Monday, 2 May 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister advise the Senate of the Turnbull government's plan to deliver 12 regionally superior submarines for Australia and, also, how this will improve Australia's national and economic security
I thank Senator Reynolds very much for her question. The government's decision in relation to the selection of DCNS of France as our preferred international partner to design the Australian build of our future submarines is based entirely on capability and delivering for Australia a regionally superior submarine. Our decision to partner with DCNS of France is based on the outcomes of the competitive evaluation process that this government put in train in February last year which assessed that DCNS offered Australia the opportunity to design and build a regionally superior submarine capability that best meets our unique submarine requirements.
The decision to select DCNS was, as I said, driven by capability. DCNS was best able to meet all of our unique capability requirements, including superior sensor performance and stealth characteristics, as well as range and endurance similar to the Collins class submarine. These are decisions based on the capability that we need to ensure our national and economic security for decades to come. What the decision also does is to build a sovereign submarine capability with the construction of the 12 future submarines at the shipyard in Adelaide and it secures a long-term continuous naval shipbuilding industry in Australia. In fact, these decisions represent a more than $50 billion investment in Australia's future safety and security over decades and will also ensure that Australia has a regionally superior submarine capability for those decades to come. I am very proud to be part of a government that is getting on with the job of securing our nation's long-term security and economic prosperity, and this decision is a further example of that.
As the 2016 defence white paper detailed, the government is undertaking a comprehensive regeneration of our maritime and antisubmarine warfare capabilities that will enable our forces to operate in more challenging maritime threat environments. Indeed, by 2035 around half the world's submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region, where Australia's interests are most engaged.
Submarines are a vital strategic defence capability for Australia. An expanded fleet of 12 regionally superior submarines will be able to sustain presence in multiple areas at once and, indeed, over prolonged periods of operation. They are powerful instruments for deterring conflict and potent weapons should conflict occur. Delivering a more potent and agile set of defence capabilities ready to respond whenever our interests are threatened or our help is needed is both an obligation and a priority for the Turnbull government.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister also advise the Senate on how the decision to design, build and sustain our future submarines in Australia will actually increase our sovereign ability to build and maintain this vitally important, strategic capability for our nation?
This is a very important question, because Australia does require a sovereign submarine capability so that we can maintain and sustain this vital strategic asset without undue reliance on other parties, other countries, no matter how close or far they are from us for that sustainment and maintenance.
The decision to adopt an Australian build best ensures that we have sovereign control over the future submarine. It will ensure we establish and maintain a capable industry base, and the necessary skills in Australia from day one means that the engineers and the welders who build the submarines will be the same ones who end up maintaining and sustaining the future submarines.
On the basis of that important sovereign capability and the significant flow-on benefits to local industry, the government made the decision that an Australian build was the most appropriate decision to deliver that long-term sovereign submarine sustainability.