House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Statements by Members

Defence Industry

10:06 am

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

It is absolutely clear that the Australian defence sector no longer has any confidence in the Morrison government delivering on its rhetoric on Australian industry content, which it has been harping on about for many years.

This morning, in The Australiannewspaper, I was appalled, as I'm sure nearly every Australian was, to read that it is expected that local firms might not get even half of the value of the future submarine contracts that will be required to complete the project. To read the defence minister's revelation in that article that the government's goal was not to set Australian content targets but merely to 'maximise the opportunities at all times' is absolutely flabbergasting. What this is saying to Australian industry is that we're not about protecting you; we're not about ensuring that you get the best opportunity. This is a government that says, 'If you have a go, you'll get a go.' But it turns out that, when it comes to Australian defence industry, they're not getting a go out of this government at all, and it's leaving the defence industry sector in Australia with an uncertain future.

Over the last six years, this future submarine project has blown out by 10 years. Only a few weeks ago we had the Auditor-General raise serious concerns about the delays in even planning this submarine project. They can't say how much Australian industry content there will be, which is going to have a significant impact on the capacity and involvement of Australian jobs. More critically, it means that there is a lessening of the opportunity to develop Australian sovereign capability when it comes to defence.

What is this government doing to ensure that we get the best benefit out of this spend on the future submarine project, and, indeed, across all of our Australian defence procurement projects? The real question the government has to answer is: why haven't they been stronger on mandating the Australian industry content requirements in this contract? Why haven't they been setting actual deliverable targets that can be enforced to make sure that we develop a great Australian defence industry in this nation?

I have had many, many companies come to me, over months and months now, since I came into this portfolio, complaining about the difficulty of getting access to defence industry work, and complaining that the primes that are involved are always linking up with their foreign relationships and other companies that they already have in their supply chains, instead of doing what the government says they should be doing, which is: making sure that they're using Australian industry to deliver these projects. It's not just about the jobs; it's about making sure that we see the development of capability, making sure that we're using Australian design teams, and making sure we're using Australian know-how.

The government is spending $200 billion on defence industry over the next decade or more, and they need to be maximising jobs and sovereign capability. (Time expired)