Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Questions without Notice
[by video link] My question as to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. It's almost two years since the then defence minister, Senator Reynolds, advised on 6PR radio that a decision would be made on the Collins full-cycle dockings by December 2019. Another Christmas has passed and it looks like a third Christmas will pass without a decision being made. What is standing in the way of a decision being made, and when will the uncertainty associated with the Collins workforce down in Adelaide be resolved?
I thank Senator Patrick for the question and some advance notice of the topic. May I say in response I disagree with the point Senator Patrick made at the end of his question. The government's been very clear in relation to the activities both in South Australia and in Western Australia which are vital to the sustainment of the submarine fleet. The decision has not been made in relation to the future location for Collins class submarine full-cycle docking, and it is the view of the government that we should consider the options that are put to government after full examination by the appropriate agencies in due course. We will do that, as we have consistently said.
I want to assure the Senate and assure Senator Patrick that a decision on the Collins class submarine full-cycle docking location doesn't impact on the currently planned work on the life-of-type extension activities for the Collins class submarine. It is important that the process that is underway is allowed to conclude, and, when an announcement is ready to be made, it will be made. It will be made based on what is in our national interests, after the proper consideration of all of the relevant information and advice that is brought to government.
[by video link] It's not in dispute that the government intends to conduct the life-of-type extension during the full-cycle dockings. It's a significant body of work involving the change-out of the submarine's main motor. It involves the change-out of the submarine's diesels and significant electrical switchboard work. Does the minister agree that shifting full-cycle dockings whilst at the same time embarking on a significant life-of-type extension will simply alter the risk profile too far for the shift to occur?
No, in response to Senator Patrick's supplementary question, that is not the view of the government. We've been, obviously, planning the extension of the service life of the Collins class submarine for some time. In fact, the planning commenced in 2011. This government is actually progressing the work itself. Both defence and industry are continuing to progress the Collins class submarine life-of-type extension work on schedule to support the first boat that will need an extension. That's HMAS Farncomb. That commences in mid-2026. All six submarines will undergo life-of-type extension within the budget that is currently allocated, extending the life of each submarine by 10 years. We are engaging all of the expertise that we need to progress that life-of-type extension program successfully. That includes support from Saab Kockums to de-risk the delivery of the life-of-type extension activities. I don't agree with the proposition that Senator Patrick put at the beginning of his question.
[by video link] I've been contacted by businesses that are involved in the full-cycle dockings here in South Australia. There can be no question that the uncertainty of the future location of full-cycle dockings is having an impact on business investment and things like training of workforces and long-term planning. Does the minister concede that the delays in the decision-making process are affecting business decisions?
(—) (): I note the observations that Senator Patrick has made, but I would also note that this government's commitment to shipbuilding in South Australia is, frankly, unparalleled, and that includes the sort of work that Senator Patrick is referring to. Our commitment is to building up to 23 vessels at Osborne, which totals over $120 billion out to the 2050s. It sees the offshore patrol vessels being built at Osborne by Luerssen Australia, which is directly employing up to 400 workers, and that includes some transitions from the Air Warfare Destroyer Program that we successfully reformed and delivered. It includes the work of BAE Systems Maritime Australia, which is ramping up its production efforts with prototyping for the Hunter class frigates. It includes the transformation of the Osborne Naval Shipyard itself into the national hub for advanced manufacturing of the most complex vessels for the Royal Australian Navy— (Time expired)