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Address at BAE Systems, Williamstown



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Campaign Transcript

TRANSCRIPT OF PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD ADDRESS AT BAE SYSTEMS WILLIAMSTOWN 29 AUGUST 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Manufacturing Jobs; Defence Industries. _____________________________________________________________

PM: Thanks for gathering here at this fantastic facility here at Williamstown. I'm here with Kim Carr, a loyal son of Victoria and the Minister for Industry, and this is an extraordinary day for how we make sure that we've got viable manufacturing into Australia's future, viable Defence manufacturing into Australia's future and most importantly viable ship building into Australia's future as well. I think a few folks lose sight of the numbers sometimes. When we look at the importance of manufacturing in this economy of ours, we're looking at $106 billion-plus business, we're looking at a million Australians who find their jobs in manufacturing, and $5 billion worth of R&D each year pumped into the Australian economy because we are a manufacturing nation.

And I said years and years ago I never wanted to be Prime Minister of a country that didn't make things anymore, build things anymore, construct things anymore, build ships anymore, and because I am at my heart of hearts an Australian economic nationalist who believes that we need manufacturing for the future, and that means your skills , your talents, your abilities and the ships that you proudly build for Australia. Part of our 2012 Defence Capability Plan runs along these lines. We have something like 111 Defence projects coming down the pipeline towards us. We also have a total value of those projects of something in the order of $153 billion.

The key question is this for all Australians and for any Australian government is: Do we want the vast bulk of these Defence projects built in our country or not? I say the answer to that is yes. It is an unequivocal yes because your jobs, as people who work in shipbuilding and more broadly your colleagues who work in manufacturing across Victoria and across the nation, I believe are jobs worth protecting, jobs worth saving, jobs worth retaining here in Australia, and that's the core question.

Do we believe this vast amount of Defence acquisition coming down the pipeline should be kept in our country? Or do we believe it should be simply subcontracted to other countries overseas? I believe the right responsible for the Australian national interest is to have the vast bulk of these projects built here. Therefore, looking

specifically at Navy and naval shipbuilding, under the Defence Capability Plan there are some 40 ships to be built over the next 20 years.

That's a lot of shipbuilding, and the question therefore for naval development and naval ship building is this: Are we going to have the vast bulk of our naval ships built in this country or simply subcontracted overseas? As your Prime Minister, what I'm saying to you is, I want the vast bulk of those projects build here in Australia. A core part of our naval shipbuilding capability nationwide, the heart of it lies here in Williamstown and the work you do here with BAE.

(APPLAUSE)

These are not just idle phrases. We have been working on this as a government for some time. That's why, for example, we've been developing the Australian industry capacity development plan, to make sure that across manufacturing, we maximise Australian participation.

That's why we've developed the priority industry capability development fund to make sure we are innovating and developing here in Australia and not just taking it from abroad, and hence why we've also funded the Defence Innovation Realisation Fund as well, and why given we have some friends here from the United States, we've also signed with our friend and ally in the United States, the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty which enables this country for the first time to participate in selling our naval product into the domestic market of the United States, including the United States Navy. This is an important innovation, a treaty we signed in May of this year.

All that's about saying these are not just words. We've put these things into practice, brick by brick, step by step; the objective is for this country to maintain our national security by having a viable defence industry construction sector in this country, and within that again to make sure we have a viable and continuing naval construction capability in this country as well, which means Williamstown must have a future in that.

(APPLAUSE)

Back in May of this year, the Government announced a plan to provide more certainty to Australian industry through consideration of a smoother, coordinated ship-building program to provide more stable work for the industry and retain critical skills for the future through a whole range of specific measures:

Number one was we said we would replace the Navy's two supply ships, HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius at the earliest opportunity. Number two, we said we would bring forward the replacement of 14 Armidale Class patrol boats to be assembled here in Australia. We said we’d also as number three, consider bringing forward the Future Frigate program as well. The 2013 Defence White Paper confirmed our commitment to the replacement of Collins Class fleet of submarines with an expanded fleet of 12 conventional submarines to be assembled in South Australia. The future submarine project will be the largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken in this country.

In the question of capability design, construction and sustainment, it will present for us a challenge of unprecedented scale and complexity, but across Australia it will expand jobs in the naval construction industry, and in May we released a future submarine industry skills plan, an outline of how Defence and the Australian shipbuilding industry, from designers, system developers and construction companies can plan and prepare to meet this challenge in the future.

Friends, you know I was here only a few days ago. I wanted to have a look at the emerging Australian flat top over there, the LHD. Well done, I'm impressed. This is a big piece of kit, it's huge, 27,500 tonnes and there’s another one on the way. You've done well, and all Australians will be proud when they see these great vessels bearing the flag of Australia and the Ensign of the Royal Australian Navy in the months and near years ahead. When I was here a few days ago, I said that we are looking forward, looking at plans to bring forward the construction of naval ships in order to fill the gap that you have here in your future construction schedule.

I understand the importance of ensuring the survival of the industry through the gap when the work on the AWD blocks and the LHDs finishes in 2015/16 and before other projects come online sometime later. I'm here to say to you today we've listened to your arguments, we understand your concerns about this gap, what some of you call the Valley of Death and I've just spoken with the bosses, they’ve told me it's true as well. And so, if you tell me it's true and the bosses tell me it is true, I think it's probably true. Nod carefully.

