In response to revelations the Future Frigates tender included no mandate for the use of an Australian shipbuilder, two senators have called on Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne to provide any information and correspondence between Defence, ASC, Austal and the three Future Frigate tenderers.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon and Victorian senator Kim Carr have moved to have Minister Pyne and Minister for Defence Marise Payne provide:
- Gateway Review briefs and decisions in relation to the Future Frigates projects "to the extent that those briefs and decision go to Australian industry capability, the partnering or use of Australian shipyards and how Techport and other Australian facilities might be used in the program";
- Any correspondence between Defence and ASC, and Defence and Austal, in response to the announcement that Australian shipbuilders Austal and ASC would partner to win the contract to build the $35 billion Future Frigate Project in Adelaide;
- Any correspondence between Defence and the three prospective design partners in response to the announcement that Australian shipbuilders Austal and ASC would partner to win the contract to build the Future Frigates in Adelaide; and
- Any other documentation held by the Future Frigate Project that discusses Australian industry capability, the partnering or use of Australian shipyards and how Techport and other Australian facilities might be used in the program.
Senator Payne will have until close of business on 6 September to table the requested information and documents to the Senate.
The motion comes as the Senate economics references committee continues its inquiry into the future of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry this Friday.
ASC, Austal Defence and a Department of Finance representative will give evidence at Friday's inquiry in Canberra.
Since reports emerged that the tender document required no mandate for use of an Australian shipbuilder, all three project contenders – BAE Systems (UK), Fincantieri (Italy), Navantia (Spain) – have backed the use of an Australian workforce for the $35 billion project.
BAE Systems Australia chief executive Glynn Phillips said, "Our commitment is to build the ships in Adelaide and maximise Australian content in every way possible. As we have said previously, we will build an Australian ship with an Australian workforce. The current shipbuilding workforce in South Australia is highly skilled and lies at the heart of our plans to construct the vessels. If you are a South Australian shipbuilder today, you can be confident you will have a great future if we are successful."
Chairman of Fincantieri Australia Dario Deste specified a strong contribution of a South Australian and Adelaide workforce for the project if the Italian company is named as the successful tenderer.
"Fincantieri will have more say in coming months but our proposal will create long-term security for the Adelaide shipbuilding workforce, build a new advanced manufacturing industry nationally and would join Australia to our global network of 20 shipyards on four continents," said Deste.
Navantia Australia's managing director Donato Martínez said Navantia "is committed to using the Adelaide workforce and Australian industry for the F-5000".
"We have already been working closely with the shipbuilding workforce in Osborne for a number of years," Martínez said.
"When we already have an experienced shipbuilding workforce in Adelaide, why would we look anywhere else?"
The SEA 5000 Future Frigates program will see nine frigates constructed for the Royal Australian Navy.
The frigates will incorporate the Australian-developed CEA phased-array radar and American weaponry.