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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1212

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and concerns the building of the new Royal Australian Navy submarine fleet. Does the Minister agree that, as the submarine replacement program will be more concerned with engineering and electronics than traditional shipbuilding, the industry should be based around a purpose built plant rather than an existing shipyard? Does he feel that South Australia would have an advantage over other States in this respect because it has vacant land available at Port Adelaide and also because it has the technological and industrial capacity to carry out the project? Does he agree that the establishment of the submarine assembly plant in South Australia would help to counteract the high unemployment level in the State?

Senator GARETH EVANS —My colleague the Minister for Defence has advised me that the RAN Oberon class submarines will reach the end of their life between 1991 and 1998 and that planning is proceeding toward the acquisition of new diesel- electric submarines to replace them, as Senator Foreman has said. The submarine project is one of the most costly and important defence projects planned in the coming years. The project is still at an early stage of development and two companies will be chosen in 1985 to undertake project definition studies. These studies will include the identification of the Australian industry participation implications of the project. They will examine the capabilities of companies located in South Australia and other States to take part in the project. A contract for the provision of the submarines is planned for 1987. There appear to be good prospects for significant Australian industry participation in a wide range of aspects of the project, but it is too early to be precise. In particular, it is much too early to be precise about the prospects for South Australia in relation to this project.