No guarantee on Vic shipbuilding contracts
There is new certainty for South Australia’s shipbuilding industry but it’s a different story over the border, where Victorian job losses are looming.
The Abbott government is facing accusations that bringing forward big navy contracts, to provide a new pipeline of work, was targeted at preventing the loss of SA marginal seats.
BAE Systems Australia will run dry of work in 2016, and the Victorian shipbuilder is concerned Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not talked about awarding contracts outside SA.
Mr Abbott provided no guarantee that some of the work would be done in Victoria despite being asked repeatedly on Thursday.
“The problem is that the former government, in six long years, did not place a single shipbuilding order with an Australian yard,” he told reporters in Geelong.
“Because we have made this decision, naval shipbuilding jobs in Australia will at no stage drop below about 1000 and from 2020 onwards they will start to build up to 2500.”
Construction of frigates has been brought forward by three years, and offshore patrol vessels by two years.
Victorian Industry Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said BAE Systems had a prototype for an offshore patrol vessel ready to go, which could prevent near-term job losses.
“Unfortunately, Williamstown is not a marginal seat,” she told reporters.
“A good government that has a national interest doesn’t discriminate between marginal seats and safe seats – I implore Tony Abbott to do the right thing.”
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas also called the decision a cynical ploy to save SA seats at the cost of Victorian jobs.
BAE, which employs 600 workers, suggests it will lay off staff after 2016 if there is no more work.
“As a project-based business, our employee numbers must match the needs and status of our ongoing and upcoming projects,” a spokesman said.
The Victorian opposition said it was up to the state government to push for federal money to flow to Victoria.