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Sovereignty warning as Germans eye ASC

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The countrywide tug-o-war for the nation’s combat vessel tender has triggered a word of caution to the Federal Government from South Australia – we do not want to lose sovereign control.

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SA Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith told InDaily today the Government must remain in control of the port if the winning tender chose Osborne as its base.

The minister’s call follows a report in the Australian Financial Review that German bidder ThyssenKrupp Marine Services expressed interest in ASC to establish a shipbuilding hub to build, maintain and export vessels.

“The State Government is very open to discussions about the potential sale of our part of the infrastructure at Osborne,” Hamilton-Smith said.

“But we need to be confident with any sale of the site … which might leave us with no sovereign control.

“It would be good to see Osborne as a hub for shipbuilding capabilities

“There’s a question about whether TKS would involve ownership of the shipbuilding facility.

“It’s too early to see but our approach should be strategic caution and [do our] business due diligence.

“We need to be mindful of sovereign control.”

A three-way bid to build a new $39 billion fleet of frigates is underway between French company DCNS, Germany’s TLKS and the Japanese Government to win the contract to build Australia’s subs and frigates.

Hamilton-Smith’s call for caution follows Premier Jay Weatherill’s volley to WA Premier Colin Barnett in today’s West Australian that his bid to draw the tender west was “too little too late”.

Hamilton-Smith supported Weatherill’s suggestion that the WA government had been too focused on mining and had belatedly shifted their attention to defence as their reliance on resource income fell.

“Western Australia is awash with riches,” Hamilton-Smith said.

“Western Australia defence couldn’t get an audience.

“It feels a little rich for them to be arguing (to) nobble South Australia.

He said splitting shipbuilding between states would create a “mess” and construction should remain in SA.

Maintenance, he added could be based in Perth, Sydney or Melbourne.

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