Stop treating South Australia like a charity case
POLITICIANS must believe that South Australians care less about national security than getting handouts for SA shipbuilders.
Why else would politicians from the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon (who mostly votes with the Greens anyway) have all pushed so hard for submarines to be built in SA?
Submarines are integral to a genuine national defence force. Indeed, some argue there are only two types of ships in a navy — submarines and targets.
Having 12 state-of-the-art submarines sends a serious signal to those with malicious intent to steer clear.
The problem is the cost. We already pay more than a billion dollars a month in interest on our existing debt. While we need a credible defence force, we must not further weaken our economy. We should do all we can to secure our defence without a huge spending increase.
South Australian shipbuilders were tasked with delivering the Air Warfare Destroyer, but have only delivered production faults and a huge cost overrun. They are yet to complete an actual boat.
It is not clear why anyone thinks that having failed at shipbuilding, they should now be handed responsibility for building the spaceships of the ocean.
These shipbuilders do not represent the best that South Australia can do, and the SA economy should not depend on them.
What Australia needs is the best submarines, no matter where they are built. They must be able to get to the South China Sea with speed and stealth. They should ideally be nuclear-powered rather than exhaust-belching, regularly-resurfacing diesel submarines.
If it’s cheaper to build all of them in another country, or to lease them from another country, so be it.
We should not allow our defence policy to become industry policy, or electoral interests to trump national interests.
South Australia is bigger than its shipbuilding. It has world-beating food and wine industries, tourist attractions, universities, biotech and numerous niche manufacturers, plus the expertise to develop its mineral wealth.
What’s more, there’s a bright future for South Australia in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, which offers cheaper and more reliable energy than the currently popular wind farms.
Indeed, with a nuclear fuel industry, South Australia would be well placed to manage a fleet of nuclear submarines.
Improving South Australia’s economic outlook requires a pro-business environment including low taxes, reduced red tape and cheap energy, not propping up dying industries or dodgy shipbuilding.
It is time to stop treating South Australia like a charity case in need of handouts, at the expense of Australia’s budget and national defence.
From the Adelaide Advertiser, 27 April 2016.