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Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Page: 5734

Defence Procurement


Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:13): My question is to the Minister for Defence. Does the minister recall that, in 2011, the then head of the Future Submarine program, Rear-Admiral Moffitt, told him that to acquire the capability required by the Future Submarine project, Australia would have to 'undertake a new design'. Rear-Admiral Moffitt also stated that the Japanese Soryu Class submarine did not match Australia's future submarine requirements. Given that the Soryu Class submarine will not meet the strategic needs of the ADF, why is the minister refusing to rule out buying Japanese submarines or is he prepared to reduce the capability available to our defence forces?


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:14): I thank the Senator for his question because it is a very important one. Indeed, it is a very expensive question. We are not ruling in or ruling out anything here. As I said, when we opened the lid on the box entitled 'future submarines' there was nothing in it. There was nothing in the box. No proper detailed work had been done that would provide a feasible, cost-effective solution to the future submarine problem. That is what we inherited. I will not start on the air warfare destroyer, but in this particular space we have a tremendously difficult and complex requirement. What the Labor Party had done for six years was run around making a huge political splash while doing nothing but take money out of the program.

There are really only three places we can go for the design of a new submarine: the French, the Germans and the Japanese. We are engaging all of those—

Senator Conroy: What about Australia? You have let the cat out of the bag.

Senator JOHNSTON: Let me explain to you, Senator Conroy, why you are completely dripping in ignorance on this subject. TKMS have 700 design engineers. DCNS has about a thousand design engineers. General Dynamics Electric Boat has a thousand design engineers. How many do we have? About 37. You want us to design our submarine with 37 when we know a thousand are required. This is what the Labor Party is all about—bulltwang! That is what it is—ripping off the taxpayer. (Time expired)




Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of concerns that the Japanese Soryu class submarine has a reserve buoyancy that is much greater than comparable submarines, which indicates that it is not designed to meet Australia's unique strategic needs for range, endurance and capability? Why is the minister planning to impose submarines that do not meet our requirements on the Australian Defence Force?


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:17): It is a bit like the NBN. He is an expert—but he really isn't. The Japanese submarine has a reserve buoyancy of 21 per cent. It is double hulled and has three extensive watertight compartments. The Collins class submarine has a reserve buoyancy of about nine per cent—it is right on the edge of safety. The Japanese submarine is a deep-diving submarine. The Japanese submarine travels faster than a Collins. The Japanese submarine is a very good submarine, as is the German submarine, the 214, and as is the Scorpene, the French submarine. Enhanced buoyancy is actually a very positive thing when you are 300 metres below the surface.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator JOHNSTON: Look at the track record of Senator Conroy on the NBN. We have just solved that today. How is he looking now? He is an expert—but he really isn't. (Time expired)



Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:18): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware that the through-life cost of submarines can be as much as five times their purchase price? What guarantees can the minister provide to ensure that Australia will not pay through the nose for every spare part required to maintain the submarines that he plans to purchase from overseas? Is it not time that the minister just dumped the Prime Minister's thought bubble and recommitted to his election promise to build Australia's submarines— (Time expired)


Senator JOHNSTON (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) (14:19): I am very pleased the senator has raised the issue of cost, because we paid about $1.2 billion per Collins class submarine—and in 2009 we did not have any in the water! The French Scorpene comes in at about A$1.1 billion. The TKMS 214 comes in at about A$600 million. The French Soryu is produced in Japan for US$550 million. Those are the costs. Our project, under your guidance, has been costed at more than $40 billion for 12 submarines. That is what the Labor Party want to deliver to the Australian taxpayer—one great big mess, as usual—in this space.