CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Right, well thank you very much for coming to this press conference here at the Land Forces 2016 Conference. I’m very happy to be here with Steven Marshall, the Liberal Leader in South Australia, the Leader of the Opposition. This is a fabulous conference for Adelaide, and in fact many of the other cities are now- are talking to the organisers about trying to get it in their cities in the future. 4000 participants a day; 22 countries have sent delegations to the Land Forces 2016 Conference. It’s testament to the Government’s newfound enthusiasm, under a Liberal Government, for defence industry in Australia, for lifting our defence industry capability, for our national defence, for our international interest, to be able to press those overseas, to be a good partner for our allies and our other partners in the region and beyond, to be able to take part in operations around the world when asked to do so. Defence industry is the fourth pillar of our defences, along with the three services, and as the Defence Industry Minister, I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to make that a reality.
I’ve announced today the new contracts for the air refuelling vehicles and for the electronic warfare systems, simulator laboratories and capacity out at Edinburgh Air Base for testing our electronic warfare systems in Navy and the Army and the Air Force to be able to respond to potential threats and also to be able to ourselves take electronic warfare to the level that we think is appropriate for our capabilities. This is a $700 million of announcements today. The air refuellers are about 200 million. About two-thirds of that’ll be spent here in Australia. The other 500 million is the electronic warfare systems contract. About three-quarters of that’ll be built here in Australia, and in fact a new structure will be built at Edinburgh Air Base to hour these laboratories, the simulators, and the capacity that will be necessary. That will create hundreds of jobs, but also lifts our capability.
So our Defence Forces in the future need to be the most capable in the region and amongst the most capable in world. Our allies expect nothing less. To do that, we need to have a strong defence industry domestically here in this country. So the two announcements today are important for capability, but they’re also important for growing our defence industry and the jobs of the future. These are high tech advanced manufacturing jobs which supports the Government’s agenda of creating jobs and more growth in the economy, so I’m very pleased to announce those two projects here in Adelaide today. Steven’s going to make a few remarks, and then I might make some remarks about Mr Shorten and Senator Dastyari. Steven.
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, thank you very much, minister, and can I just say on behalf of the people of South Australia a massive thank you. This is a great announcement for the people of South Australia. South Australia is of course the defence state. It’s wonderful that we have such a high quality electronic warfare capability here in South Australia. The Federal Government has recognised this with this major announcement today, $375 million facility here in South Australia creating 100 long term sustainable jobs in the defence sector in South Australia. This builds on earlier announcements this year where the Prime Minister announced in South Australia the establishment of a Centre for Defence Industry Capability in this state; of course, the Future Frigates Program, the OPVs, and the Future Submarines for South Australia.
The Federal Government, the Liberal Government has been a strong supporter, recognising the wonderful capability that we have here in South Australia, and today’s announcement is most welcome. When we think about defence industries in South Australia, we often think about our wonderful capabilities in terms of shipbuilding, submarine construction, the Air Force, and land opportunities in this state, but electronic warfare and systems integration are major pillars of our defence industry in Australia, and we have absolutely superb capability here in South Australia. We’re delighted that the Federal Government has recognised this and made this very generous and worthy announcement in our state today. Thank you very much, minister.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thanks Steven. So in terms of Mr Shorten, he has done a press conference today in which he is trying to wriggle out of his responsibilities as the alternative Prime Minister. The only way that Bill Shorten can demonstrate that he has the strength that’s required to be the Prime Minister of Australia is if he sacks Senator Sam Dastyari. Clearly, Senator Dastyari’s position is absolutely untenable, and for Bill Shorten to pretend that he can have a counselling session with Senator Dastyari and apparently he won’t do it again sends a very clear message to, in this case, the Chinese Government that Bill Shorten is prepared to allow his frontbenchers to be compromised by businesses with links to the Chinese Government.
Now, if Bill Shorten doesn’t act against Sam Dastyari, he is demonstrating that he’s too weak to be the Prime Minister of Australia. If he’s not prepared to stand up to Senator Dastyari, who is clearly a machine politician from New South Wales with real power factionally, then how on earth could he stand up for Australia’s national interests when he travels overseas as Prime Minister, particularly dealing with countries that are obviously putting pressure on Australia and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
QUESTION: Can you clarify what rules Senator Dastyari has broken?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Senator Dastyari’s behaviour would not pass the ministerial code of conduct, for example. So if a minister had acted in the way Senator Dastyari had, they would be sacked instantaneously. So Bill Shorten is not prepared to expect his potential ministers to have the same conduct- code of conduct and the same standards as are required of ministers. Now whether that- whether you want to regard that as a great breach of the law or breach of the rules,
What Senator Dastyari’s done certainly doesn’t pass the pub test. This is a man who had his $40,000 of legal fees, a personal debt, paid by a Chinese business with links to the Chinese Government. $1670 dollars worth of travel, a personal debt paid for by a Chinese businessman with links to the Chinese Government and obviously has received gifts and accommodation and hospitality; let’s put those aside for one minute.
