ASC Shipbuilding has received recognition of its enormous turnaround in performance and progress in building Australian warships from one of its toughest critics.
Former defence minister David Johnston made headlines in 2014 when he infamously said he wouldn't trust ASC "to build a canoe". But the tide has now turned, with Johnston telling the ABC the company should be involved in constructing Australia's future warships.
Johnston is now backing in the abilities of ASC Shipbuilding, as well as WA's Austal, to participate in the $35 billion Future Frigates project.
"The shipbuilders, the management of the yard, should be Australian," Johnston told the ABC.
"We have a world-class shipbuilder in Austal, teaming with ASC who has come out of the doldrums – it had a lot of problems when I was the minister, a lot of problems, and now it's doing world-class work.
"Why are we not getting them to participate in this? I find it very, very curious."
Spain's Navantia, Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and UK firm BAE Systems have all been shortlisted to design, build and sustain nine new anti-submarine warfare frigates to replace Australia's Anzac frigate fleet.
In June this year, Austal and ASC Shipbuilding entered into a teaming agreement that would see them pool their resources, skills and experience and act as one in support of the project to whichever international company is selected as the successful tenderer.
It has since been revealed that the request for tender (RFT) issued to the three foreign tenderers in March contained no requirement for the use of an Australian shipbuilder – with specific reference to ASC.
"In particular, the Commonwealth is not mandating that the successful tenderer use the workforce of ASC Shipbuilding Pty Ltd currently working on the AWD Program," the RFT reads.
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ASC Shipbuilding said it "welcomes former defence minister David Johnston’s comments as recognition of the enormous progress we have made in building Australia’s most complex warships".
As the shipbuilder in the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance, ASC Shipbuilding is currently constructing the Hobart Class destroyers, with partners Navantia, Raytheon Australia and the Defence Department.
The company added it is "actively pursuing shipbuilding roles in the upcoming Offshore Patrol Vessel program from 2018, with partner Civmec/Forgacs, and the Future Frigate program from 2020 with partner Austal".
Currently, ASC Shipbuilding has no projects on its books beyond 2019.