Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Call to accelerate defence projects in South Australia or risk losing skills

SOUTH Australia's defence industry has warned spending on a major maritime project must be announced urgently to prevent up to 3000 workers leaving the shipbuilding sector.
Defence Teaming Centre chief executive Chris Burns told The Advertiser SA was doomed to fall into the "valley of death" in 2017 unless new projects were confirmed early this year.
The valley is the period between slowdown of work on three Air Warfare Destroyers at Outer Harbor's Techport facility and start of construction of the future submarine program, due in 2020 or later.
Mr Burns said projects such as a fourth AWD, Antarctic icebreaker ships or a new frigate fleet must be confirmed soon to stop small and medium defence firms "going under".
He said the projects required significant advance warning to order components and designs.
"In the first half of this year, they need to be committing to a fourth AWD or some other build program in order to do the forward orders that are required," Mr Burns said. "Things like ordering the combat systems in a fourth AWD - that window is closing fast."
Defence Minister Stephen Smith has announced a review to help SA avoid the valley.
Mr Burns estimated 1500 employees at Techport that "the taxpayer has paid a fortune to upskill", and the same number of secondary defence jobs, were at risk without swift action.
There are also concerns $1.2 million in Defence SA cuts will hurt the chances of winning new projects.

The state's Acting Defence Industries Minister Michael O'Brien said he understood industry concern.
"SA is the only state in the country to have a body like Defence SA," he said. "Like every other department, they are working on ways to become more efficient.
"We don't believe those efficiencies will largely impact on the work they do for defence.
"We are in constant communication with our federal counterparts in Canberra as well as going on overseas missions to sell SA as a place to do defence business."
Opposition defence industries spokesman Steven Marshall said more State Government action was needed.
"They need to fight the case for SA, rather than falling into line with Federal Government spending cuts, which are hurting our industry," he said.

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