The unveiling of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan last month was met with some criticism, with the plan revealing foreign workers would be needed to help meet the deadlines of the country’s largest ever defence project. Defence Connect spoke with DCNS Australia chief executive Brent Clark about the company’s plans for foreign workers on the $50 billion Future Submarine Project (FSP).
At the release of the plan last month, the government claimed that, while foreigners will be "essential" to "fill middle management and supervisory roles" in South Australia during the expansion of Australia's Navy fleet, they insisted the number of skilled foreign workers will decline over time with Australian workers gaining the skills and experience to replace them.
"Selected shipbuilders are expected to bring into the Australian shipyards workers from their home companies who are familiar with their specific production techniques and processes," the plan reads.
"These workers are likely to fill middle management and supervisory roles and will be essential to the process of knowledge transfer to the Australian naval shipbuilding industry. It is expected that over time the number of skilled workers from international shipyards will decline as the Australian workforce becomes familiar with construction requirements and develops more specialised skills. This will be an important area of discussion with selected shipbuilders as projects develop."
Clark told Defence Connect meeting these requirements will be easily achievable for DCNS and the FSP project, with the former Navy officer very confident in the Australian defence industry's abilities.
"What we have said to the government is that we will bring out people from France to train Australians," Clark stated.
"So it's not going to need large numbers of workers from DCNS [France]. It'll be enough workers to come out and train and supervise and assist ... I have been involved in shipyards now for 20 odd years, probably longer, the Australian workforce can get itself up to international benchmarks very quickly. So I'm not envisaging large numbers. I'm envisaging enough people to come out and train, supervise and then they'll go home, back to France.
"So that's the plan. There's no plan to flood Australia with thousands of overseas workers. We've got a very competent and very capable Australian workforce here right now."
DCNS Australia was selected as the Australian government's preferred international partner for the design of 12 Future submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
The first of the 12 submarines is likely to begin entering service in the early 2030s. Construction of the 12 new submarines will extend into the late 2040s to 2050 timeframe.
The full Naval Shipbuilding Plan can be found on the Department of Defence website.