Doorstop Parliament House

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

SENATE COURTYARD

PARLAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 11 FEBUARY 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Australia’s submarine and ship building industry.

 

GLENN THOMPSON: I’m Glenn Thompson, Assistant National Secretary and I’m here with 14 ship builders from around the country who work on the building of our surface vessels, the maintaining our surface vessels, and the maintaining of our submarines from our defence force.

 

We are here this week to talk to Coalition MP’s and the government about standing behind their promise to build the Future Submarine in South Australia.

 

We are here to send the message – as we have done over the last 18 months – to the government that they need to act decisively to ensure a rolling build of naval vessels, to ensure 1,400 jobs which are at risk over this year, are disappearing off the face of this earth if this government doesn’t make a decision around patrol boats, stand by the Senate estimates recommendation that the contract for the supply ships should be re-opened, and the bringing forward of the Anzac frigate replacement .We are asking the government to move and move decisively.

Already after Christmas there have been jobs lost out of BAE in Victoria. We are aware that in the coming weeks the same will occur at Forgacs in Newcastle, in the Hunter.

 

We are calling on the Liberal Party to stand up behind the promise that they took to the last election – that was that they had a plan to build Future Submarines in Australia, and that after their election that they had a short-term and a long-term plan to deal with a rolling build of naval vessels, to ensure that Australia could build a capacity, and to ensure we had a sovereign capability to support our defence forces.

 

We have called on those South Australian Liberals who have been vocal in relation to standing behind recommendations of the Senate Committee for a tender process to come out here and support us today. And not only support our position, but to sign the pledge that they will advocate within their community, argue within their party and within the Parliament.

 

So I will hand over to Senator Kim Carr.                   

 

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY SENATOR KIM CARR: Thank you very much for coming I’m here with my colleagues, Labor colleagues, to express our solidarity with ship workers from all over Australia. An island nation with one of the largest maritime territories on the globe cannot go without having a decent ship-building industry. We simply cannot afford as a nation, to allow this industry to slip away because of the failure of governments to act.

 

Now we have a situation that has developed where the government says it is going to find new ways, new forms, good government. On Sunday, my Senate colleague and member of the Senate Committee into ship building said that the Prime Minister had made a pledge to him, a pledge that there would be an open tender. And the day after the ballot we suddenly discover that the pledge is not quite what we were led to believe it was. In fact we now have reports where junior ministers in the government are accusing Senator Edwards of being a lair. This is a government that seems to have a habitual capacity to lie. It simply cannot get the truth out.

 

What is wrong with the simple proposition of developing a $20 billion build through an open tender process? What could possibly be wrong with that proposition? Clearly that’s what Senator Edwards was promised on Sunday two days before the ballot. The day after the ballot we discover that’s not what was promised, it was something else; something called a “competitive evaluation process”. Extraordinary, extraordinary actions. It tells you everything about this government. It tells you about a Prime Minister who only moves on jobs when his own job is threatened. He only moves to look after the workforce of nearly 4,000 people across this country when his own job is threatened.

 

The characteristic of this Prime Minister of course, is that he is prepared to do that on the basis of a lie. It is obscene that we should have a $20 billion tender placed as a bargaining chip for the Liberal Party leadership, only to find after the liberal party ballot, that this process is taken off the table again. It tells you everything about a government that is failing, and of course is not prepared to defend the national interest, and not prepared to defend jobs in the ship building industry. We have seen it far too often in manufacturing and it is a measure that the Labor Party will strenuously oppose.

 

What we need is a continuous build. What we need to do is ensure that the immediate prospect of job losses down in Victoria and at Newcastle are attended too. What we need to see is to ensure that the submarine contract is put out to an open tender, so that we can get the best value for money and ensure that Australia’s national interest are preserved.

 

JOURNALIST : A question for the Assistant National Secretary, if the submarine fleet is built in Australia, do you have any figures on the number of jobs that might create?

