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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7949

Defence Procurement

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. I refer to the election promise made by the government's first Defence Minister, Senator Johnston. He said:

The coalition today is committed to building 12 new submarines a year here in Adelaide.'

When Prime Minister Turnbull was asked about this broken promise on 28 October he said, 'I didn't make that statement,' and that he wasn't willing to go back into 'the archaeology of the last election'. Minister, will you fulfil the government's promise to build 12 submarines in Adelaide, or, like the Prime Minister, do you consider the government's election promises to be just irrelevant 'archaeology'?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:43): I thank Senator Conroy for his question. As the senator is very well aware, the Future Submarines Program, SEA1000, is currently the subject of a competitive evaluation process. There are three proponents participating in the evaluation process and the responses of those proponents—France, Germany and Japan—are due to be returned to the government on 30 November this year. That process is overseen by an expert advisory panel which has been appointed to observe the conduct of the CEP to ensure both the fairness and equity of the process. This is a very significant investment in our future security and the government takes it very seriously. That is why we are engaging in a competitive evaluation process, and the outcome of that competitive evaluation process will be made available next year.

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:44): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The chairman of DCNS, the French company bidding for our future submarines, recently said:

If Australia wants to maintain its sovereignty, at the end of the day we have to build in Australia.

Minister, why won't you take the necessary steps to protect Australia's sovereignty and to direct that the government will only consider local build options for our future submarines?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:45): Again, as the senator knows, under the competitive evaluation process all three proponents have been asked to respond in regard to three aspects—an international build, a hybrid build and a domestic build. All three of those proponents will do that. That is an undertaking that has been made. That will be returned to the government at the end of this month, on 30 November. The evaluation from the results of the CEP and those submissions will then be made.

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The chairman of DCNS talked about our sovereignty. Will you commit to protect our sovereignty? Former Defence procurement chief Warren King has warned that the government's sham submarine process requires another 12 months to avoid leaving Australia in an 'exceedingly poor' negotiating position. Minister, will you accept the bipartisan offer to down select more than one submarine to ensure that we get the best value and price? (Time expired)

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:46): I appreciate Senator Conroy reiterating some observations he made at estimates in regard to the process. The government is committed to the competitive evaluation process. The government will be following that process—which will be returned, as I said, at the end of this month from three proponents across three categories. It is an extremely technical and extremely detailed process. It will take a significant period of time to evaluate. The government will respond to the results of the CEP in due course.