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
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5847


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (16:14): These are very disturbing developments that have occurred overnight with the release of the tender documents for the frigate program. I normally listen quite attentively to Senator Fawcett, who is usually very well informed on these matters, but I think on this occasion he has let us down a bit because he actually hasn't referred to the documents themselves. His case would have been so much the stronger if he were able to directly cite the documents themselves. I think when we are discussing these questions we do have—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sterle ): Senator Fawcett on a point of order?

Senator Fawcett: A point of order or personal explanation. I did actually go to the point that the tender just didn't mandate, Senator Carr.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is a debating point. It's not a point of order. Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: You did state that, but you didn't actually cite the documents. Normally you would be more thorough in your presentation. You have asserted that this is a stunt. This is not a stunt. This is a matter that should concern all senators. We have been presented with evidence that we have been completely misled about what is actually going on.

You make an assertion about the level of scrutiny that occurs with the IP arrangements for the submarines. That discussion has been held in secret. There has been no documentation revealed of those matters. You talk about the skills college. Of course, the Tasmanians will point out the consequences of that arrangement with Minister Pyne in regard to the undermining of the skills college that already exists in Tasmania. The Minister for Defence Industry has been trying to deceive Australians about this contract for some time, as he has about the Future Submarines contract. In March, when the three international tenders for the Future Submarines were released, the minister said:

This $35 billion project will create thousands of jobs in my home state of South Australia.

It will create knock-on benefits up and down the supply chain across the country.

The government is getting on with it, making good decisions as early as possible to give Australian industry and the ADF the certainty they seek.

But the minister did not release the request for tender publicly, and now we can understand why. The documents that have actually been released to the media show that the government has been engaged in a fraudulent exercise. Nothing in these documents guarantees the creation of thousands of jobs in South Australia or anywhere else in Australia. The successful tenderer will be under no obligation to hire Australian workers. That's what the documents actually say. They're not under any obligation to use an Australian supply chain. Once again, Christopher Pyne has been unmasked.

Of course, Christopher Pyne is the cabinet minister tasked with the national plan for the sustainment of Australian naval shipbuilding. He has not done what he said he would be doing. These documents demonstrate that, in fact, he is not building a national shipbuilding plan but is doing a marginal seat strategy for the Liberal Party. He says he's the great fixer. He says Pyne delivers. What we have before us is the evidence of the shams and deceptions. He delivers only false promises. That's all.

In October last year the minister launched the so-called national roadshow. He said then:

The Future Frigate and Offshore Patrol Vessel programs will directly create over 2500 jobs for Australians and will indirectly support the jobs of many thousands more. However, to ensure this occurs, it is critical that we provide Australian companies with opportunities to enter the supply chain.

'We will ensure', he said. That's not what the tender documents actually say. In fact, they say exactly the opposite. The government's under no obligation to actually go to any contractor. There's no mandating of Australian suppliers.

What is critical about this is that the government is really only saying, 'Well, you get the chance to bid for the work, but that's about it.' The request for tender does not stipulate that Australian firms should even get the opportunities that the minister promised. There is no indication of the 2,500 jobs in South Australia or where they might come from. This is despite the extraordinary skills of the workforce at the ASC—a workforce, of course, that built the air warfare destroyers. This is what we found out with the submarines contract. The ASC will be locked out despite what we were told prior to the contracts being awarded to the French. There were glossy pamphlets put around that specified that this is the plan.

We then discovered at the last round of hearings at the Senate Economics References Committee that the French company has no intention of involving the ASC. What the document states is:

The successful Tenderer will not be directed to utilise any particular shipbuilding workforce or engage any particular provider of shipbuilding services.

There it is in black and white. There is no plan to sustain Australian shipbuilding. There is no plan here for the Australian workers—no plan for Australian jobs. But, just in case we might have this idea that it is a lack of obligation on the successful tenderer, and if that wasn't clear enough, the document goes on:

In particular, the Commonwealth is not mandating that the successful Tenderer use the workforce of ASC Shipbuilding Pty Ltd currently working on the AWD Program.

I repeat that:

… the Commonwealth is not mandating that the successful Tenderer use the workforce of ASC Shipbuilding Pty Ltd currently working on the AWD Program.

It is true that the minister never said they would. But he did say this:

Common sense suggests that everybody who has worked on previous shipbuilding projects, who is looking for work on the Future Frigates, will be first in line—

I emphasise those words: 'first in line'—

as the Government looks to not just maintain the skilled workforce but expand it.

That was said on 15 August this year. The government, of course, is obviously a great fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Those familiar with the work will recall the words of Humpty Dumpty:

When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.

There could be no more Humpty-Dumpty-like figure in Australian politics than Christopher Pyne, because when he talks about 'common sense' he actually means, 'Whatever I think I can actually get away with,' and when he talks about not just maintaining the skilled workforce but expanding it, what he actually means is: 'Nothing's going to happen'! So, to misquote the title of Lewis Carroll's story, it's a bit like 'malice in blunderland'.

Unfortunately, this is not a story that one could get any humour out of. This is a minister in a government that ought to face up to its responsibility and to understand that these are real people in a real industry with real problems demanding the support of their government. After all, the government is spending only $35 billion on this project alone.

And we see shameless deception. Remember: the government started off on the submarine program saying that 90 per cent of the submarines would be built in Australia. Remember that comment? Well, we made inquiries. We heard it wasn't anything like that. Mr Brent Clark from DCNS declined to repeat the figure. In fact he said:

I do not want to give this committee a figure …

When asked about the possible role of the submarine builder ASC, he said:

Very little at this stage.

Christopher Pyne told South Australia he would deliver. What he actually meant, I think, was that very little would be delivered.

Australians are sick and tired of lies, deception and broken promises. This request for tender should be withdrawn. The fraudulent tender process has been exposed. I'll be referring this matter to a Senate inquiry for another hearing on this matter to get to the very bottom— (Time expired)