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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 84


Senator FOREMAN —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. It concerns the building of the new Royal Australian Navy submarine fleet. Can the Minister indicate when Cabinet will announce which State has been selected as the site for the assembly of this fleet? Is the Minister aware that South Australia is a strong contender and considers that it has the best case for being selected as the construction site? Can the Minister also give an assurance that the fleet will be built in Australia and not overseas?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am well aware of the State chauvinism which has attended the consideration of this question. No doubt we will hear a good deal more of it in this place in the months ahead. The situation at present is this: As the Prime Minister said in the Australian Labor Party policy speech in December last, Australian industry will have the maximum practicable involvement in defence equipment programs, and this particularly includes the new submarines. Although a great deal of preliminary investigation has been done, no decision has been taken on the scope and content of an Australian industry program, nor on where the submarine should be constructed. It is not possible to make such a decision now, nor is it necessary to do so when one has regard to the fact that a contract for the construction of the new submarines is not planned until 1987. What is planned for decision shortly is the awarding of contracts for project definition studies which will define the details necessary for the full program of building and setting up facilities for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the submarines. Definitive information on Australian industry involvement will emerge during those project definition studies which are planned to commence later this year, which will then in turn allow a decision to be made on what is to be done in Australia, where and how. The Minister for Defence is to put proposals before Cabinet shortly on the project definition studies, but I cannot be more precise than that as to date.