South Australian senator Rex Patrick congratulated BAE on winning the SEA 5000 Future Frigate tender, but states that there is more to do to support Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capacity.
“This is great news for ASC and for the program’s sovereignty, the government's reversal of its opposition to an Australian shipbuilder constructing our warships is to be welcomed," said Senator Patrick.
Ever since former senator Nick Xenophon revealed in April last year that the tender documents excluded ASC from being able to take responsibility for the build, Centre Alliance has been putting pressure on the government to ensure ASC was dealt back into the game through Senate debate, questions in the Senate chamber, at Senate estimates, the naval shipbuilding inquiry and the media. Senator Patrick recently wrote to all of Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne’s constituents to point out the error of the government’s way.
Senator Patrick maintained his pressure on the government to focus on a sovereign shipbuilding capability when he spoke with the Defence Connect Podcast earlier in the year, especially when looking at Australia's recent history of delivering domestic ship builds: "We've built Anzacs here, we've built frigates here, we've built Collins Class submarines here, we've built Minehunters here, so we've done this before and we can do it again. There is no reservation at all in my mind that we can build these things here, and I think we should build these things here."
As with his general approach to recent defence procurement announcements, while supportive of the government's decision, Senator Patrick remains reserved regarding the future of the Hunter Class, saying, "That adds to the risk profile of this project, which will need to be carefully managed. So, while I am positive about today’s announcement, I will certainly be putting the project on my Senate oversight radar.”
Given the drive to secure a sovereign shipbuilding capability, local content and industry contribution remains an area of focus for the senator, who will continue to lobby BAE and it's subcontractors to incorporate as much local content as possible.
“Another thing I will be keeping a close eye on is the local industry content and the extent to which Australian companies can be incorporated into BAE’s global supply chain. I won’t be taking my eye off that ball," Senator Patrick said.