The Commonwealth-owned shipbuilder also made arrangements for Mr Whiley to address the workforce on the decision.
“We had some draft press releases that week… for an announcement,” he said.
“We were anticipating there may be a decision – either go or stay. And we were trying to be prepared as best we could for a decision. We knew [the national security committee] were potentially going to meet, and we had strategies and documents prepared for a decision either way.”
He said the organisation in December was putting “some contingency in place pretending a decision may or may not be made regarding stay or go to Western Australia”.
“I would stand up and address the whole workforce about whatever the decision is and the outcomes of the decision,” Mr Whiley said.
He said WA’s shipbuilding capability had grown significantly in recent years.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann would not be drawn on whether the committee met in December last year in Adelaide to discuss the contentious proposal to move full cycle docking to WA.
“In relation to the future location of full cycle docking, no decision has been made and….the decision that will be made, when it is made, will be made in the national interest,” Senator Cormann said.
An interim report commissioned by shipbuilder ASC, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Collins-class submarines, found it would be likely to cost more and reduce the safety and performance of the submarines to move the maintenance work to Perth.
Under one compromise proposal which has been considered by the Morrison government, the “blue-collar” maintenance workers would be moved to WA while the “white-collar” engineers would stay at Osborne.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month said he wouldn’t “rush” a decision on whether to move full-cycle docking for the submarine fleet to WA.
Full-cycle docking of submarines takes place after a decade in service. It involves taking them out of the water, cutting the hull to remove the main motor and diesel engines and rebuilding them, as well as putting in new weapons and sonar systems.
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.