Back capable local manufacturers in infrastructure decisions: Weld Australia

Government procurement decisions should support the nation’s “world-class manufacturers” in delivering new assets and infrastructure, according to Weld Australia, citing recent problems with imported ferries and trams.

Commenting on an issue that appears to have gained traction lately, the national welding industry peak body mentioned the recent woes linked to overseas-made public transport in NSW. 

Twelve Spanish-made trains for the Central to Dulwich Hill light rail, in service since just 2014 and out of warranty, have been decommissioned after cracks were found. The Newcastle light rail’s suspension soon followed, after trams built by the same Spanish company were found to have mechanical faults.

An Emerald Class Manly ferry, built in Indonesia and China, was also recently found to have welding defects.

Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden said local fabrication and welding companies were globally competitive and more than capable of delivering trains and ferries in time, budget, and to the necessary standards. “Enormous progress” had been made by fabricators lately.

“In 2018, there were just 15 local companies certified to the international Standard for welding quality. Today, there are over 75 companies certified by Weld Australia as compliant with the Standard,” said Crittenden. 

“Several local companies are also certified to the international Standard for welding rolling stock, while still more have passed the most stringent welding certification available—the German Standard for welding of armoured vehicles.

Weld Australia said the nation had world-class manufacturers such as Alstom, the maker of Melbourne’s trams and trains, and WA’s Austal, one of the world’s best shipbuilders.

“[Government] procurement policies must take into account the ‘whole of life cost’. The cheapest upfront cost is not necessarily the cheapest whole of life cost. Nor is it the most reliable and safe for the public,” he added.

It follows recent comments on this website and elsewhere on the lack of support for local companies to build infrastructure and, in turn, strengthen local manufacturing and grow employment.

“State Government procurement could have helped create thousands of jobs by utilising our own steel and manufacturing trains locally, supporting our own industries,” wrote Shane West earlier this week, commenting on the NSW government’s recent disasters with trains.

@AuManufacturing has reported on the almost farcical failures of imported NSW ferries and trains, unable to fit under bridges or through tunnels.

And writing last week in The New Daily, commentator Alan Kohler noted an ongoing House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities inquiry into procurement by government.

He reported that among 61 submissions, there was a repeated criticism of the lack of a consistent attempt to use procurement to boost sovereign capability in manufacturing.

According to Kohler, “a source close to the committee told me it’s clear that local manufacturing has been “decimated” by government procurement practices.”

Picture: Naval Group

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