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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5854

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (16:45): I hesitate to interrupt this argument between South Australian senators, but we are talking about our money, not South Australia's. The question before us today posed by Senator Xenophon is whether to reinitiate the future frigate tender to permit Australian shipyards to take the lead role in the ship build. There is absolutely no need to do such a thing. There are three companies, SA based, short-listed for the future frigate tender. If we stay on track, the competitive evaluation process will be completed sometime during 2018. As an undeserved perk for South Australians and a threat to taxpayers and our national security, construction will begin in Adelaide in 2020.

That's too bad. I am alarmed at the estimated $35 billion cost, and I am confident that this price tag will only increase if the tender is reinitiated. The Australian people have already been subjected to the unedifying spectacle of the Future Submarine project being held hostage to the South Australian vote. We could have bought 12 of the Japanese Soryu class submarines, which would have been perfectly adequate for our purposes, for around $20 billion. Building 12 submarines in Australia is simply frittering away $30 billion. That probably works out at around $5 million for every job created, making the new submarine project the most expensive job creation scheme in history. Then again, since I suspect the government's main priority is saving Christopher Pyne's seat, it's probably $30 billion to create just one job. We could have taken a random 10,000 unemployed South Australians and given them each a million dollars for picking up rubbish in Rundle Mall. Even that would have saved the taxpayer $20 billion.

Now Senator Xenophon wants us to do it all again with the future frigates. Is there no end to how far the South Australian snout can go into the taxpayer trough? Why attempt to buy South Australian votes when any amount of money is never enough? How long must we wait for a supposedly Liberal government to adopt a defence procurement policy of buying proven military platforms at the best price, no matter where they are made? Such a policy would save the taxpayers scores of billions of dollars and guarantee the delivery of proven capability on time and on budget. Instead, with muddled aims of job creation and developing domestic industrial capacity, diverting Defence from its primary goal of defending the country, we see constant cost blowouts, delivery delays and performance failures. How many failures like the Collins class submarine and the air warfare destroyer fiasco do we have to suffer before our government realises that the way to create jobs is with tax cuts and deregulation, not subsidising grossly inefficient domestic microindustries?

Senator Xenophon knows that the future frigate tender will not be reinitiated. He has called for this so that he has something new to complain about and someone else to blame for South Australia's woes. How typical of South Australian politicians.