Thursday, 4 February 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. On 6 June 2014 former defence minister David Johnston announced Navy's two new supply ships would be commissioned from overseas because there was an 'urgent need to forestall a capability gap'. Minister, why is it that more than a year and a half later you still have not signed a contract for this urgently required capability for Navy?
I thank Senator Cameron for his question. As my colleagues have helpfully pointed out, it is a fairly significant omission of the previous government to have not commissioned one single solitary naval vessel in the entire period of their time in government.
Senator Birmingham interjecting—
That would be six years, in fact—thank you very much, Senator Birmingham. So, talk about leading with your chin, Senator Cameron. At the very, very least, the complexity of the work that is required to advance—
I raise a point of order on relevance, Mr President. We are now a quarter of the way through the minister's time to respond. The question was, clearly: why is it that, more than a year and a half later, you still have not signed a contract? The minister does not even look like going near that. Her attention should be drawn to the question.
I thank the President very much for that reminder and indicate that I thought in my answer I was referring to the commissioning of naval vessels, which, indeed, is the question that Senator Cameron asked me about. These are contracts of very significant complexity. They are commissions of very significant complexity. The government will take the time that is required to make the correct decision, and the decision will be made in due course.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the government's inaction has shown it manufactured a crisis to justify its outrageous decision to deny Australian shipyards work, will you now immediately reopen the tender to allow Australian shipbuilders to bid for Navy's new supply ships?
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Isn't the loss of 150 jobs at Forgacs in Newcastle this week, on top of more than 1,000 shipbuilding jobs already lost under this government, due to your decision to send this contract offshore?
The only way to have protected shipbuilding jobs in this country would have been for your government to actually have done something in this regard and commission at least a single naval vessel in the entire time of holding office. But you did not. We are instigating a continuous shipbuilding plan, not you, and that will at least address the hole that you left.
Mr President, I raise a point of order. I have asked about the implications of the contract that this government has let offshore, meaning that jobs are destroyed in Australia. The minister must come to that.