Australian Defense Minister David Johnston blasted state-owned shipbuilder ASC (formerly known as Australian Submarine Corporation) following reported cost overruns of the Royal Australian Navy’s new class of guided missile destroyers on Tuesday, according to local press reports.
“You wonder why I’m worried about ASC and wonder what they’re delivering the Australian taxpayer? You wonder why I wouldn’t trust them to build a canoe?,” Johnston said before the Australian Senate.
The comments come follow reported cost over runs and production delays of the RAN’s three Hobart-class destroyers, currently under construction at ASC’s yard in Southern Australia.
The $7.4 billion program will deliver the first ship Hobart in 2016 about two years late.
However, according to a Tuesday report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, the current construction program is $683.28 million over budget and the costs are increasing.
Johnston’s comments come at a sensitive time for ASC. There is intense pressure on the Australian Ministry of Defense — and the government writ large — to build the upcoming replacement for the RAN’s six aging Collins-class diesel attack submarines (SSK).
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National pledged to build the submarines in Australia but the government has downplayed the pledge.
“On 12 November Johnston told a Submarine Institute of Australia conference that Australia did not currently have a complete submarine design or production engineering capability, and pointedly avoided any reference as to where the Future Submarine might be built,” reported Jane’s.
Reports in September indicated Australia was interested in acquiring 10 to 12 Japanese Soryu-class SSKs after Japan loosened restrictions on military export.
Since the initial reports, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, France’s DCNS and Sweden’s Saab have since pitched their individual SSK designs.
Early reaction to the comments by ASC workers has been negative.
“It’s not a great feeling to have your Defence Minister, you’re out there doing your best job for the country and he’s trashing you,” ASC pipe fitter Andrew Daniels told Australia’s ABC News.