here in Australia, which I suspect will be well before 2040.”

“Another part is to ensure that we can bring more of our partners’ vessels here to Australia, have them here for extended periods of time, and ensure that they can maintain and perform operations out of Australia. This is part of the AUKUS partnership delivering early results to ensure that we can keep Australia safe.”

Further, he said Tuesday’s announcement affirmed WA as central to the Commonwealth’s ambition to developing the nation’s naval shipbuilding capability.

“This is a $4.3 billion vote of confidence in Western Australia’s shipbuilding capabilities, jobs, training and the critical role that Western Australia plays in defending Australian and powering our national economy,” the Prime Minister said.

“This multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment will transform the Henderson maritime precinct into a world-class shipbuilding powerhouse, and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to naval capability in the West.

“This investment in WA’s future will ensure we can build, as well as sustain larger vessels in Australia, turbocharging our national naval shipbuilding endeavour and creating thousands of job opportunities for West Australians.

“Henderson, HMAS Stirling and Fleet Base West all form a key part of our maritime capability and our nation’s security, particularly given the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean, and will continue to do so for decades to come.”

The investment not only builds on the previous $1.5 billion commitment to improving WA naval infrastructure, but also the Department of Defence’s $90 million Regional Maintenance Centre, also at Henderson. The centre is expected to open in the second half of 2022 and will help maintain surface fleet units.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the development would improve sovereign defence industry capabilities and that contracts would include Australian Industry Capability ‘value-for-money’ requirements.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the investment would demonstrates a government commitment to the “sovereign shipbuilding outcomes outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan and the 2017 National Naval Shipbuiliding Plan.”

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