With the Australian economy in a state of flux, it’s clear to see that there are many important changes currently underway. Traditional industries have been hit hardest, with a significant and long-developing downturn in domestic manufacturing and maintenance. This greater change is also evident in the economic prospects of South Australia, where locals have long relied on the Federal Government’s defence dollar.

Recently, the tender process for the production and servicing of the national submarine fleet has commanded the national attention. After a more-than-rocky start, the Abbott Government has so far proved incapable of charting the murky waters. Now a defence industry group has come out against the proposed building of the fleet in Japan, claiming that the contract will result in the loss of maintenance jobs associated with the submarines.

The Adelaide-based group, Defence Teaming Centre, has identified several problems with the possible out-sourcing of the fleet’s construction to Japan. According to the industry insiders, the shorter lifespan of Japanese manufactured submarines will result in less local work.
Defence Teaming Centre CEO Chris Burns has come out against the move and lambasted the Government’s blue-sky thinking. “That’s what we do here in Adelaide,” he told the ABC. “We do major overhauls and upgrades to the Collins submarines every seven years, and that’s the workflow that is here. So, based on the premise that they don’t have major upgrades and overhauls in Japanese submarines, we don’t believe there’ll be any major work for Australian industry.” According to Mr. Andrews, Adelaide would likely see the industry move to WA, as it is closer to the home-port of the submarines.

The building of the submarine fleet has turned into something of a political hot-potato. As an analogy for the diminishing prospects of Australia’s own manufacturing and services industry, the construction of the fleet should be viewed in the larger context of Australia’s contracting economy. But instead of seizing the momentum and acknowledging the importance of our local industries, the LNP has curiously declared its preference for out-sourcing and ‘cheap-as-chips’ international construction.

With the tender process already under the microscope, here’s hoping the Government heeds the call for a more localised and Australia-centric approach to an important economic issue…

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