Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1956

Defence Procurement

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:26): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Senator Brandis. I refer the minister to a letter from the Swedish government to the Defence Materiel Organisation that rejects the Prime Minister's decision to exclude Sweden from Australia's Future Submarine project, saying it is based on inadequate information. I quote:

At no stage has DMO requested a detailed briefing about the scope and complexity of the programs recently undertaken by Saab Kockums …

Is this correct?

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:27): Yes, I rather thought that your interest was in South Australia, not in Sweden, Senator Gallacher, but there you go. I am not familiar with the letter to which you refer, but I can inform you, Senator—I can refer honourable senators—that the government has, under the competitive evaluation process, very clear criteria for the selection of the construction of Australia's next submarine. That is a project that you would know, Senator Gallacher—although I am sure you would not admit—was neglected and placed in the too-hard basket for six years—

Senator Kim Carr: Rubbish!

The PRESIDENT: On my left!

Senator BRANDIS: from the first day of the Labor government to the last, through consecutive defence ministers, consecutive industry ministers—including you, Senator Carr. It was put in the too-hard basket from the first day to the last.

Nevertheless, Senator Gallacher, this is what the government is looking for. We are looking for a project which will serve the Australian national interest and Australia's needs. We are looking for appropriate range and endurance. We are looking for sensor performance and stealth characteristics that are superior to the Collins class submarine. We are looking for a combat system and heavyweight torpedo jointly developed between the United States and Australia as the preferred combat system and main armament. The government's acquisition strategy, Senator Gallacher, for the Future Submarine is based on a competitive evaluation process, as I said, which provides a pathway for Australian industry to maximise its involvement in the program while not compromising capability, cost, schedule or risk. And that is what we are going to deliver, Senator Gallacher. That is what we are going to deliver. We are going to put the best interest of Australia first, and we are not going to avoid the decision as the Labor government avoided the decision for six years.

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:29): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question, I again refer to the letter from the Swedish government, which states:

We note with regret that not one of the delegations visiting Sweden has had the expertise necessary for either technical or industrial analysis.

Why has the government excluded Sweden from the Future Submarine project based on limited and inadequate information?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:30): I am bound to say, Senator Gallacher, that, unlike your party, we are actually going to build a submarine. For the six years your party was in power you allowed a capability gap to develop, which has—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance to the question. The question was clearly about the decision to not include Sweden in the process. That was the only issue in the question.

The PRESIDENT: I inform the minister that he has 44 seconds left in which to answer the question, and I remind him of the question.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator Gallacher, no final decision has been made in relation to this matter. But I can assure you that when an international partner is chosen to partner with Australian industry to build the next generation Australian submarine it will be the international partner which is best placed to meet the criteria which the government has specified. That international partner will be chosen through the competitive evaluation process that we have been explaining to you for some weeks now, and Australia's national interest will be the first and last consideration.

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:32): Mr President, my final supplementary question is to the Attorney-General. On the day that Sweden was excluded from the government's competitive evaluation process it was reported that Sweden could build 12 submarines in Adelaide at a competitive cost to taxpayers. Is the exclusion of Sweden the result of the captain's pick to send Australia's submarine build overseas?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:32): Senator Gallacher, there are so many false premises in your question I do not know where to begin. We need an international partner to partner with Australian industry in constructing the next generation submarine. One of the reasons we need an international partner is that our capability was so degraded by the neglect for six years, the entirety of the previous Labor government's term, of the next generation submarine—

Senator Conroy: They went around the table and you said yes to Japan.

Senator BRANDIS: I am sorry, Mr President; I cannot hear myself for Senator Conroy's braying.

The PRESIDENT: I concur. Senator Conroy, please cease interjecting.

Senator BRANDIS: I am advised that Sweden is in the process of reconstituting its submarine industry, but the last full submarine design and build program delivered in Sweden concluded in 1996-97.