• Light rail in Newcastle
    Light rail in Newcastle

The federal government should prioritise local manufacturers, fabricators and welders for major infrastructure projects which have been given to overseas firms that fail to deliver.

According to Weld Australia CEO, Geoff Crittenden, local manufacturing is world-class.

He said governments need to have confidence in Australian manufacturing in the wake of several faults in NSW trams and ferries.

All 12 trams that normally run on the Central to Dulwich Hill line were decommissioned last month. Major cracking was found in the trams, which were manufactured in Spain. The trams only came into service in 2014 and are already out of warranty, which means New South Wales taxpayers could be liable for the repair bill.

This was quickly followed by the suspension of the Newcastle light rail after a mechanical issue was identified in the trams.

A number of cracks were also recently discovered in the hull of one Sydney’s new Manly ferries. An independent report identified several welding defects onboard the Balmoral—one of the Emerald-class ferries, which were built in Indonesia and China.

“Australian manufacturing, fabrication and welding companies are globally competitive and more than capable of delivering infrastructure like Sydney’s trams and ferries on time and, more importantly, in accordance with all relevant international Standards,” Crittenden said.

“Over the last few years, the Australian fabrication industry has made enormous progress. In 2018, there were just 15 local companies certified to the international Standard for welding quality. Today, there are over 75 companies certified by Weld Australia as compliant with the Standard.

“Several local companies are also certified to the international Standard for welding rolling stock, while still more have passed the most stringent welding certification available—the German Standard for welding of armoured vehicles.”

Working with TAFEs nationally, Weld Australia has helped rejuvenate technical welder training in Australia, so that it is now among the most advanced in the world.

“Many of our TAFEs boast Advanced Welding Training Centres that feature state-of-the-art augmented reality welding simulators,” he said.

“Here at Weld Australia, we continue to deliver training in accordance with the internationally recognised Standard for Welding Supervisors, Inspectors and Engineers—our enrolment numbers have more than doubled over the last three years.”

The problem isn’t just economic, it is a safety issue.

Crittenden said governments must ensure public assets and infrastructure are safe and reliable.

He said procurement policies should take into account whole of life costs.

“The cheapest upfront cost is not necessarily the cheapest whole of life cost. Nor is it the most reliable and safe for the public,” he said.

“There really is no reason for our governments not to onshore this manufacturing work—Australian manufacturers are ready, willing and more than capable.”

 Manufacturing is a key contributor to the Australian economy. According to the Federal Government’s Australian Manufacturing Performance Report, manufacturing contributes $100 billion to the Australian GDP every year, employs around 1 million people, and is responsible for an astounding 26 per cent of all business expenditure on R&D in Australia.



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