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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11691

Mr CONROY (Charlton) (12:25): I rise to speak on this motion with regret and sadness that yet again the coalition are politicising Defence. They cannot help themselves. I do submit that the member for Solomon is a repeat offender in this affair of politicising Defence. We saw the now member for Canning trying to do that during his by-election, and that was most unfortunate. I do not question the commitment to the Australian Defence Force of anyone in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, but yet again we hear it. Unfortunately, it is based on a house of sand. The facts do not support their criticisms of Labor in power in terms of supporting ADF capabilities. In fact, despite all the trumpet-blowing on the other side, the coalition governments have been very poor managers of capability acquisitions. You only have to look at history, you only have to look at ANAO reports and you only have to look at DMO statistics to see it. That is the truth. Of the top 30 acquisition projects as listed in the DMO Major Projects Report, 87 per cent of the schedule slippage in those platforms occurred in projects approved by coalition governments—87 per cent, which is a cumulative 81 years of deferred capability for those platforms, occurring in projects approved by the coalition government.

The coalition have been awful procurement managers. Unfortunately, it is the ADF who suffer, because these capabilities have been deferred by 81 years. I could give you example after example, and, luckily, I have three minutes to do so. Of the 10 projects that are on the Projects of Concern list administered by the Department of Defence, all 10 were approved by coalition governments. They were approved by coalition governments in such a way that doomed them to delays in capability and doomed them to cost overruns. The poster child of this poor policymaking is the Seasprite. It was approved by the John Howard government in 1997 at a cost of $1.4 billion. Ultimately, it had to be scrapped because the program was based on trying to implant 2000 avionic systems on 1960s platforms and marry them with a missile system completely foreign to that platform. It is an acquisition that was doomed from the start, and it took a Labor government to realise that and say that $1.4 billion had been spent and enough was enough.

The Wedgetail project is another example where the Howard government signed up to a project for which the specifications detailed—as the Department of Defence freely admit—broke the laws of physics. That project was delivered 6½ years late. The project was delivered, and the Wedgetail is a fine platform, but it is not the platform that was signed up for, and it was 6½ years late. The FFG upgrade is another example where the specifications signed off by the Howard government exceeded the laws of physics. It was only a Labor government—which got the contractors, DMO and Navy talking—that were able to resolve the problems, because ultimately it is Labor governments that are serious about Defence reform and serious about delivering those capabilities. I am glad that the previous speaker talked about the Hawkei project. It is a great project, and I am glad that the coalition government came on board, finally, on this project, but it was a Labor government and Minister Combet who stood up to entrenched interests that wanted the army to accept the US JLTV platform and not give the local option a serious go. Labor made sure that Thales at Bendigo had a serious go at bidding for it. They won, and that is great news. I stand by Labor's record on Defence reform, on reforming the DMO, and on instituting the projects of concern process. All of these things have fundamentally improved Defence acquisition and sustainment in this country.

In the time remaining, I just want to refute some claims made by the previous speaker. We did start work on the Future Submarine project. We spent over $200 million de-risking the project, investing in the early planning work necessary to make sure that the platform can be delivered. On the shipbuilding valley of death, the coalition government did nothing in two years. They have finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the table. We had a plan in 2013 that would have solved the problem. We awarded major AWD module contracts to BAE Systems in Williamstown and Forgacs in the Hunter Valley, which were delivering work courtesy of a Labor government. I do not diminish the commitment of the coalition members to the ADF; I just wish they would spend less time politicising this issue and more time supporting the troops.