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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1614

Defence Procurement


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:43): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Minister, former defence minister Mr Andrews repeatedly justified the government's sham competitive evaluation process by saying it was necessary to ensure the first Future Submarines were built by the mid-2020s. Yet the defence white paper now clearly states that the Future Submarines will not be built until the early 2030s. When asked about the decision to delay the build by nearly a decade, former Prime Minister Mr Abbott said he was 'not just disappointed' but 'flabbergasted'. Why has the minister walked away from Mr Abbott and Mr Andrews's promise to deliver our Future Submarines in the 2020s?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:44): I thank Senator McEwen for the question. I can state very clearly for the record that the material upon which Senator McEwen relies for her question is, in fact, completely incorrect. The Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force have advised the Prime Minister and me that their consistent advice to government has been that, firstly, it was highly unlikely the first of the future submarines could be delivered by 2026 and, secondly, an extension of life for the Collins class submarine would almost certainly be required. The secretary and the CDF further advised that a study commissioned by the defence minister confirmed in 2012 that an extension of life for the Collins was feasible and practical.

The Department of Defence and the ADF have since that time worked on the basis that an extension of life would be undertaken as the only practical option to ensure there was no capability gap between the Collins and the future submarines. The 2016 Defence white paper reflects precisely that advice from the secretary and the Chief of Defence Force.


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that the defence white paper drafted under Prime Minister Abbott and Mr Andrews stated that the future submarines were to be built by the mid-2020s? When did the minister decide to shift the build by a decade to the early 2030s and when did she inform Mr Abbott and Mr Andrews of that decision?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:45): I am not going to make any comment on matters of drafting that may or may not have been the subject of advice. Let me repeat that both the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force have advised that their consistent advice to government since 2013 has been that it was highly unlikely that the first of the future submarines could be delivered by 2026 and that an extension of life of the Collins class submarine would almost certainly be required. The government's 2016Defence white paper reflects that advice accurately.


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:46): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, how do your South Australian Liberal colleagues feel about the Turnbull government's decision to delay the future submarine build by nearly a decade, putting at risk thousands of South Australian jobs. Are they just as flabbergasted as Mr Abbott?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:47): As I have clearly indicated to the Senate, there is no delay in the build of the future submarines. The reason we need to have a sustainment program for the Collins class submarine is that when those opposite announced in their white paper in 2009 that work had to start immediately if they were to be in service with the planned withdrawal of the Collins they did absolutely nothing. My colleagues in South Australia, though, are very pleased to see this government commit to a $50 billion investment in our security which will deliver jobs in South Australia and which will maximise Australian industry involvement. The Future Submarine program itself, for starters, will deliver hundreds of highly skilled jobs for decades to come. That is very welcome. The majority of those jobs will be through the build phase, including in combat system integration, design assurance and land based testing— (Time expired)