West Australian Minister for Defence Issues Paul Papalia has questioned whether the federal government can be trusted to ensure 10 of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels will be built in WA, after the first two are scheduled to begin construction in South Australia in 2018.
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Minister Papalia spoke at a press conference after the release of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan and said he remains doubtful that the project will leave SA.
"We're promised 10 of 12 offshore patrol vessels, they're gonna start building them in South Australia, and this is a $3 billion project. They're going to start building them in SA. Who thinks, that after the next federal election, they will up stumps and shift all of that to Western Australia? Who is absolutely confident that that will happen? I'm sceptical," Minister Papalia said.
The minister said he fears the project, and WA, will fall victim to political games, with SA potentially fighting to keep the project.
"I'm worried that that won't happen. I think it doesn't make any sense anyway because you're spending tax-payers money to start construction in one state and then you're going to lift it all and shift all of that capability to another state and replicate the whole process all over again, it doesn't make economic sense, it certainly doesn't make political sense, because I would expect the South Australians, once they create something, once they begin with building those ships, they will fight to keep it," Minister Papalia said.
The OPV program is estimated at more than $3 billion. Three designers have been shortlisted to refine their designs, Damen of the Netherlands and Fassmer and Lurssen of Germany.
Twelve vessels will be built in total to replace the 13 existing Armidale Class patrol boats. Defence has said the OPVs will enhance the Australian Defence Force's capacity to support border security, maritime resource protection and military patrol and response operations.