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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2852

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (19:30): I rise to report to the House about submarines. The other night's Four Corners was a very interesting program that had a lot to do with the leadership of the government and the nation and the various contenders in all of that. Halfway through the program, it said:

Four Corners has been told by sources intimately involved with the project—

referring to submarines—

that the Government's top secret National Security Committee, which included key ministers led by the PM, debated the future submarines in October last year.

No final decisions were made in favour of Japan. But sources close to the discussions told Four Corners the meeting did support options for the bulk of the submarines' construction to go overseas and for only limited work to go to the Australian Submarine Corporation.

That is a very serious issue indeed for my state. Today we saw an article on page 3 of The Australian under the headline 'Sir Les, eat your heart out: PM adds Swedes to his Irish stew of international offence'. That is a very topical headline, I suppose, and one that tells the nation a bit about the quality of the Prime Minister, but The Diplomat did a far more serious article headed 'Australia's Botched Sub Bidding Process Upsets Sweden'. It refers to the fact that back in February, in question time, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, ridiculed the Saab Group's wish to bid for that contract and said:

The last Australian submarine came off the production line in about 2001 … the last Swedish submarine came off the production line in 1996, so it's almost two decades since Sweden built a submarine.

He then accused the opposition of wanting to build a 1960s submarine.

We know now, because of a letter from Lena Erixon, the Director General of the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, that this is not the case. In the letter—here it is for the House to have a look at—Ms Erixon talks about the fact that Sweden has been very active in the building of submarines, including building three new Swedish Gotland class submarines between 1996 and 1997, four Challenger class submarines for Singapore between 1998 and 2004, two Sodermanland class submarines for Sweden between 1997 and 2003 and another two Archer class submarines for Singapore between 2006 and 2013. One of these subs, the Gotland class, is called 'Sweden's little carrier killer', which indicates that this was a very capable submarine built at the time. There have been numerous articles about the Swedish submarines and, of course, the Swedes had an intimate involvement with the Collins class submarine. Interestingly enough, the Japanese submarine uses propulsion systems that are Swedish designed, and they have licensed Kawasaki Heavy Industries to build them in Japan. This is Swedish technology in a Japanese sub.

You might wonder why the Prime Minister is so enamoured by Japanese-built submarines, and I think we have to take into account the record of defence exports. Sweden, quite clearly, has a very sophisticated record of exporting submarines, including to our region. Japan has no record at all of exporting defence exports. It has not done any defence exports since 1976, when the then Japanese government outlawed it. Prior to that, there were very, very limited exports from Japan, little more than side-arms. So there is no record of defence exports from Japan. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution severely curtails any exports that can be done by the government. It takes a two-thirds majority of the Japanese parliament to change that. What is more, there is a very, very strong pacifist constituency in Japan, for good reason given the experiences during the war.

We need to be very clear about the facts of this case—the facts of the companies and nations bidding for the submarine work. We cannot afford a Prime Minister who is not dealing with facts, either in this House or when he is undertaking these bid processes. We need a process that values a proper Defence procurement process and gets the right capability for Australia, based on the facts.