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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 285


Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:24): Senator Abetz said that the government is committed to the best value for the taxpayer in respect of the project to build, sustain and maintain Australia's future submarines. I think that is a slight movement away from previous governments that have accepted that there may well be a premium associated with building ships and submarines in Australia—it was in the Australian National Audit Office report, which set out that previous governments had accepted that. We then go to the famous election promise, that the submarines would be built right here in Australia, in Adelaide. This government has prevaricated and shifted ground, until we arrive at today where it is reported that the coalition position in respect of submarine building in Adelaide is 'as clear as mud.' That is what has been reported—it is as clear as mud.

Senator Abetz: Where was that reported?

Senator GALLACHER: That was reported in InDaily, which is an internet publication in Adelaide.

Senator Abetz: Ha, ha, ha!

Senator GALLACHER: Well you may laugh, but you have to understand that you cannot move in South Australia without being approached about this issue. It is a deeply felt issue. Have a look at the result in the electorate of Fisher—an unprecedented Labor victory there. In the seat of Davenport—and this is what is sending the shivers up the spines of some people in Adelaide—it was a 58-42 Liberal-held seat, handed down from father to son. It is now 53-47—they are a mere 1,700 votes from losing one of the jewels in the Liberal crown in the State parliament. I do not take much notice of polls—I am sure those on the other side are having a casual look—but Newspoll says the figures are 59-41. That brings a lot of Liberal seats into play. The predominant issues in both Fisher and Davenport were the economy, jobs and submarines. Senator Edwards is probably not the only one who has come late to this issue, and he is now ardently supporting the building, sustaining and maintaining of defence ships, submarines and whatever else we can to offset the dastardly decision on car manufacturing. This issue will not go away.

Coincidentally, I think there are 11 Liberal members of the coalition government in South Australia. It seems a little unusual that Senator Edwards was able to give a commitment from the Prime Minister that there will be a competitive tender and then the party vote was brought forward—we know that the party vote was 39 to 61. Was there something untoward at play there? I do not know and I do not really care, but the public will draw their own conclusions if Senator Edwards has been set up and then torn down the next day from competitive tender to competitive evaluation. One reader said it was 'psychobabble and confragulation.' I did look up 'confragulation' in the dictionary but I could not find it, but if that is what people are saying about your minister's press conference today, surrounded by concerned Liberal MPs—concerned for the future of South Australia and for the future of the South Australia economy but also concerned about their own survival—then things to be looked at.

I think this will play out down the track, all the way to the next election. You will be judged on how you have acted. You have made policy on the run today. You have made a confused but hopeful public more confused and less hopeful, especially when your minister's appalling performance today could best be summed up as 'clear as mud'—do not take it from me but read the paper. Senator Edwards has also been undressed—set up, undressed and let down really shabbily. South Australia deserves better. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.