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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6385

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (16:31): I rise to make a contribution in this debate and, unlike Senator Edwards, I will probably address the subject at hand. The reality is what has really been missed in this debate is:

Successive Australian governments have accepted that building the DDGs in Australia would involve a premium over and above the cost of building them overseas. The decision to build locally is based on a desire to retain shipbuilding jobs and facilities, project management and design skills, and experience with sophisticated naval combat systems, so as to enable through-life support in Australia and a continuing naval shipbuilding industry.

That assistance has been measured by the Australian National Audit Office at about 30 per cent—$1 billion.

It is not an accident that successive governments, successive ministers and successive politicians—very prominent amongst them, I might say, South Australian Liberal senators—accepted this premium. Why? Because they were batting for their home state. They wanted jobs. They wanted some manufacturing. They knew and could see into the future, as all senators should be doing, that you need a manufacturing base in a small state like South Australia. We have wheat, wine, mines and the rest of it, but manufacturing is what keeps the vibrant city of Adelaide going. They could see, as in the considered contribution from Senator Fawcett—I understand Dave; he is very technically perfect. He understands this better than probably most senators in this place, but he did not get out and bat for workers and manufacturing jobs. He did not play a State of Origin game. We all love State of Origin, and that is what this place should be about. When your state is under attack, you should be batting for the jobs in your state. You should not be, as Senator Edwards did, bagging someone else for some other misdemeanour or catastrophic performance in your comments.

You should be looking very closely at the 27,000 jobs in the defence industry of South Australia. Successive governments have accepted that there is a premium for having those 27,000 jobs. Are this government and minister abandoning that well-worn path? If he is, he should get up and say so. He should simply say: 'That's it; we've changed our mind. Successive governments have been wrong. My predecessors as Minister for Defence—Robert Hill, Nick Minchin or Amanda Vanstone—were all wrong. We shouldn't be doing this. We should simply go to a supermarket and buy some submarines over there. We'll worry about the warranty later on. We'll worry about the maintenance later on. We'll worry about the rebuild later on. We've only got this small bit of money and we're going to do it this way.' I do not think that is how defence should work.

Defence is the defence of this country, and 27,000 people in South Australia are working diligently to be efficient, productive and do a 100 per cent job every day. Not all of the design-and-build process has been all that efficient. In fact, the National Audit Office, when asked if this means people are taking their wages and not doing the work, said: 'No, that's not what it means at all. It means the work they've done has been redesigned and that in cases they've had to do the work six times. So there is a productivity issue, but it was a language difficulty between a Spanish designer and an Australian shipbuilder.'

Go back to the Swedish designer of the Collins class. There were umpteen examples where there was a disconnect between the design and the build and there was a loss of productivity. But we have been doing it long enough, and our people really are worth investing in. We should not be cutting for the short-term objective of reducing expenditure by potentially putting 27,000 jobs at risk.

I respect Senator Fawcett's contribution in this area and would defer to his knowledge in a lot of cases. He is very, very diligent on a lot of this stuff. Senator Edwards, I said the other day, is bereft of knowledge on most things other than wine—and, on today's performance, I think it's consumption of wine that's his special subject! Senator Rushton has not said boo on this. Senator Birmingham is completely absent from the debate. Senator Birmingham has not made a contribution other than a snide comment across the chamber to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate when she had to leave for a meeting the other day. And Senator Bernardi has probably got the handcuffs on, because his contribution would blow the place up! Sooner or later South Australian electors will look at this gang and say they are not batting for their home state. Acting Deputy President Williams, I have heard your contributions many times. Senator Macdonald is famous for it. Senator Smith has batted for Western Australia. No-one from the Liberals in South Australia are out there advocating for the 27,000 people in this area.