Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. Workers at ASC in South Australia have been left to endure two Christmases without any certainty from this minister about the future of their jobs after she broke her promise that a decision on the future location of full-cycle docking work would be made at the end of 2019. Why does this minister continue to keep 700 South Australian naval shipbuilders in the dark, because of her broken promise? Will she now commit to making a decision this year?
I thank Senator Wong for this question on the important issue for our nation's security. This government is absolutely committed to keeping Australia and Australians safe. As an island nation we rely on maritime trade for our security and our prosperity. That means Australia's naval capability is essential to our enduring national interest. The Morrison government is keeping Australia safe with our $183 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which is the largest regeneration of the Navy since World War II. More than 70 vessels will be built right here in Australia using Australian workers, and this—
Direct relevance—this relates to this minister's commitment, this government's commitment, to make a decision by the end of 2019. Workers have been waiting for two Christmases. I am asking about when a decision will be made as to the location of full-cycle docking. It's a very specific question.
Like so many of these important issues, context is absolutely critical. It is absolutely critical, because this government is creating over 15,000 direct jobs in our naval shipbuilding industry. We will make all of these decisions, every single one of them, in relation to the build of more than 70 vessels—the sustainment and maintenance of our current fleet and our future fleet—in the order and at the time they need to be made, which is what this government has done continually. As has been said at estimates and publicly, even if we did make a decision to change, it is still five to six years away. In the meantime, what is this government doing? We have fixed that valley of death of jobs you created in South Australia. You commissioned not a single, not a single, Australian built vessel in our nation. You commissioned not a single one. You didn't progress a future submarine program. This government has done it. We are creating 15,000 jobs. There are not going to be fewer jobs in South Australia. There are already thousands more than when you left government.
This minister has also broken her promise that the strategic partnering agreement for the future submarines would be amended by the end of last year to include a 60 per cent spending commitment for local content. Can the minister tell Australian naval shipbuilding workers and businesses why she has broken yet another promise to them?
I will tell you one thing: I will never, ever, ever, in any of our Defence procurement contracts, agree to any terms or conditions that go against Australia's interest in delivering this capability. I am frustrated and I am very disappointed that Naval Group have yet been unable to finalise this contract with Defence, but it will not be done at the expense of Australian jobs and Australian industry. This capability is far too important for our nation to do such.
The Morrison government has also broken its promise to release an update to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan by the end of 2020 which was to include 'further detail on the critical role of Australia's shipbuilding industry in delivering this plan'. Why has this minister broken yet another promise?
Can I reiterate, to everybody here and everybody in Australia: every single cent we spend of the taxpayers' money, every single contract we enter into for our Naval Shipbuilding Plan—over $183 billion worth over the next few decades—and every single thing we do is about sovereign capability and about building sovereign defence capability in our nation. You do not have to wait for a piece of paper, Senator Wong, to see this government's commitment of 15,000 jobs and 70 vessels. That is our commitment.
The point of order is about this minister and this government's own commitment to release the update to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan. I'm asking why it hasn't been released by the time she said it would be.
Senator Wong has repeated part of her question but she has also used the opportunity to extrapolate. In any event, Senator Reynolds is clearly being directly relevant to issues that relate to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan. It is the entire nature of the content that she has had in her answer to date.
I'm listening carefully to the minister's answer but I tend to agree with Senator Birmingham that the minister's answer thus far, while it could be debated after question time as is appropriate, is being directly relevant. She has 26 seconds remaining to answer.
I don't know where the opposition have been hiding, but for the past 12 months we have been undertaking, the globe has been undertaking, a large, pandemic-induced economic crisis. The government are working to continue to deliver our Naval Shipbuilding Plan and we are.