Monday, 22 February 2021
Future Submarines; Order for the Production of Documents
At the request of Senator Wong, I move:
(a) there be laid on the table by the Minister for Defence, by no later than 9.30 am on Wednesday 24 February 2021, documents (including text messages or any other messages or communications transmitted via electronic or like facilities) held by the Minister or the Minister's office relating to messages between the Minister for Defence and the French Minister of the Armed Forces regarding Naval Group's Australian Industry Capability commitment for the Future Submarines; and
(b) documents to be produced under paragraph (a) include any documents that "explicitly stated and included agreement to a commitment on the part of Naval Group 'to a level of Australian industry capability that will have the effect of at least 60 per cent of the Naval Group contract value spent in Australia'" as referred to in the answer to question on notice no. 51 from the 4 March 2020 additional estimates hearings for the Department of Defence through the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.
Our relationship with the French government is key to our approach to security across the Indo-Pacific and supporting the Future Submarine program. The documents requested in this motion were subject to an FOI request in 2020 regarding Naval Group's Australian industry commitment. Electronic communications were excluded from the lease on the grounds that it would or could reasonably be expected to cause damage to international relations with the Commonwealth.
The disclosure of electronic messages requested in this motion would be in contravention of the well-established Senate recognition of public interest immunity concerning prejudice to Australia's international relations. Releasing these messages could harm our relationship with France, inhibit future flow of confidential information and weaken Australia's bargaining position in international engagement and negotiations in the future. Work to amend the strategic partnering agreement to reflect Naval Group's commitment to spend at least 60 per cent of its contract value in Australia is currently being negotiated.