PM draws union ire after Henderson visit

Malcolm Turnbull with Austal worker Kane Turco.
Malcolm Turnbull with Austal worker Kane Turco.

WESTERN Australia’s capacity to produce ships received a boost last week when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a $100 million investment in infrastructure.

But questions have been raised about the decision to make the announcement at Austal, the company in direct competition with neighbour Civmec for work on a Federal Government program worth $3 billion.

Mr Turnbull, who toured Austal’s Henderson base on Monday, said the $100 million investment in shipbuilding infrastructure – to occur at HMAS Stirling and the Australian Marine Complex – was about job creation and positioning the AMC as an internationally-competitive facility for years to come.

“This means new work for builders, architects, electricians, glaziers and many more, all of whom will be working on developing and maintaining state of the art national security capabilities,” he said.

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While welcoming the investment, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney labelled Mr Turbull’s choice of location for the announcement as “bizarre”.

He said that was because Austal and Civmec were in competition to secure work building 10 offshore patrol vessels for the Australian Navy. The program, to begin in WA in 2020, is worth $3 billion.

“Civmec is still in the running but the PM goes and stands in the opposition’s yard,” Mr McCartney said.

“It’s a serious affront to the process. It’s almost like a Government-approved tender. It was bizarre.”

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott said the funds would create jobs and keep WA in line for future maintenance and sustainment contracts.

Civmec was approached for comment.