West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has confirmed he will step up his lobbying campaign to the federal government, urging the Prime Minister to resolve full-cycle docking for the Collins Class submarines.
Premier Mark McGowan will write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ask him to seek a resolution to the long-delayed full-cycle docking (FCD) decision, after it emerged the issue may be put off until after the next federal election.
Premier McGowan will call on the federal government to provide certainty and make a decision in the national interest.
He said, “I will write to the Prime Minister to outline Western Australia's serious concerns with the repeated delays on the FCD decision and ask for his assistance in resolving the matter.”
The federal government has now missed its own deadline by almost a year, with the federal Defence Minister this week refusing to commit to an outcome this side of the federal election – raising the possibility a resolution may not be reached until late 2022.
“It is unacceptable that Western Australia and South Australia are now facing the real possibility of almost two more years of uncertainty on top of the delays we have already experienced,” Premier McGowan said.
With about six years' lead time needed to move the work from its current South Australian base to Western Australia, there is now real concern the inaction will result in the project – set to begin in 2026 – staying in South Australia by default.
Recent Federal Senate estimates hearings have delivered more mixed messages from the federal government on the project's future – with the Defence Minister and fellow WA senator Mathias Cormann providing conflicting advice on the reasons for the delay.
Premier McGowan added, “Western Australia has always said the decision must be made in the national interest. It would be deeply concerning to think the timing of a Federal election would have any influence on when government and industry are notified of the future of this critical project.”
The call for a decision comes as the McGowan government this week reached a significant milestone in progressing its $100 million-plus investment to support FCD and other Defence projects at the state's marine industry hub at the Australian Marine Complex (AMC).
WA Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia added, “We have worked hard over the last three-and-a-half years to demonstrate Western Australia's superior capacity to undertake this work, and there is no doubt WA is the clear choice for locating FCD.”
The state government is now calling for expressions of interest from marine contractors to begin work on the design and construction of a major wharf upgrade – the first of four infrastructure projects valued at $87.6 million and set to create up to 600 jobs.
The wharf extension will create additional berth capacity and allow the accommodation of all Royal Australian Navy vessels.
“Western Australia has demonstrated its strong commitment to carrying out this project in the national interest – with over $100 million in infrastructure and training investment by the state government on top of our significant technical work to demonstrate our superior capacity to do the work,” Minister Papalia added.
The project at the key industrial hub will see the existing AMC Berth 1 lengthened by about 140 metres, together with the extension and upgrade of existing services on the wharf.
It will also see the design of a new 200-metre Finger Wharf to create Berths 7 and 8, to increase future capability to service Collins Class and Attack Class submarines, and support larger naval vessels.
In addition to the wharf upgrades, the $87.6 million investment includes a new vessel transfer path, three road intersection upgrades and a new shipbuilding hall.
Minister McGowan said, “Western Australia has put its money where its mouth is, investing millions of state money for infrastructure, workforce training and planning to secure this work, estimated to be worth $8.4 billion to the state's economy. It is high time the federal government gave our industry and the Defence Forces some certainty and a real time frame to work towards.”
These major infrastructure upgrades are in addition to the state government's recent $18.6 million investment in defence industry training, to help build the workforce required to support FCD and other Defence projects.
This significant infrastructure and training investment follows the McGowan government's work over the last three-and-a-half years to enhance WA's defence industry and elevate the state's case for securing FCD and other high-value defence projects.
This has included the establishment of Defence West, independent business cases demonstrating WA's superior case to secure FCD over South Australia, and the development of the Strategic Infrastructure and Land Use Plan to develop the AMC.