Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:01
Navy chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs says there will be problems if the mining industry continues to poach his dwindling supply of submarine engineering officers.
The admiral can't forbid companies from hiring his personnel, or the officers from leaving.
But he wants the mining and resources sector to understand the impact of continual "raiding" of the defence force for skilled workers.
Expanding on comments made by defence force chief General David Hurley at a conference on Tuesday, Vice Admiral Griggs said he attended a meeting of mining and resource company heads and deputies in Perth last year.
He explained the consequences of continual poaching of skilled defence personnel, and said he was heartened by their response.
Vice Admiral Griggs also told a Senate estimates hearing that when he was asked what the navy would do if there was a problem on the North-West Shelf, he responded in jest: "Well, that depends on how many people you take off me between now and then."
"I said `I have got 15 submarine commanding officers in the navy, sorry 14, because one of them is now sitting at the table' and he was. He had recently left the navy," he told the hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.
Vice Admiral Griggs said the navy submarine workforce was down to a couple of dozen engineering officers.
"If I lose four or five of those in a rush, we have some very very serious issues," he said.
Defence has long complained the resources sector has been luring some particular trades, particularly naval engineers, to lucrative mining jobs.
General Hurley told the conference on Tuesday the defence force now numbered 79,000 and there was "no fat" left.
"Our people are highly trained, highly skilled and therefore highly attractive to private sector employees, particularly the mining industry," he said.
General Hurley said the defence chiefs of staff committee had told leaders of mining and engineering firms there would be a risk to Australian Defence Force capability "if they raided once more".
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