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Stephen Smith says SA shipshape to attract maritime projects

Monday, 6 May 2013
Author: Daniel Wills, State Political Editor, AdelaideNow

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SOUTH Australia's chief defence official says the state is well-placed to win work on new ship-building programs that it is hoped will help the industry avoid the "valley of death".

Federal Defence Minister Stephen Smith today toured the Techport facility in Adelaide's north-west, confirming the coming Budget will include funding for new maritime programs.

Mr Smith said construction of new patrol boats and resupply vessels, which was fast-tracked in the Defence White Paper announced Friday, would be funded in the Budget.

"There is money in the forward estimates which will be published in next week's Budget," he said.

The industry hopes this will provide ongoing work for high-skilled workers between the scaling down of Air Warfare Destroyer ship assembly from 2017 to 2019 and start of the future submarine program, not expected to start until after 2020.

This gap is referred to as the "valley of death" and industry fears a lack of work could result in firms shutting down and skilled workers leaving SA.

The cost of replacing those capabilities once lost is high.

The patrol program was intended to begin in 2018, but is now being considered for commencement as soon as a site is determined.

Other ship-building facilities, including Newcastle, are likely to be in the running.

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