Defence Procurement Matters of Public Interest

I too rise to speak on this matter of public importance. Firstly, I would like to thank Senator Edwards for giving up some of his time to give me an opportunity to make some remarks. Both Senator Wong and Senator Conroy referred to an article in the Advertiser today. I would have thought that, after all the time they have had in politics, they would have learnt to not believe everything they read and to check their facts. In actual fact, the journalist, who I have spoken to, is quite apologetic for the way the headline was chosen by the editor. Interestingly, the same source material that was given to InDaily in South Australia—if people care to look at that—has delivered quite a different article in the paper, which articulates more closely my view on submarine building.

I encourage people to go and have a look at that or have a look at my website and read and judge for themselves where I stand on this issue. You can also go and look at the speeches I have given in this place on 3 September, 28 August and 17 June around shipbuilding, submarine building, some of the history and some of the facts around decision times and planning times required and why the coalition is taking the approach it is with things like the Future Frigate program.

More importantly, today what I would like to touch on in the one minute and a bit I have left is the future, as I see it, for submarines in Australia. Firstly, as someone who has been a military officer and has operated military equipment, I know that it must be fit for purpose. It must be able to meet the military’s operational requirements. At the moment there is nothing off the shelf from any nation that achieves that, which means that any solution the government chooses will have cost and risk considerations that must be made.

As we look around the world, the model which is probably the most effective at reducing risk is one employed by the Germans. I am not necessarily advocating that we buy their submarine, but their model is effective. They work with the customer and the customer’s engineers and manufacturing people to evolve the design to meet the customer’s requirements. They work with the customer to develop their local supply chain, so that they can feed into the build and sustain it through life of type. They build the first couple of boats in Germany with the customer and the customer’s people so that they learn the processes. They then transfer that process to the customer’s location and build the rest of the boats, so that local industry and local workers can develop that sovereign capability to maintain the submarines.

That is the lowest-risk way of transferring a suitable design, build and sustainment capability to Australia. If we learnt anything from Collins and from amphibious ships, it is that we need that sustainment. It does not need to cost more. The benefits to through-life support and particularly the spill-over effects from complex defence procurement mean that we can build it in Australia and that can give us the best capability at the best value for money for the taxpayer. They are the decisions that this government is looking at and evaluating in the interests of our national sovereign capability. (Time expired)