During state budget estimates, Minister for Defence Industries Martin Hamilton-Smith's opening remarks touched on the possibility that SA might target construction work for the 10 OPVs that the federal government has promised to Western Australia.
"Another significant development has been the winning of at least two Offshore Patrol Vessels – we might hope for more – out of the OPV program to cover the valley of death and the wind-down in work there as AWD comes to a close," the minister said.
The comments have reignited the concerns of Western Australia, earlier this year WA's Minister for Defence Issues Paul Papalia expressed concern that the OPV construction promised to WA might not come to fruition.
"We're promised 10 of 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels, they're gonna start building them in South Australia, and this is a $3 billion project. They're going to start building them in SA. Who thinks, that after the next federal election, they will up stumps and shift all of that to Western Australia? Who is absolutely confident that that will happen? I'm sceptical," Minister Papalia said at a press conference in May.
"I'm worried that that won't happen. I think it doesn't make any sense anyway because you're spending tax-payers money to start construction in one state and then you're going to lift it all and shift all of that capability to another state and replicate the whole process all over again, it doesn't make economic sense, it certainly doesn't make political sense, because I would expect the South Australians, once they create something, once they begin with building those ships, they will fight to keep it."
Minister Papalia told Defence Connect Minister Hamilton-Smith's comments reaffirms the need for the federal government to offer more concrete commitments and timeframes about the transfer of the OPV project.
"The federal government needs to step up and clearly outline how and when the OPV build will transition to Western Australia," said Minister Papalia.
"We are currently facing our own ‘valley of death’, tens of thousands of Western Australians with skill sets directly transferable to the shipbuilding industry, find themselves unemployed as the major mining projects transition from construction to production.
"South Australia has already been gifted the overwhelming lion’s share, receiving $86 billion of an $89.5 billion spend on naval ship and submarine construction.
"Any suggestion that Western Australia will build fewer than the 10 OPV’s is completely unacceptable."
The OPV program is estimated at more than $3 billion. Three designers have been shortlisted to refine their designs, Damen of the Netherlands and Fassmer and Lürssen of Germany.
An announcement of the successful tenderer is expected this year, before construction commences in 2018.
Twelve vessels will be built in total to replace the 13 existing Armidale Class patrol boats.
Defence has said the OPVs will enhance the Australian Defence Force's capacity to support border security, maritime resource protection and military patrol and response operations.