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Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Page: 5752


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (15:27): I am pleased to be able to contribute to this debate today on answers to questions on Defence procurement. Today in question time, Senators Wong, Carr and Conroy asked questions of the Minister for Defence—the hapless and hopeless Senator Johnston—about the future of the Australian submarine project. Questions were asked with the intention of finding out from the minister whether or not he would stick by his commitment, made before the 2013 federal election, that those 12 submarines will be built in my home state of South Australia and by South Australian workers.

We wanted to find out from the minister whether he has changed his mind and is instead going to buy those submarines from Japan. Is he is going to buy those submarines from a foreign country? Will he rule out buying their submarines from Japan? Well, no. He clearly said, 'We will not rule it in and we will not rule it out.' That is no solace for the people of South Australia, who value so much our defence industries and in particular our defence shipbuilding industries.

We witnessed here today the birth of another broken promise from this terrible government. We have seen so many times that the government said one thing before the election—they deceived the people of Australia before the election—and immediately after the election did something completely different. They said that there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to education and no cuts to pensions. What are we seeing? Cuts to all of those things. They said there would be no surprises, but there was a surprising new GP tax. Now, it looks like the defence industry is also going to be subject to another massive broken promise by this government.

I will remind you of exactly what the Minister the Defence said before the 2013 election. I printed this off today from his very own ministerial website. He said to the ASC, the Australian Submarine Corporation, in Adelaide on 8 May 2013:

The Coalition today is committed to building 12 new submarines here in Adelaide, we will get that task done, and it is a really important task, not just for the Navy but for the nation. And we are going to see the project through, and put it very close after force protection, as our number priority if we win the next Federal Election.

They did win the next federal election. And what are they doing? They are running away from that commitment to the Australian defence industry, to Australian shipbuilding, to South Australian jobs and to South Australians. When the minister made those statements back in May 2013, the people of South Australia thought quite rightly that the subs would be built in South Australia and that the hundreds of jobs at the Australian Submarine Corporation and the thousands of jobs in South Australia that depends on defence shipbuilding would be safe. Well, the people of South Australia have been well and truly deceived by this minister and this government, because today we heard there are no guarantees about those jobs at all. It was a disgrace that the minister said that in front of workers from the Australian Submarine Corporation and their union representatives, who were here today to hear what the minister would say. He said that he could not give them the guarantees of those jobs—even though his commitment before the federal election was quite clear.

Before the federal election Labor had a clear plan for Australia's naval shipbuilding industry. We were going to build the subs in South Australia and we were going to bring forward the build of the replenishment frigates. The new federal government have also walked away from ensuring that those new frigates are built in South Australia, and they even refuse to allow Australian companies to tender for that work. Those ships will also be built overseas. In that context the minister said that, in his view, it was beyond the capacity of Australia to build those ships. What a disgraceful, insulting thing to say to the workers of South Australia! What is even more insulting about this whole debate is that there is not one South Australian Liberal senator in the Senate chamber defending South Australian defence shipbuilding jobs—not one of them has got up to say anything to defend naval shipbuilding in South Australia. There is no-one here who will get up and say, 'We are going to do what we can to support jobs in South Australia.' They are as bad as their state Liberal colleagues. Where is Steven Marshall in this debate? He stood with David Johnston in May 2013 to say the ships would be built in South Australia and he is nowhere now. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.