Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Some South Australians, especially their elected representatives, claim our submarines should be built in that state. But the Air Warfare Destroyer saga, which delivered production faults and a huge cost overrun and is still to deliver an actual boat, suggests that South Australia should not be trusted to build a canoe. Since their claim is mostly due to the number of marginal seats in South Australia, my question is this: rather than assign responsibility for our submarines to a state with such a dodgy record, why can't we build submarines in Western Sydney, where there are numerous marginal seats, the water is fresh and the people are less parochial?
Honourable senators interjecting—
I thank Senator Leyonhjelm for his question and also for the speech he has given on this particular subject in the chamber. I have to note that some of my best friends are South Australian. I think it is fair to say that parochialism is relative. I am not sure whether South Australians are any better or worse at that than any other state. I say that from the superior position, of course, of representing the premier state of New South Wales, as do you, Senator Leyonhjelm.
As far as Western Sydney is concerned, Senator Leyonhjelm, you raise a very interesting point. I can, indeed, attest to both the innovation and the agility of our businesses and our business leaders in Western Sydney. They can do anything they turn their minds to. But, with respect to submarines, I think they may lack one key enabler, and that is access to water.
That said, though, I can assure the Senate and the senator that the government is determined to get the best capability and the best value for money through a competitive evaluation process for the Future Submarine. That CEP is looking at the greatest possible involvement of Australian industry in the Future Submarine program without compromising capability, cost, schedule or risk. There are three participants in that process: DCNS of France, TKMS of Germany and the government of Japan. All of those have engaged with Australian industry across the nation and have not confined their activities to South Australia only. Each participant will present proposals for a build-overseas, a build-in-Australia or a hybrid approach. The government is expecting to receive those proposals at the close of the submission process on 30 November, and that will include plans for Australian industry involvement from wherever it comes. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. A Western Sydney bidder could build nuclear submarines using expertise from Lucas Heights in southern Sydney. They would not have the exhaust problems of diesel submarines or need to surface so often, and they could be painted in the wondrous colours of red and black. While the colour option will appeal to you as a New South Wales senator, would this nuclear option help a bid from Western Sydney?
My consultant Senator Fawcett advises me the answer is no! It is fair to say that a nuclear option is not under consideration, as you would know, for Australia's future submarines; we are more seeking proposals for conventional submarines, through the competitive evaluation process. I have also been advised, quite sternly, by those in the know that our submariners prefer their submarines in black livery only, which, given that a fairly important capability is camouflage and stealth, is quite understandable.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With an election next year can the minister explain why it would not be a good job creation project to build canals through the marginal seats of Western Sydney—from the Liberal held seat of Reid to the Liberal held seat of Lindsay—to aid in future submarine building projects, including getting them to the sea and providing the kids with somewhere to race their jet skis?
I think I thank Senator Leyonhjelm for the supplementary question! It is fair to say that I think the building of canals would probably encounter some significant opposition and environmental challenges from our friend and New South Wales colleague Senator Rhiannon and the other Greens. I can actually suggest two venues for water activities—Cables Wake Park, at Penrith, and certain parts of the Nepean River. As a senator who lives and works in Western Sydney, I am very proud to be part of a government that is the best friend Western Sydney has ever had. We are strongly committed to Western Sydney, which is Australia's third largest economy. We are making record investments in infrastructure projects, including the Western Sydney Airport, WestConnex and the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. In that process we will be adding $24 billion to the Australian economy; and 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Western Sydney will be created just as a result of the government's decision to construct the Western Sydney Airport. The airport and the associated $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan will create 7,600 jobs in construction. (Time expired)