Thursday, 22 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. At the Senate committee hearing on Tuesday night, the interim CEO of DCNS, Brent Clark, said that ASC would have no role in building Future Submarines. Can the minister confirm that this is the case, despite DCNS proposing a range of options for ASC during the competitive evaluation process for the Australian Future Submarine project? If so, when did the government decide on an option that meant ASC would have no role in the build of Future Submarines, and why has the government withheld this information from South Australians?
I thank Senator Gallacher for the opportunity to reaffirm the government's decision to build 12 Future Submarines in Adelaide. It is a historic decision. It is a nation-building decision. It will deliver the capability that our Navy needs and it will create thousands of Australian jobs. In fact, it will create over 1,100 direct jobs and 1,700 indirect jobs in addition to the thousands of other jobs which will be created through our surface shipbuilding program as well. Every single decision that this government has taken in relation to naval acquisition, from the Future Submarines to the surface ships, is about ensuring we have a sovereign naval shipbuilding industry in this country.
Of course, that stands in distinct contrast, Mr President, as you might recall, to those opposite, who failed to make one single decision in relation to the acquisition of naval capability—
There was not one single decision made in relation to naval shipbuilding for any company in Australia—not just for ASC but for any company in Australia—for the entire time in which they were in government. So 1,100 direct jobs, 1,700 indirect jobs, Mr President, and the fact is that the Australian submarines—
Mr President, this is a serious question. It would appear that either the government has been misled or the government has misled South Australians about the role of the ASC in the Future Submarine project. My point of order goes directly to the question of relevance. I would ask you to ask the minister to directly respond to the question asked.
I can understand why those opposite do not want to hear about this. It is because they do not want to hear about their own record. But let me be very clear. These Future Submarines, 12 of them, will be built in Adelaide with an Australian workforce that will build on the existing submarine workforce in ASC—of course it will. The submarine workforce in Adelaide, which is currently resident in ASC, will have to grow to ensure that Australia can continue to sustain the Collins class submarine and build the Future Submarine fleet. So, as I said, let me be absolutely clear: because of the decisions that the Turnbull government has made, the submarine workforce in Adelaide will grow. The Future Submarine program will create 1,100 direct jobs and 1,700 indirect jobs, and that will be building on the ASC workforce itself.
Given that DCNS has now said that there will be no role for ASC in the builds, wasn't its claim in promotional material supporting its bid that there would be 1,700 jobs at ASC misleading, or has the ASC's role changed due to a government decision?
There is no change in relation to the role of ASC, which the finance minister, the Minister for Defence Industry and I very clearly set out in the separation process. The workforce that is required for ASC for the continuation of Collins class sustainment has not changed. We will be building on the submarine workforce in Adelaide because we have to build on the submarine workforce in Adelaide to sustain the Collins class submarine and to build the Future Submarine. We have ensured that DCNS as the build-and-design business for the Future Submarine provides the capability that we need to produce the best, most regionally superior submarine we can. That is the very direct focus of the government.
But we have to build on the submarine workforce, not diminish it—grow it. It is not that difficult to understand, even if you were not capable of commissioning one single ship in the entire time you were in government. We will be building on the submarine workforce in Adelaide— (Time expired)
The former CEO of DCNS, Mr Sean Costello, said that over 90 per cent of the build would occur in Australia. The new CEO is now refusing to confirm that percentage. What local build percentage will this government guarantee, and when will you consult with the workforce?
I do not have the advantage of the Hansard for the committee hearings, so I have not actually been able to read the evidence. That is not available at this point. But let me be very clear, again. The government's decisions in relation to the Future Submarine are going to grow the submarine workforce in this country. There is no change to that view. There is no change to that direction. It is an absolute commitment: 1,100 direct jobs, 1,700 indirect jobs and more beyond that in global supply chains and Australian supply chains, right across the submarine build and right across the surface ship build. But, if I were in the position that those opposite find themselves in, I would not want to hear about this—because if you made no decisions, if you made no effort to ensure you preserved a workforce that could build ships in Australia to the degree that those opposite insist was apparently the case, if you did nothing, if your output was zero— (Time expired)
Honourable senators interjecting—