South Australians deserve to know if they’ll receive major shipbuilding contracts before the federal election, the state government says.
The demand comes as new data shows SA’s jobless rate has fallen slightly but remains the highest in the nation.
The state’s unemployment rate fell to 7.2 per cent in March, down from a revised 7.6 per cent in February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.
SA Employment Minister Kyam Maher said the figures showed the federal government had to deliver SA contracts to build the nation’s future submarines, as well as a new fleet of offshore patrol vessels.
“We know that these projects will create thousands of jobs in this state, good jobs, jobs in high-tech industries, jobs in the innovation area,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“We need the federal government to back South Australia and commit to these projects before the federal election campaign starts.”
The defence white paper confirmed nine new frigates would be built in SA from 2020 but did not specify a site for the patrol vessels, sparking fears the work could go to Western Australia.
Defence and industry officials in SA fear that even with the frigates build, there may not be enough ongoing work to sustain hundreds of local shipbuilding jobs.
There are concerns the closure of Holden in 2017 and the potential collapse of Arrium’s Whyalla steelworks could combine to lift SA’s unemployment rate into double digits.
Mr Maher said thousands more South Australians were employed compared with the same time in 2015, but the state economy continued to face significant challenges.