Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Honourable senators interjecting—
I was so excited, Mr President! I thank Senator Abetz for his question and for his enduring interest in and support for defence and defence industry. I can advise colleagues that, since my appointment as Minister for Defence, I've worked closely with my counterpart, the French minister for defence, Florence Parly, to ensure that the French government is supportive of and that Naval Group is meeting our government's expectations for Australian industry involvement in the Future Submarine program. I welcome Ms Parly's commitment to me, and that from Naval Group, that they will achieve at least 60 per cent Australian industry involvement in the program. But this government is not just focusing on minimum benchmarks. I am holding and I will continue to hold Naval Group to account to ensure that they maximise Australian industry involvement, as outlined in their obligations through our strategic partnering agreement.
Through you, Mr President, to Senator Wong: this is an ambitious program capability, one that is also matched by its ambitions for Australian defence industry to deliver a sovereign capability. Our government's position is crystal clear: we are maximising Australian industry involvement. The Auditor-General recently concluded that we have the right partnering agreement to pursue this objective. The Future Submarine program underpins the growing strategic partnership between Australia and France, and I very much look forward to continuing my productive dialogue with Minister Parly as we deliver this critical national security capability for Australia. Minister Parly and I have agreed on an ongoing process to review at our level the implementation of the program on a quarterly basis for the rest of this year—meeting again in France in April and in Australia midyear.
I thank the minister for that extensive answer and I ask: can the minister advise the Senate what steps the government is taking to create a stronger and more resilient Australia by building Australia's sovereign defence industrial base to deliver the future submarines?
Thanks, Senator Abetz, for that question. We are investing $90 billion to create a national naval shipbuilding enterprise, not only to deliver a stronger and more resilient Australia but also to build a sovereign defence industry right here in Australia. This will deliver major strategic, economic and employment dividends for Australia but also for Australians for generations to come.
Unlike those opposite, our record stands proud and stands strong. We brought the air warfare destroyer and the Collins class back on track following Labor's failures during its times in government. We are exceeding targets for Australian industry content in the offshore patrol vessel program, which is already now over 60 per cent. We are delivering the sixth of 21 West Australian built Guardian class patrol boats committed to by this program. And, through our Hunter class program we are guaranteeing a continuous naval shipbuilding program here in Australia for generations to come.
This particular program is still in the preliminary design phase. However, despite this, we are already proactively engaging Australian industry to ensure Australian businesses are best placed to win contracts when the program enters production design phase, from 2023. But, today, already 1,600 Australian companies have registered interest in the Future Submarine program.
Australian companies are already benefitting from their participation in this program, in work such as research and development, exploring concepts ranging from autonomous navigation techniques to new methods of communication. Just two examples: Thomas Global Systems in Australia and Acacia Research in Adelaide are working on designs that will support the delivery of optronics, of radar and of navigational data distribution systems for the future submarine. Of course, all 12 boats will be built using Australian steel from companies like BlueScope.