In other words, we have here assembled in this mighty facility today a vast aggregation of Australian talent. You don't learn to build a naval ship overnight. You don't learn the set of core engineering skills on a weekend course. These are crafted and honed over a long period of time, and represents the excellence of your skills, your craft, your trade and your profession, and I'm proud of what you bring to bear in this important industry for Australia.

We understand that if we lose the skills of this industry it will be incredibly difficult to get them back, risking the industry's long-term survival, not to mention there are 1,100-plus, up to 1,400 jobs associated directly with Williamstown. These are important jobs. Your jobs are important to me. They are important to be protected into the future because you've got families to feed, you've got kids to put through school and you've got a future to build for yourselves as well. That's not just a statistic, it’s not just a name. For me it’s about real live human beings whose futures deserve to be supported and protected.

So today I'm pleased to announce our plan to provide certainty for Australia's naval ship-building industry. We have decided that we will bring forward if we are re-elected, the plan to replace the HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius with construction to commence in 2015/2016. These are two enormous supply vessels for the Australian Navy. By bringing forward the construction, by bringing forward therefore the tendering process prior to that we intend to provide future continuity for you and the Australian naval ship-building industry. The Valley of Death will be crossed and crossed well.

(APPLAUSE)

We will as a minimum commit to a hybrid build for one of these vessels and construction of it to commence in the 2015/2016 timeframe. This of course will be open to competitive tender across the country. You and Williamstown have a formidable case to put forward. Work that you've already done in terms of existing platforms, for example, with these LHDs, and the sorts of naval facilities which are needed to support them in terms of supply vessels. The key thing is to fill this gap of several years and the practical thing we can do for Navy, do for Williamstown, do for Victoria and do for Australia is to bring forward the construction of these two vessels now so that you have construction commencing in the 2015/2016 year, because that will provide continuity for jobs such as yours across into the future and I'm on about protecting people's job security.

These two supply vessels provide the support capability necessary to sustain our maritime forces at greater distances and for longer periods from an Australian operating base. If you know our region well, things go wrong far from home. If we have a natural disaster out there in the Pacific Islands somewhere, you need to be sustained for a long period of time. Having an LHD arrive, which can provide a power plant, can provide a field hospital, provide all sorts of capabilities to keep a population alive is one thing, but the vessel itself needs to be sustained as well, with an adjoining set of supply vessels and that is why this construction is so important.

Bringing forward the acquisition of these ships to 2015/16 would see them enter into operational service in about 2020, 2021. To deliver this essential capability in this timeframe, the Government will direct Defence to downselect based on Navy's capability requirements no more than two options and then conduct an accelerated limited competition, consideration and approval process. Acquisition of the two supply vessels is funded from the Defence Capability Plan at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. This is a decision that will preserve jobs in our shipyards, maintain the world class skills and capabilities developed by our ship-building industry and help build an innovative and strong industry in the long-term future.

As I said before, acquisition of the two supply vessels is already funded from the Defence Capability Plan at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Any additional funding required to bring forward the acquisition will be prioritised from within existing resources under the Budget.

My friends, that's what we're here to say today, to make it very blunt and very clear that we want continuity here at Williamstown, we want continuity for the Australian naval ship-building industry across the nation, and the practical thing we can do as a government, as a government who ultimately is responsible for the national security of our country and the skills underpinning it, is to make sure we have a flow of projects, to make sure that you have continuity and security in your jobs, in your careers and in your professions. That's our priority. We think it is the right priority.

It's not just what happens here in Williamstown. As I was saying before to Kim and to others that in the area here we have some 650 small to medium businesses who are out there providing their services and their goods to support what goes on here in Williamstown. The multiplier effect of this industry across this community in Victoria

is huge, and therefore for me it is an absolute priority as well. Folks, it is about the future of shipbuilding, it is about the future of manufacturing.

I'm an economic nationalist, I believe that Australia must have a viable manufacturing industry for the future. I believe Australia must have a viable Defence industry for the future. I believe we must have a viable naval ship-building industry for the future, because at the end of the day we are ultimately reliant upon our resources when push comes to shove, and that's why you can't simply take these things lightly. I wish I could say the same about the other side of politics. I cannot, because their commitment to manufacturing is paper-thin. If it is the car industry, including the works just up here at Altona, frankly, our investment is up there, it's clear.

We believe in co-investment where necessary with the Australian manufacturing industry, and the other mob do not.

On the final question of priorities, can I just say this: My job is to protect manufacturing jobs. That’s my priority. Mr Abbott's priority seems to be to cut the jobs of others in order to pay for what I think is his unfair Paid Parental Leave scheme. That's a question of priorities. I'm on about ship-building, I'm on about manufacturing, I'm on about the future, I’m on about protecting and preserving each and every one of your jobs for the future.

That's where I stand. That's my priority. The alternative priorities you will all make your judgement on. Go well here in Williamstown, be proud of what you are doing, the Government is proud of what you are doing, Navy is proud of what you are doing. Australia will be stronger as a result. I thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

ENDS

Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111 www.alp.org.au

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600