Thursday, 28 June 2018
Future Submarine Project; Order for the Production of Documents
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on 20 June 2018, the Senate agreed to an order for production of documents directed at the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Industry (Senator Payne) for the following from the Final Cost Estimate Template that DCNS submitted in response to the Future Submarine Competitive Evaluation Process:
(A) the summary sheet total 'Australian Build Price', and
(B) the total sustainment cost from year one to year 40 including labour, material and other costs,
(ii) the Minister has not tabled the information and has advanced a claim of public interest immunity on the basis that the material is commercially confidential,
(iii) it is a long accepted view that total values are not commercial in confidence, noting the following:
(A) total costs that do not detail the scope of supply and/or services offered do not reveal any commercially sensitive information,
(B) AUSTENDER publishes total costs of all contracts,
(C) on 3 April 2018, the Department of Defence publicly released the total offer price in Luerssen's Offshore Patrol Vessel tender responses,
(D) the numbers sought in the order are for prices for a pre-concept design to meet purported unique requirements of the Royal Australian Navy's submarine force, not a real submarine design,
(E) the Department of Defence recognises the pre-concept design numbers in the tender response bear little resemblance to the likely cost of the submarines and their sustainment, which will be finalised in 2022 following the conclusion of a critical design project review,
(F) the prices being requested are not subject to any tender or ongoing negotiations,
(G) the future submarine CEP tender documents provided to DCNS stated that the Contractor acknowledges that as a Commonwealth agency, the Commonwealth is subject to legislative and administrative accountability and transparency requirements of the Commonwealth, including disclosures to Ministers and other Government representatives, Parliament and its committees, and
(H) total cost information is information to which the Senate must have access to ensure it can properly perform its oversight functions; and
(b) does not accept the public interest immunity claim made by the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Industry in relation to the order for production of documents numbered 862, and requires the Minister to table documents in full compliance with order for the production of documents numbered 862 by the conclusion of business on 28 June 2018.
The government maintains its public interest immunity claim, as set out in the letter of the Minister for Defence, on behalf of the Minister for Defence Industry, to the President of the Senate dated 26 June 2018.
The public interest immunity claimed by the minister in this instance is extremely shallow, suggesting that a total number offered on a submarine preconcept design that will never see the light of day is in some way commercially in confidence. In fact, the Department of Defence recently released the total number offered for the offshore patrol vessel contract. There is no reason why this number shouldn't be provided to the Senate. The Senate needs these sorts of numbers to do its job properly.
Question agreed to.