Where to for Navy given the forecast?

Its easy to get caught up on the technology and the platforms that the RAN has on deck and is planning for; after all, they are the most tangible example of sea power. But they are tools to achieve aims under the direction of their operators at the behest of government. More attention has been paid to the economic side of Defence capability in recent years, with more policy guidance around the nature of the relationship between Defence and industry. The balance between capability, economics and strategic policy is a tricky one with competing narratives.

Australia is not the first of the Five Eyes nations to adopt a two-shipyard approach for the building of minor and major surface combatants. There is a lot to be said for the economic rationalism of the approach and giving companies and workers certainty. Having said that, it has been over 25 years since the Productivity Commission looked into the issue in any meaningful way. The numbers being put out by various state governments and prime companies come with their own narrative around value for money and strategic outcomes.

The current debate over where Collins class full cycle dockings should be conducted into the future is a good example of this. South Australia will be home of major surface combatant shipbuilding for the next two generations; does it really have the room and the workforce to also conduct full cycle dockings for the Collins?

The SA government argues that it does but there is a strong case to move the program w....

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