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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2111

South Australia: Defence Procurement


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. I refer to the minister who, in 2015, said that South Australia was:

… guaranteed of getting the vast bulk of sustainment work …

FOI documents released last week show that the minister's guarantee is worthless, revealing that the government began work on a plan to relocate sustainment work away from Osborne immediately after the 2016 election. When did the minister first become aware of the government's plan to shift sustainment work away from Osborne?

Government senators interjecting


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:59): I thank Senator Farrell for his question. Senator Farrell is, indeed, an Adelaide Crows supporter. I'm not sure what was being said up there, but I will absolutely verify Senator Farrell's credentials in that regard—they are outstanding credentials, in that regard.

Senator Abetz: They're the only ones.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: They are the only ones, thank you, Senator Abetz. I realise that the Labor Party is very eager to try to, it seems, talk down the scale of investment that is being made in relation to naval shipbuilding and the naval shipbuilding industry at Osborne, but the Turnbull government is absolutely keeping our commitments. Indeed, I would say in many ways we're exceeding the commitments that we've made over the years. It stands in stark contrast—as Senator Payne has outlined in this chamber time and time again—that the previous Labor government commissioned not one new Australian ship for the Australian Navy during its time in office.

Senator Williams: Not one.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Not one. Not a single one, Senator Williams, that's correct, whereas, of course, what the Turnbull government is delivering—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Birmingham! Senator Carr on a point of order.

Senator Kim Carr: A point of order on the question of relevance: the minister was asked when he was first aware of the plan to shift sustainment for the submarine program away from Osborne.

The PRESIDENT: The question had a preamble. I cannot instruct the minister how to answer a question.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, can I conclude what I was going to say, then I will take your point of order? The question had a preamble. The minister was addressing, in my view, part of the material raised in that preamble.

Senator Wong: Perhaps after question time you could consider the preamble. The preamble only went to a quote dealing with sustainment work.

The PRESIDENT: I will consider it after question time. Senator Birmingham.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The Future Submarine program is expected to generate an annual average of around 2,800 jobs in Australia. That's before we consider the sustainment needs, and, indeed, before we consider the activities in relation to future frigates and offshore patrol vessels as well. This is significant growth in jobs. As my colleague Senator Payne has made very clear, if you didn't have all of that additional investment and activity—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Birmingham! Senator Carr, on a point of order.

Senator Kim Carr: The point of order is one of relevance. The specific question was about his stated knowledge about the government's breach of a commitment. I would ask you to ask him to turn to the question.

The PRESIDENT: I attempt to take notes of every question. I'm happy to review the exact wording of the question after question time. In my view, the minister is addressing part of the preamble that was in that question.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: As I was saying, if we didn't have the scale of additional investment across the range of shipbuilding and submarine construction activities, there would be no need to consider how it is we ensure that sustainment can also be accommodated rationally, sensibly and effectively into the future. But, as a government, we are absolutely determined to ensure that there is enormous additional activity, as there will be at Osborne in South Australia, across shipbuilding and submarine building, and that we also deliver the capability our defence forces need, including effective sustainment into the future.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a supplementary question.


















Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:02): I do have a supplementary question. Was the minister made aware that work on the plan to relocate sustainment jobs from Adelaide to Perth was suspended? If so, when was he made aware and why was the work suspended?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (15:03): It might have escaped Senator Farrell's attention, but I'm the Minister for Education and Training. What I have been relentless in doing is ensuring that we deliver—as we are as a government—additional work into South Australia that will support a continuous program of shipbuilding and naval industry activity, and build a vibrant new industry for our state's future and for our nation's future. It comes with benefits to South Australia, as it does to Western Australia and across a number of other states and territories. We are proud of the fact that our naval industry investment program is going to support thousands upon thousands of additional jobs. Our work and investment is going to support jobs, defence force capability and opportunities for new business with investment and job opportunities well into the future, something that the Labor Party was never capable of delivering when in government.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a final supplementary question.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:04): I do have another supplementary question. Given the minister also backed in Steven Marshall's misleading and inaccurate claims about the state Liberals' energy plan and assisted in hiding his government's plan to cut South Australia's GST share, isn't this just another example of the minister hiding the truth from South Australians?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (15:04): I would much rather be a member of a government that has delivered shipbuilding activity and submarine programs for South Australia than—like you and Senator Wong and Senator Gallagher have been—be a member of a government that delivered no shipbuilding investment in South Australia and no submarine investment in South Australia. I would much rather be a member of a party that has clear plans to ensure reliability and affordability of energy than be a member of a party that in South Australia oversaw the statewide blackout and oversaw the least affordable, least reliable energy markets in the country.

We are absolutely ensuring that, across South Australia and across Australia, we deliver continued investment in jobs growth that will benefit people in SA. If the Labor Party would only come on board and support the types of business tax plans the Turnbull government has outlined, we would see defence industries and other industries able to take even greater advantage of our investments and create more jobs, more high-paying jobs and better opportunities for all Australians.

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.