Australia needs informed debate on submarines: RUSI

Australia needs informed
debate on submarines: RUSI�������������������1
At what point do we stop
caring about shipbuilding?���������������������2
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Australia needs informed
debate on submarines: RUSI
Australia’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) believes
Australia needs a public debate on building the future
submarine in country and will host a national conference in
Adelaide in March to provide the platform.
Although speakers and format have not yet been finalised, RUSI
national president, Air Vice-Marshal Brent Espeland (Rtd) said the
conference, planned for Adelaide Convention Centre on March 24
to 26, will provide a level of balanced, informed discourse that has
been lacking in previous public debate.
“This debate needs to inform the public on the issues of one the
biggest defence programs in our history,” AVM Espeland said. “The
Federal Government is due to make a further announcement on the
sub program shortly and we know that the media and the political
commentary relating to the Collins Class has not been a balanced one.
“It is important for the discourse to be informed in a balanced and
non-selective way and encompass all the issues from capabilities through
sovereignty, alliances, reliance, access to design and other risks, defence
industry, the relevance of hull worthiness, economic value and finally, to
people and skills. It needs to happen, the timing is right and Adelaide
is the appropriate venue for historical, political, economic and public
interest reasons.”
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He believes RUSI is an appropriate organisation to host such a debate, through its charter
to keep the public informed of defence matters.
RUSI South Australia Councillor, retired Royal Australian Air Force Wing
Commander Mark Ryan, is the point man on the event. Ryan’s RAAF maritime patrol
and acoustics intelligence career included a 25-year relationship with Australia’s submarine
force. He believes the voices that could provide balance to the debate have had little
opportunity to be heard, and that Australia’s success in building an advanced submarine
design has been underrated.
“I lived through the Collins Class building program and witnessed the growing pains
of DSTO, industry and the Navy in trying to get our first class of submarine build right,”
Ryan said. “The public does not hear of the patrols, the operational and strategic missions
that our submariners successfully undertake. I can assure you that our submarine force has
one of the highest standings in the international submarine world and the boats cut the
mustard when they have to.”
AVM Espeland said the public has a right to understand the issues at play in Australia’s
largest defence procurement project.
“Let’s have a conference, let’s have it in Adelaide and let’s ensure it provides a balanced
view of the issues at hand,” he said. “It is the very least the public expect.”
At what point do we stop
caring about shipbuilding?
There’s a very good chance that by the end of the year that BAE Systems
Williamstown shipyard, and perhaps Forgacs Newcastle yard, will be effectively
closing. Even if the government decides tomorrow that they want a fourth Air
Warfare Destroyer or drastically bring forward any other shipbuilding program,
Williamstown will have perhaps two dozen people at the yard. None of them will
be doing anything much with steel apart from looking at it longingly.
ISSUE NO. 331 | PAGE 2
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