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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2356


Mr ALDRED(10.25) —I turn my attention again in this adjournment debate to Australia's new submarine project. I remind the House that it was stated in Question Time today that this project is now faced with a cost blow-out of around $4.5 billion-and we still do not have a boat in the water, despite the protestations of the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) to the contrary. The purported front runner Kockums has now admitted that some of the sections of the first new boat will have to be built in Sweden rather than Australia, contrary to the requirements of the project. It is additionally worth noting that the Kockums shipyard has been cut back enormously over recent years. Civilian ship production has ceased completely. Only 700 employees of the original 6,000 at Kockums some years ago are still at work. Kockums has no further orders of any consequence for submarines. Its order book shows that it is taking on orders for rebuilding railway coach wagons and house elevators-hardly comparable with submarines.

This must surely place a big question mark over the ability of Kockums to provide through-life support should we be blind enough to buy its type 471 submarine. There is also the possibility that Kockums may close down altogether and move to and merge with the Swede yards in Karlskrona in an effort to keep the Swedish shipbuilding industry from going under completely. Leif Jungestad, Kockums Executive Vice-President, whilst not confirming the move has admitted that a recommendation has been made that military or naval production should be concentrated at Karlskrona. With the huge loss of jobs and the possible move to Karlskrona, the union movement in the shipyard has become angered and major disputation over a long period is now very possible.

It is also widely accepted that the Swedish Communist Party, VPK, is active in the Kockums shipyard and this could have security implications for the project. According to regional television in southern Sweden, John-Erik Olssen, a local union official, has been flown to Australia by Kockums to try to quash ill-willed rumours in Australia about communists at Kockums.

I turn now to the issue of security. It has to be said that there has been a well documented history of security lapses and scandals in Sweden over many years. These include the Mirko Kloverberg spy case, of which I have previously spoken in this House, the apparent ease with which Soviet submarines penetrate Swedish waters, and many other issues. This does not augur well for the future security of our submarines should Kockums get the green light on the contract. The general point also has to be made that our defence forces are compatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries. Sweden, I remind the House, is not a NATO nation. To make such a major purchase which is not compatible with our allies is gross stupidity.

Previously, Sweden has cut off defence supplies to Australia-namely ammunition for the Carl Gustav anti-armour weapon during the Vietnam conflict. However many verbal or written guarantees the Swedes give Australia, how can we trust them not to do the same thing again should we become involved in a conflict which the Swedes find disagreeable? It is most disturbing that Kockums could now pick up the submarine contract by default when all along it was involved supposedly just to keep the German company HDW-IKL honest. Finally, whilst the Germans are thought to have given the Department of Defence a fixed price, it is believed that the Swedes have still failed to do so. It seems that the Kockums proposal is slowly falling to pieces. It has given no fixed price and now is unable to do a complete Australian build on all six submarines. Again I say to the House that this whole project has to go back to the drawing board, be deferred and looked at again. It is a shambles.