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, 12 February 2015
Page: 636

Defence Procurement


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:37): Mr President, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Given the critical role and interest that the Prime Minister's office has in the Future Submarine project, is the Prime Minister's office aware that while on a tour of European and Japanese submarine manufacturers in late 2014—in particular, in November and December 2014—the Defence Materiel Organisation, the DMO, expressed to one or more of the submarine manufacturers a clear view that actually questioned Australia's capacity to build the future submarines in Australia? Will the minister unequivocally repudiate any such view that Australia does not have the capacity to build its future submarines?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:38): It is difficult to comment on hearsay from an unnamed source. That leaves me, I must say, at some disadvantage in responding to the senator's question. However—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator Xenophon: Mr President, I rise on a point of order as to relevance. I am not asking the minister to comment on hearsay; I am asking what his knowledge is of the Prime Minister's office being aware of these alleged statements.

The PRESIDENT: I think it would be fair to say that the minister has commenced his answer and is directly answering your question. He has one minute and 46 seconds left to go. It was fairly early to take a point of order of that nature.

Senator ABETZ: With respect to Senator Xenophon, his question did have a very long preamble, and I am dealing with the preamble in relation to the suggestions made. In relation to the Defence Materiel Organisation, I have no advice as to whether that was said or not said or whether that is their view. However, I can share with Senator Xenophon that the Prime Minister's, and the government's, view is that any Australian company that can credibly meet the requirements will be considered on merit—as will potential international partners—in this very important task of creating a defence capability of submarines. Irrespective of how that occurs, there will be huge job opportunities in the shipbuilding sector and the ship maintenance sector of the South Australian economy. Something that should never be overlooked as we go about this very important and, if I might say, very expensive acquisition is that we do the right thing by the nation's defence needs and also by taxpayers' dollars and, of course, that we do everything that we can to ensure jobs in South Australia.






Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:40): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise: if the DMO questioned Australia's capacity to build its future submarines to overseas submarine manufacturers, is that a comment—if such a comment was made—that the minister and the government would repudiate?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:41): As I said before, I cannot comment on that of which I have no information, other than hearsay and an allegation from an unnamed source, as to what the DMO did. From the government's point of view, we are looking for a competitive evaluation process which will include—and I repeat—that any Australian company that can credibly meet these requirements will be considered on merit, as will international partners. Therefore, Australian companies will have an opportunity to be part of this process. Given that is the Prime Minister's view, one assumes that it is believed that Australian companies may well be able—

Senator Cameron: You've been branded a liar, mate.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, you will have to withdraw that.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I did not brand him a liar; Mr Briggs branded him a liar.

The PRESIDENT: You were repeating that; it is unparliamentary. I expect you to withdraw that please, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron: If it helps the Senate, I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: It does. Thank you, Senator Cameron. I am sorry, Minister, I interrupted your answer there—or Senator Cameron did. Minister, had you concluded your answer?

Senator ABETZ: Yes, I had.









Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister confirm whether the National Security Committee of Cabinet has considered the Future Submarine project? I emphasise that I am not asking for the details of the deliberations, but just as to whether or not the issue was deliberated by the National Security Committee of cabinet.


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:42): As the honourable senator may be aware, I am not a member of the National Security Committee of cabinet, but I think we would all be surprised if this issue had not been floated, if I can use that term, at the NSC and discussed. However, I can indicate to the senator that I am advised that no decision has been made as to the number of submarines, the type of submarines or the construction of the submarines. Once a decision is ready to be announced, it will be announced.