Navy ships may be built privately: SA govt

The federal government could consider greater private-sector involvement in South Australia’s ship building industry, if not full privatisation, the state government says.


In its submission to the federal government’s defence white paper, the SA government said it was open to any ownership structure for Adelaide’s shipyard, so long as the jobs and enterprise stayed local.

State Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said if there was going to be a ship-building plan, the federal government needed to consider whether it kept ownership of Adelaide-based shipbuilder ASC or whether it let private shipbuilders get involved.

“Without an industry capability you don’t have a defence capability, so we have to look after our industry capabilities if we’re serious about it”, he told AAP.

Mr Hamilton-Smith said while South Australia was “agnostic” on the issue of ownership, there were benefits for getting the private sector more involved, including access to their expertise.

“If you take a company like BAE for example, they’re building ships for the US navy, they’re building ships for the Royal Navy,” he said.

“ASC has only itself and has to develop relationships with other ship designers, bring them here and build ships here.”

But Mr Hamilton-Smith said calling on the private sector would not result in job losses, and said the use of local labour is often a requirement of any contract signed.

He said ship-building companies often brought expertise and capabilities into the country which had asked them to build their ships.

Mr Hamilton-Smith said there were already a number of privately-owned shipbuilders in Australia.

“The normal model is private. What we’ve created over here with ASC is a federal government-owned shipyard,” he said.