Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Defence Equipment; Order for the Production of Documents
At the request of Senator Gallacher, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Economics References Committee has repeatedly requested information relevant to its inquiry into Australia's sovereign naval shipbuilding capacity from the Department of Defence, and
(ii) in response to requests for information made on 24 February, 5 May, 3 June and 18 June 2020, the Department of Defence either failed to respond or failed to raise a public interest immunity claim when declining to provide the information;
(b) considers that, as a matter of parliamentary oversight, it is vital that the committee obtain the requested information so that it is not impeded in its inquiry;
(c) reaffirms the principle that information may only be withheld following consideration by the Senate of a properly founded claim of public interest immunity, as laid out in the order of the Senate of 13 May 2009 and reaffirmed multiple times since; and
(d) orders the Secretary of the Department of Defence to provide complete copies of the following documents to the Economics References Committee by no later than 5 pm on 16 October 2020:
(i) Naval Group's:
(B) draft AIC plan and AIC strategy for the Australian Future Submarine Program (May 2018)
(ii) in relation to the SEA1000 project:
(A) the draft AIC plan (including AIC schedules) submitted as part of the response by Naval Group,
(B) the draft AIC plan (including AIC schedules) submitted as part of the response by Lockheed Martin, and
(C) the AIC plans delivered to the Commonwealth by Naval Group and Lockheed Martin under their respective contracts,
(iii) in relation to the SEA1180 project:
(A) the draft AIC plan (including AIC schedules) submitted as part of the response by Luerssen, and
(B) the AIC plan included in the contract at effective date,
(iv) in relation to the SEA3036 project:
(A) the draft AIC plan (including AIC schedules) submitted as part of the response by Austal, and
(B) the AIC plan included in the contract at effective date, and
(v) in relation to the SEA5000 project:
(A) the draft AIC plan (including AIC schedules) submitted as part of the response by BAE Systems,
(B) the overarching AIC strategy included in the head contract (at effective date),
(C) the AIC plan included in the head contract at effective date, and
(D) the AIC plan, which the department has previously advised was to be publicly released in the first quarter of 2020.
The government agrees with the Department of Defence that the release of the unredacted document is commercially sensitive. The government agrees also that the provision of the requested documents would adversely impact on the ability of Defence to achieve value for money across the shipbuilding program and meet Australia's broader strategic objectives. The draft tendered plan cited in this motion includes commercial-in-confidence information which encompasses proprietary information, arrangements with other parties, sensitive financial data and commercial strategies that could impact the competitiveness of companies. The disclosure of information also impacts the government's ability to effectively negotiate AIC arrangements as well as multiple Australian businesses and suppliers who would have no chance to control or object to the public release.
This OPD calls for documents which are critical to the committee conducting its business—that is, to examine the naval shipbuilding program from the Australian industry content perspective. We've got to a point in time now where the government is denying the Senate basic information that is to do with commercial arrangements agreed to by companies in order to win a procurement contract. The government is now seeking to expand its confidentiality over just about anything, as long as it might have come from a company. This is really important material, it goes to the Australian industry content that was promised by these companies at contract, and the Senate has a right to look at these documents and make sure that these companies and Defence are holding them to account in relation to their promises.
Question agreed to.