Three new warships costing up to $1 billion will be built in Western Australia under a Coalition election pledge that has taken some defence industry figures by surprise.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to build three new warships in WA if re-elected
- Mr Morrison said the pledge would create work for 1,000 West Australians
- The move would see the de-commissioning of Huon class vessels brought forward
During a visit to the Henderson shipyard south of Perth, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that if re-elected his government would fast track the construction of two new “mine hunter” vessels, as well as a hydrographic survey ship.
The Prime Minister said his election pledge would mean more work for up to 1,000 workers in WA.
“To maintain a sovereign defence industry, that continuity of build is critical,” he said during a tour of Civmec’s facilities at Henderson.
The two new mine hunter vessels will see the planned de-commissioning of Navy’s current Huon class vessels brought forward from the 2030s to the mid-2020s.
Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds said the surprise decision had been “done at the request of Defence”.
“Our advice is that new technologies are available and so we have brought forward by up to a decade this $1 billion project to make sure that our men and women have the best possible mine warfare support,” Senator Reynolds said.
Defence industry experts said new technologies for the mine hunters will mean Australian sailors would soon be able to use underwater drones for the dangerous work of clearing sea mines.
Civmec CEO Pat Tallon, who was on hand for the announcement, said his workforce stood ready to take on the large project.
“[We’re] absolutely able to accommodate these vessels, really excited about the news, excited that some of the vessels have been brought forward,” he said.
Mr Tallon did concede Civmec had not yet ever build these types of vessels, which are typically made of either aluminium or fibreglass.
“Not like these particular vessels, no. Obviously we’re the largest steel fabricator in Australia, so we’re very used to working with very complex steel.”