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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 684


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:02): This report on the Defence Materiel Organisation is so important in the context of the situation we are facing in South Australia at the moment. We have a government that has done a deal with the Japanese government to build submarines in Japan and that has, by taking that approach, abandoned the work force and the community of South Australia. This is during a period when South Australia has the highest unemployment rate in the country—7.3 per cent. They have not yet felt the effects of this government's killing off of the car manufacturing sector in this country, and now more jobs are being sent overseas from the submarine project.

I want to indicate how important this submarine project is. According to the Economic Development Board of South Australia, 3,000 Australian jobs will be created every year over the 40-year life of the project if it is built in Australia. How ridiculous it is for the Prime Minister to make another captain's call and hand this project to the Japanese. This is absolutely outrageous. We see bickering and backstabbing in this incompetent coalition. When Senator Edwards belatedly stands up for his own state, belatedly stands up for jobs in South Australia, what happens to him? He is accused of lying by his own frontbench.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I have had a look at this report and I cannot see anything in it—perhaps I am reading the wrong one—about the Defence Materiel Organisation that would in any way justify Senator Cameron's contribution.

Senator McLucas: On the point of order, Mr President: as you know, in taking note of documents you have historically, as have other Presidents in the past, allowed a wide-ranging discussion.'

Senator Ian Macdonald: It has to be relevant to the report, though.

Senator McLucas: I suggest it is, in the context of the way we have these discussions when we take note of documents. Mr President, you have ruled that way, appropriately, in the past and I encourage you to do the same again.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, you do raise a valid point of order but also Senator McLucas has summed it up correctly, that traditionally these debates have been wide-ranging. However, the debate must be constrained around the subject matter. Senator Cameron is relevant to the topic at this point. Senator Cameron, be very careful about your accusations, also, in relation to other senators. In the last few days accusations and implications have been made about senators and about truthfulness, and we need to be very careful that implications are not directed towards senators or groups of senators.

Senator CAMERON: On the point of order, Mr President: I would ask you to go through Hansard and look at my comments in relation to the submarines and Senator Edwards. You will not find that I have in any way accused Senator Edwards of lying.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator Cameron. I have indicated to you that you can continue your remarks—you are being relevant in the context of this debate but I have issued a warning about being very careful about reflections on senators. That goes for all senators.

Senator CAMERON: I certainly would not wish to reflect on any senator in this place. All I am doing in my contributions is outlining the backbiting, the infighting and the backstabbing that is going on in the coalition party room over the issue of submarines. In terms of defence materiel, this would be the biggest defence materiel project ever in this country.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator CAMERON: It is absolutely no wonder that Senator Macdonald is on his feet trying to close this debate down, because this is a huge embarrassment for an already embarrassed government, for an already incompetent government, for a government that is so arrogant that it thinks it can continue to run the rhetoric that has seen losses in Victoria and a massive change of government in Queensland—unheard of—but it still wants to run this rhetoric of sending jobs overseas and of privatisation. The public do not accept the position of the coalition in relation to these issues. It is not me and it is not the Labor Party that are accusing Senator Edwards of lying. It is the coalition's own party leadership and their own frontbench. It is not the Labor Party. In fact, we have been in here defending Senator Edwards for belatedly seeing the need to defend jobs in South Australia.

I take the view that jobs are important. The Defence Materiel Organisation can play a role in creating jobs in this country. When, under the coalition, this country has the highest unemployment rate it has had for 20 years, we need every job we can get, and we should not be handing the submarine build to the Japanese because of a captain's pick by a beleaguered Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who does not even have the confidence of his own backbench, and by a coalition government in disarray—a coalition government that is not trusted by the Australian public.