The Government is replacing replenishment ships HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius, but bidding has been restricted to offshore companies Navantia and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering.
‘We assess that currently Australia is not in a position to manufacture vessels 20,000 tonnes and above and accordingly we will see those ships produced either in Spain or in South Korea,’ Defence Minister David Johnston said.
AMWU assistant national secretary Glenn Thompson said Australian shipbuilders were up to the task.
‘Denying Australian shipbuilders the chance to tender for work stifles the shipbuilding sector,’ he said.
‘We should be giving preference to Australian manufacturers.’
Mr Johnston said an Australian company would build 20 replacement patrol boats, but could not say whether eight future frigates would be built locally or overseas.
‘We want to see the ships built in Australia, but if we can’t get the level of productivity to a reasonable standard, to a world-parity standard, then the Government will be left with no alternative but to build them overseas,’ he said.
Austal Ships chief executive Andrew Bellamy said he was disappointed the patrol boats would be steel-hulled.
‘We remain of the view that the Government should set out the capability required and shipbuilders should then be required to meet that capability, regardless of the construction material,’ he said.