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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6375


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:51): I move:

That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The need for the Abbott Government to keep its pre-election promise to design and build Australia's Future Submarine Fleet in Adelaide and to justify why it's planning to destroy Australia's strategically vital shipbuilding capability.

This motion deals with the need for the Abbott government to keep an election promise. I know that might sound like a novel idea, but this is an election promise that every South Australian would say should be kept—that is, the promise to build Australia's future submarine fleet in Adelaide.

We know that asking this government to keep an election promise is an exercise in futility. After all, Mr Abbott has broken so many promises and told so many lies to the Australian people. His promise of no new takes was broken. His promise of no cuts to schools was broken. His promises of no cuts to health were broken. His promises of no changes to pensions were also broken

And just yesterday we saw another new broken promise from a dishonest government, its Prime Minister and his arrogant Treasurer, and that was the promise not to make any adverse changes to superannuation. We know what happened: a freezing of the superannuation guarantee contribution for over eight million Australians.

What we see from this Prime Minister, with absolute clarity, is that all of these promises were made, including the one before the chamber, with one aim only, and that was to get himself elected. Now that Mr Abbott is in power, the promises have all been ripped up—trashed, discarded like litter along the wayside of his first 12 months in power. Twelve months after this election, what Australians know is that this Prime Minister and this government won the election by lying to Australians, and now we are paying for their broken promises.

I raise this track record because it is now clear that this Abbott government is preparing to break yet another promise. This latest broken promise would inflict deep and lasting economic damage on Australia's shipbuilding industry and especially on South Australia. Last year, the current Minister for Defence went to Adelaide, called a press conference in front of ASC and said:

… I want to confirm that the 12 submarines as set out in the 2009 Defence White Paper and then again in last Friday's Defence White Paper are what the Coalition accepts and will deliver.

We will deliver those submarines from right here at ASC in South Australia.

Just before the election, the Prime Minister told the Adelaide Advertiser:

… work on the next generation of submarines should focus here on the South Australian ship yards.

What is occurring now? This government is walking away from its promises to build 12 submarines in Adelaide. It is looking at acquiring submarines from overseas and it has also barred Australian shipbuilders from even tendering to build new naval supply ships, a decision which will simply ensure fewer Australian jobs in this important industry.

The Abbott government is abandoning South Australia's defence manufacturing industry, and we have seen it before. It is abandoning South Australia's defence manufacturing industry, just as it turned its back on South Australia's automotive industry. This decision, if the government proceeds with it, will jeopardise thousands of jobs in South Australia. It will jeopardise small and medium-sized businesses in South Australia, which rely on defence contracts for economic opportunities and rely on defence contracts for jobs. It will also damage the viability of the naval shipbuilding industry nationally. This is a strategically important part of Australia's advanced manufacturing industry.

We also know that defence shipbuilding is an important source of jobs in this country, an important source of advanced technical and engineering skills and an important source of sophisticated technological management and organisational capabilities. All of these things are essential for any nation that aspires to have an advanced, sophisticated and competitive manufacturing industry. They are all at risk from this government's short-sighted approach to the submarine project and to naval shipbuilding.

But there is another matter, and I look forward to senators on the other side telling us the answer to it. You really have to ask, 'What has Tony Abbott got against South Australia? What has the Abbott government got against South Australia?' What we also have to ask is this: where are the government's South Australian ministers and backbenchers? Where are the South Australian ministers and backbenchers from the Liberal Party? Why are they failing to stand up for their state? Why are they failing to represent the people who elected them?

Senator Edwards: Failing? You were the minister for finance!

Senator WONG: There is a lot of noise on that side. They are very noisy in here, aren't they, but I am sure South Australians will hear absolute silence when it comes to public statements backing in the shipbuilding industry in South Australia.

Senator Edwards interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Order!

Senator WONG: Senator Edwards is yelling a lot in here, but he is a mouse in the party room, and he is completely mute in the South Australian media when it comes to standing up for South Australia. You are quiet now, aren't you?

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, for the Abbott government to slug South Australia once might be explained away as misfortune; when it slugs South Australia a second time it looks like perhaps carelessness. But when the Abbott government slugs our state a third time, we can only conclude it is part of a deliberate campaign of anti-South Australian policies—and that is what it has done.

The first hit to South Australia was last year's decision by the Liberal Party to slash support for the automotive industry. What happened? Holden decided it would stop making cars at Elizabeth, a hammer blow to the local workforce. We had a South Australian minister, Mr Briggs, backgrounding the media against Holden, and that was followed by the spectacle of the nation's Treasurer on the floor of the parliament goading Holden to pull out of Australia. The second hit to South Australia came with the government's budget, an unprecedented assault on South Australia's hospitals and schools. Six hundred and fifty five million dollars—

Senator Edwards interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): Order! Senator Edwards, you will cease your interjections, please.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The budget will cut $655 million from hospitals over four years, the equivalent of removing 600 hospital beds or the entire Flinders Medical Centre. The budget cuts $335 million from South Australian school funding over six years, and what does that mean? It means Mr Pyne is presiding over cuts in his home state equivalent to removing 3,000 teachers.

The budget singled out South Australia in other ways too. We have one of the most extensive networks of regional roads of any state or territory, and when I was finance minister in the former government—

Senator Edwards: Oh, now you're owning up!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Edwards!

Senator WONG: I supported local government funding arrangements which recognised South Australia faced a higher cost burden to maintain these roads. I acknowledge my Liberal predecessor Senator Minchin. He introduced them; we maintained them. They have been scrapped by the Abbott government. This will hurt local government—local and regional councils. It will lead to the deterioration of our state's road network. Mr Briggs has cheered it on, and you opposite are being completely silent.

And now we have a third hit to South Australia: the government's move to abandon its promise to build 12 submarines in Adelaide—a brazen betrayal of our state. It will cost jobs and it will hurt the state's economy. What is up with the Liberal frontbenchers in this government. In the past South Australia has had passionate advocates in federal governments of both persuasions. But there are no Amanda Vanstones or Nick Minchins in this government—only a new generation of South Australia Liberal frontbenchers and backbenchers so spineless, or so ambitious, that they will not stand up for their home state. We see Mr Pyne cutting schools in his home state. We see Mr Briggs acting as cheerleader for his factional mate the Treasurer in his decision to abandon Holden and its workers. We see Senator Birmingham completely silent while the government threatens to dismantle the renewable energy target—another broken promise that would have a negative impact on South Australia's renewable energy industry. I never thought I would say this, but bring back Senator Minchin. Because all the fight has gone out of the South Australian Liberals. They might be too intimidated by the Prime Minister's office or perhaps too interested in personal ambition to stand up for their state.

But Labor will not stop fighting on this issue. We will hold this government to account and we will stand up for South Australia. We will stand up for our state and we will stand up for our fellow South Australians.