Monday, 29 July 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence. Can the minister update the Senate on how the government is demonstrating its commitment to Australia's national security with its plan to ensure that the Royal Australian Navy has an effective submarine capability?
I thank Senator Fawcett for that question and for his ongoing commitment to our naval capabilities. I'm very proud to be a member of a Liberal-National government that is committed to the security, stability and prosperity of Australia.
Senator Gallacher interjecting—
Mr President, through you, I would note Senator Gallacher's incessant interruptions here. I'm not quite sure whether I should be amused or a bit alarmed at consistent interjections—maybe mildly amused! He might not want to hear this, but this is a great thing for his home state of South Australia. This naval commitment—it's a $90 billion investment—stands in stark contrast to the complete, abject failure of Senator Gallacher and all of his colleagues on that side to commission a single Australian-built submarine here in Australia. The attack-class submarine, the centrepiece of this program, will provide Australia with our next regionally superior submarine capability. The security of Australia is paramount to this government. That's why we made the critical decision to protect Australia and its national security by acquiring this capability in an increasingly contested environment.
This government also continues to invest in Navy's existing fleet of Collins class submarines to ensure that it remains a potent, fit-for-purpose capability. The six Collins class submarines now incorporate the most advanced technology globally of any conventional submarine. They continue to excel in their operations across our region. Three of the six submarines are consistently available for tasking, with one in short-term maintenance and two in long-term maintenance and upgrades. As we construct 12 new attack-class submarines in South Australia, this government will be putting in place a prudent transition plan, including through-of-life type extensions to the Collins, to ensure the effective operation and the continued operation of our submarine fleet.
As I said, the Liberal-National government has made a firm commitment to build regionally superior submarines in Australia and in South Australia in particular. Again, unlike the Labor government, who made no progress at all during six years in office, we have got on with business. This year alone, the government has taken significant steps. We signed the strategic partnering agreement with Naval Group on 11 February this year, which details the enduring provisions under which the Commonwealth and also Naval Group will work to design, construct and deliver the attack-class submarines.
On 25 February, Naval Group and ASC signed a framework agreement to develop a sovereign operational and sustainment capability right here in Australia. The submarine design contract was signed on 1 March this year. This contract is worth more than $600 million and will see the design work progress through until 2021. We have made great progress towards delivering the attack-class submarine under a clear plan and the leadership of this government.
As part of this government's commitment to $90 billion of investment in the national naval shipbuilding endeavour, we are also, clearly, designing and developing the workforce to match this new capability. To achieve this, we commissioned an independent critical peer review to assist Defence in developing and implementing an appropriate workforce plan to support and encourage growth of the workforce. I believe it is prudent that the government seeks this expert advice as we plan for our future Navy capability and, in particular, its workforce.
I'm pleased to report to the Senate that Navy has already made good progress towards increasing its workforce, with initial entry training courses at near maximum capability. It help meet Navy's need for an experienced and sustainable workforce, Defence has also instituted a targeted retention program. Further to this, Navy's recruitment targets have increased by 40 per cent since early last year. The Royal Australian Navy and this government are committed to operating and supporting Navy's current and future submarine fleets.