 

THOMPSON: Until we know what is required in relation to the scope of the build, but you are talking directly possibly a couple thousand jobs in relation to the build itself. As has been reported in the Senate inquiry, there are some 2000 companies that rely on the supply chain just for the current sustainment of Collins. We would estimate that there would be a substantial multiplier if the build was built here in Australia.

 

JOURNALIST: If there isn’t a build here in Australia, are there actually any prospects of immediate job losses because wouldn’t there still be the upkeep of the submarines no matter where they are actually built?

 

THOMPSON: Well when it was decided to build Collins in Australia, that was about developing a nation-building project, some 30 years of expertise.

 

Just in relation to the current AWD there are estimations of $100 million for training up a skilled workforce, some 3,800 people, which would transition into a future submarine industry, one that could be established for the next century.

 

It is true that sustainment of Collins in relations to a proportion of the existing workforce would be sustained. But the simple fact is this; we have spent a lot of money, a lot of Australian taxpayer dollars building an industry for the future of Australia’s sovereign capability.

 

It is absolutely ludicrous that a tender, one, not take place and two, that that not be built here in Australia. There was a commitment from successive governments that that would be the case and we are asking Tony Abbott to stand by what he promised our members in South Australia in relation to the Future Submarine program .

 

JOURNALIST: Senator, have you ever heard of the term ‘competitive evaluation process’?

 

CARR: Well, I was Minister for DMO for a short period of time and it was not a term brought to my attention on that occasion. What we do know is that this is a government that is mean and tricky. What we do know is that is a government that is prepared to say anything to get elected. There’s a Prime Minister who is prepared to say anything to get elected, only to repudiate any pledge he makes the day after the ballot, and this is clearly an example of what is happening here.

 

I am deeply, deeply concerned that the government has entered into some secret protocol to buy the Japanese submarines, irrespective of the national interest, irrespective of the fact that our capabilities will not be well-served by such a proposition, and irrespective of the fact that the government seems to be very, very determined to avoid a competitive tender process.

 

Now we have alternative sources of supply. Companies from Europe are prepared to build in Australia. They are making claims that they can actually build more submarines for less money. Those claims need to be tested.

 

I take the view that manufacturers will make all sorts of assertions through a procurement process, but what needs to be done is a proper evaluation of that. An open tender process provides that opportunity, where claims can be tested, and contracts can be entered into on the basis of firm knowledge of the facts.

 

What this government is determined to do is to go into a secret arrangement with the Japanese, it would appear, without the proper scrutiny that we need for such a profoundly important purchase, a $20 billion purchase is of such significance that this simply cannot be let rest on the basis of a secret deal, made behind closed doors, without a proper consideration of the national interest.

 

JOURNALIST: Thank you Senator, very quickly, if there isn’t an open tender process that you’re satisfied with, would you be pushing for some sort of inquiry? Would you be seeking some sort of review or report into that process?

 

CARR: Of course, what we’ll do is hunt done the people that make these type of erratic, irrational decisions, without the proper assessment of the national interest. You simply can’t enter into contracts of this size without a proper evaluation of the strengths and weakness of the proposal that is being put before you. It is just too big to do a secret deal to buy foreign submarines, without taking into account our national interest.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think that more should have been done to get this project underway in the six years that Labor was in power?           

 

CARR: What we did do is establish quite extensive expenditure to evaluate all the options, which led to a situation where we ruled out an off-the-shelf purchase. Now that process does require careful consideration which was undertaken by the Labor government. So I’m quite satisfied that we moved with due diligence, with due care, to ensure that we’d get the right decision in the interest of this nation. Given how long these submarines will have to be in service, it is absolutely the case that you need to evaluate, very, very carefully, the claims that are made both by the military and by the defence manufacturers, so that we can be certain that we get a quality product that serves the people of this nation for perhaps a generation.                                                  

 

Thanks very much

 

ENDS


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