Minister for Defence - Labor's Defence record reveals hypocrisy

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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2 December 2014

The future submarine program is a significant national investment in a vital defence capability and it is important that we get it right.

The Government is committed to delivering the most capable replacement submarines, at the best price with the least risk to our nation’s future security. Unlike Labor, that is what we will do.

The Government will take exactly the same approach to acquiring replacement submarines as all previous governments – including Labor – have followed for all major defence projects since 2003.

We will follow due process. There will be a thorough ‘two pass’ Cabinet process, and we will receive professional advice from our Defence Chiefs and procurement experts to ensure we get the very best capability.

Labor’s hypocrisy when it comes to Defence acquisitions is breathtaking.

Of nearly 80 major Defence acquisitions completed by Labor after July 2007 nearly 70 per cent were single-source procurements. So much for Labor’s commitment to open tenders!

If Labor were actually committed to an open tender process for the future submarine, then why didn’t they commit to this during the six years they were in Government?

As usual, Labor is all talk and no action when it comes to ensuring Australia does not face a submarine capability and national security gap.

In August 2007 the then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd claimed submarines would have initial approval by 2011 and “begin construction in about 2017”.

But instead Labor took no decisions on submarines in six years – other than moving $20b out of the future submarine program into the never-never and pushing back the Initial Operating Capability by four years– beyond the expected retirement date of the Collins class.

This was Labor’s shameful legacy. Now, once again, they are trying to sabotage the Government’s efforts to clean up their mess and ensure Australia does not face a submarine capability gap when the Collins class submarines are retired in just over a decade.

The Department of Defence has advised the approach Labor outlined in the Senate today would delay the replacement submarines by at least another three years – time we simply don’t have thanks to Labor mismanagement.

We owe it to the men and women in our Navy to ensure they have the best equipment available.

We owe it to our nation not to expose it to a critical capability gap.

And we owe it to our taxpayers to provide value for their money.

Media contact:

Brad Rowswell 0417 917 796

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