Now, if an individual Australian had 40,000 plus of their personal debts paid, it wouldn’t be paid because someone liked the cut of their jib. They expected something in response and not long after Senator Dastyari put out views about the South China Sea that are at odds with his own party’s policy and at odds with Australia’s national interest and our international interests. So, sure he doesn’t meet the ministerial code of conduct and he doesn’t pass the ethical test of what should be expected of a frontbencher.
QUESTION: Are you applying the ministerial code of conduct here, though, even though he’s not a minister simply because hasn’t obviously broken any rules?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, David, if you think that Senator Dastyari’s behaviour is appropriate for a person who will be a cabinet minister in the Shorten Government, well that is your opinion. I don’t think it’s appropriate, I don’t think the Australian public would think it was appropriate, and what we’ve seen here is that Senator Dastyari has been compromised by his own mistakes and unfortunately Bill Shorten is showing that he’s too weak to be the Prime Minister of Australia when he’s not prepared to sack Senator Dastyari and the message to the Chinese Government is that Bill Shorten, the alternative prime minister, is prepared to allow his frontbenchers to be compromised in the way that Senator Dastyari is compromised.
QUESTION: So, presumably ministers in the current government should be held to account for their actions before they were in government by that same principle.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: As a shadow minister, if I had behaved the way Senator Dastyari had behaved, I would have expected to be sacked because you can’t expect someone to pay your personal debts. There’s a very clear line of ethical behaviour here. It’s one thing to have campaign donations, which are declared and are obviously designed to support a political party of your choice, although in the case of many of these business people, they appear to give equal amounts to both sides of the Parliament. That is a very different matter to personal debts being paid.
Now, as a journalist, if someone paid $40,000 of your legal fees if you had them, and hopefully you don’t have them, you would be very grateful and you would not expect them to be paying it just because they liked, you know, the football team you backed for. There’s clearly a long-term seduction of Senator Dastyari and the only way to resolve this matter is for him to be dismissed from his current office.
QUESTION: Currently are our donations transparent enough and does there need to be- does [indistinct] need for change?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, this isn’t a political donation. This is a personal debt. So, political donations are a different matter. We can look at political donations, we do routinely and I’m on the record, as I have been for years, saying I don’t think anybody other than individuals should be able to donate to political parties. So, I have a very strong platform on that position, I said that in 2007 in a speech to the Sydney Institute. This is quite different to the personal debts of a person being paid and this person wants to be a cabinet minister in a Shorten Government.
QUESTION: Minister, on the submarines, are you feeling particularly confident with the security of the information that we’ve been given from DCNS?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Our arrangements around our submarine program have the most stringent security arrangements in the world. They’ve served us very well with the Collins-class submarine, they will serve us well into the future. They’re regularly updated, as you would expect, as technology changes and behaviour changes. The United States and Australia work very closely on these because we have United States combat systems in many of our combatant platforms and I’m absolutely confident that they are the best arrangements that are available in the world and that doesn’t bear any relation to what happened with the Indian Navy and the DCNS.
So, I’m sure the DCNS will be wor- and the French Government will be working very hard to try and recover confidence in the market for their export submarine, which is the Scorpène. Our submarine is not a Scorpène, it’s a unique submarine to be designed and built here in Australia so that’s why it doesn’t bear any relation to that program. That doesn’t mean, of course, we don’t want the French to know but our security arrangements will be the most stringent and that’s what I asked the secretary to do the day that story broke, which has already been reported in The Australian newspaper. So, I am very confident about our security arrangements and I’m disappointed for India and for DCNS that this leak of restricted documents has damaged the reputation of DCNS.
QUESTION: Will Australia help France in its prosecution of whoever is behind the leak?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Any request we receive from the French Government in relation to their investigation, of course we will cooperate with them because it’s extremely important that the French Government secrets, they are allies and partners of ours, are as protected as anybody else who’s a partner or ally of ours.
QUESTION: Minister, what do you make of the Federal Court’s judgement this after- well, this morning around access to Senator Brandis’ diary and the FOI request?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, really that’s a matter for Senator Brandis, he is responding to that. He’s going to examine the decision by the Full Court of the Federal Court to decide what action he takes next and I’ll leave that matter to him.
QUESTION: Just back to the subs, if [indistinct] …
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: [Interrupts] I think I better go this way, because I’m looking this way I keep take questions from this side.
