Thursday, 13 February 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Industry, Senator Cormann. The former Minister for Defence confirmed that 90 per cent of the work on the submarine project will be Australian. Today The Australian reports:
… local firms may not get half of the value of the subs' contracts.
Can the minister confirm what the actual level of Australian content will be?
What I can assure Senator Smith about is that the Australian industry content building the next generation of submarines is going to be massively higher than it would have been under Labor.
I know he's very excited, Mr President, but direct relevance. This is a serious question about the largest procurement in the nation's history. It is asking this minister representing the defence minister what the actual level of Australian content will be. I know he's very excited and wants to play politics but if he could answer the question about people's jobs, I'm sure South Australians and Western Australians would appreciate it.
Order! Senator Wong, you have raised your point of order. The minister was halfway through a sentence. I'm not going to rule halfway through his first sentence on direct relevance. You've reminded the minister of the question; I'll call him to continue.
It is our government that has committed to build the next generation of submarines. It is our government that has made the necessary decisions and put on the table the necessary investment. And it is our government that is absolutely committed to maximising Australian industry involvement.
Let me tell you the reason why my opening remarks were entirely relevant, directly relevant, to the question. What we are looking at now, in the level of Australian industry content on the back of our decisions to build 12 new submarines for Australia, is—
What was there in the six years under Labor? Nothing. Did they decide to build a single submarine, even half a submarine? No. Nothing. Zero. Like Otis. This is what we get from the Labor Party.
The people in South Australia and the people in Australia generally know that this is a government that is committed to not only ensuring that our defence forces have got the capability they need but that our—
The point of order is on direct relevance. I think the Australian people do want to know what the level of Australian content is. This has been asked by Senator Patrick and Senator Griff; today it's being asked by the Labor Party. We would ask the minister to respond to the question.
On the point of order, you've restated the question, Senator Wong. When the minister was talking about Australian content and the building of the project, I do consider that to be directly relevant. I cannot instruct him how to answer a question. Senator Cormann.
Under our government, we have committed to building 12 new submarines and we are committed to maximising Australian industry content. The Australian people know that under Labor not a single cent was invested in our future submarine capability.
As Senator Payne rightly just observed, just because you keep repeating the same false assertion, it doesn't make it come true. I reject the premise of the question. As I said in my primary answer, we are absolutely committed to maximising Australian industry content.