Dutton refuses to detail local N-sub content, announces Collins upgrade

Defence minister Peter Dutton has refused to detail what portion of the government’s planned nuclear submarine fleet will be built in Australia.

On a visit to Adelaide’s Osborne shipyard to announce an upgrade to the ageing Collins class submarines, the first questions asked of Dutton were about future shipbuilding jobs in South Australia.

In a long answer (view transcript here) he did not answer the question but said that constructing eight N-submarines ‘will mean thousands of jobs here’.

“As you know, there’s been visits by the US and the UK out to this very shipyard.

“It means that we’ve got our eye on significant expansion here.

“…But when you look at the massive expansion that’s required here at Osborne, that the US and the UK have already been out inspecting, we can expect, not just the jobs, but it’s the multiplier into the local economy.

“That’s important, as you’re seeing with the life-of-type extension, of the full cycle docking, these are thousands of jobs sustainable for a long period of time to come.”

Pressed further Dutton said the US Virginia class submarine was much bigger than Collins and would require more people to be employed than currently.

“So I think you’ll see more jobs, not less here in South Australia.”

The government has not announced its choice between the US vessel or the UK’s Astute class – however he did not mention the Astute in his answers.

Dutton also would not confirm that a contract break fee of $5.5 billion had been agreed with France’s Naval Group which was to have built conventional submarines in Adelaide.

He said: “Well, the negotiations are underway at the moment. So once those figures have been settled, then we’ll provide that information, but at the moment they’re in negotiations with those companies.”

Dutton announced the creation of 20 jobs at Osborne for a $381 million dollar investment into the six Collins class optronics systems.

The vessels periscopes would be replaced with a digital camera on an external mast system outside the pressure hull, with data transmitted into the submarine digitally.

The new system would not penetrate the vessels pressure hull, and free up space inside the boats.

Dutton said: “It’ll give a much quicker read on what the submarine can see outside.

“It means the periscope doesn’t have to be exposed and to provide that extra point of vulnerability for the submarines.”

Picture: Collins class submarine in Adelaide

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