QUESTION: Minister, how can you guarantee that the security is strong enough given the gravity of these- and I seems our own PM, Modi, and Hollande have all expressed deep concerns with these French submarine leaks, so how can you guarantee when it seems to be a rogue contractor that released these leaks and how can you guarantee that it’s not going to happen in Australia?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I can guarantee that Australia has the best and most stringent security arrangements in the world that pass muster with our ally, the United States. I sought that assurance from the security of the department; that assurance was given to me. I asked them to communicate our views about stringent security to the French, to the DCNS, that has also been done.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We’ve never had a leak from the Collins-class submarine program, not in the build, not in the maintenance or sustainment and I imagine that’ll be the case into the future and while I’m not downplaying the leak of the documents, nor am I going to exaggerate the leak of these documents, they don’t bear any relation to our submarine program, they are acutely embarrassing for France and for- obviously, serious for India and we have the measures in place, I believe, for it not to happen here and they are not even the same submarines we are having built and designed here in Australia so they are serious but we shouldn’t exaggerate their seriousness.
QUESTION: Minister, are you concerned that pay talks have collapsed at Arrium and should those workers be prepared to accept a pay cut if it means [inaudible].
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, that is a matter for the workers, the union, the administrators of Arrium and obviously we’ve already, in the Federal Government, taken significant steps to support Arrium. As the minister for industry, I brought forward the purchase of 72,000 tonnes of steel for the Adelaide Tarcoola Rail Line which is worth about $80 million to Arrium. We have put $50 million on the table to upgrade their beneficiation plant which will mean that the cost of doing business for them will be reduced which has been a very welcome development and as the Minister for Industry, I imposed duties on Chinese steel that I took the view were being dumped, after advice of course from the Anti-Dumping Commission, are being dumped here in Australia.
So, we’ve already put our money where our mouth is if you like and what the workers decide to do with their pay and conditions is a matter for them.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: One more question.
QUESTION: Back to donation- back to donations Minister, the Dastyari issue does raise the broader subject of foreign influence of Australian politics through financial means. A couple of your colleagues have said it’s worth looking at banning foreign donations. Are they right or are they wrong? Should it specifically be looked at now?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think they- those two issues should be dealt with very separately. There’s an issue of receiving personal debt- having your personal debts being paid by businesses. There’s an issue of political donations. The vast majority of overseas donations are given to the Labor Party. I’m on the record in the past saying that donations should be only from individuals but I understand that there are constitutional issues around that because of the implied right to advertise to- freedom of speech in fact.
So, maybe that’s not achievable. These are questions that I’m happy for us to look at but let’s not lose the wood for the trees. Senator Dastyari’s error of judgment is in having his personal debts paid for by business interests with links to an overseas power, in this case, China. Even if you banned foreign donations, you might want to check where these donations to Senator Dast…these personal debts being paid- but- for Senator Dastyari came from. It’s possible they could be Australian citizens, I haven’t checked their citizenship in which case, if you did the red herring that Bill Shorten is trying to create around donations, it might not have made the slightest difference to the issues that Senator Dastyari faces which is a personal debt being paid by businesspeople with links to the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: On donations- just to clarify will the Government support any reforms to foreign donations?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we are dealing with those two issues quite separately and Bill Shorten is trying to muddy the waters. The question for Bill Shorten today is does he have the ticker to act like an alternative prime minister or will he be ruled by the right wing, factional powerbroker from New South Wales Sam Dastyari? And if he’s not prepared to stand up to Sam Dastyari, why would we trust him to stand up for our national interests in Beijing or in Moscow or in London or in Washington or anywhere else around the world. I think that’s got to be the last question.
STEVEN MARSHALL: Thanks everyone.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’d be good to have a walk through.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] one on defence industry since you’ve come all this way.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yeah sure.
QUESTION: You went to the States the other day seeking additional JSF work.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I haven’t been yet. I’m going to the States in October to meet with the JPO to talk about Australia being a maintenance and sustainment hub for Joint Strike Fighter operations into the future. Obviously I’ll be putting Australia’s case as strongly as possible. We already are the maintenance and sustainment of the frames and engines in the Asia Pacific area …
QUESTION: You’re talking about components are you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I’d like to extend that to componentry and obviously I hope to meet with success. I think it demonstrates that as the Minister for Defence Industry I’m doing more than talking about defence industry, I’m actually going to travel to Washington, sit down with the people who make the decision and put Australia’s case because that could be worth billions of dollars to Australia over the decades into the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Thanks everyone.
QUESTION: [Inaudible question]
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: [Indistinct] sure.
QUESTION: What’s the Government’s decision making process for deciding where in Australia the LAND 400 Phase 2 Vehicles will be built and maintained?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, as you know, Rheinmetall and BAE Systems are the two final bidders for the LAND 400 contract. The process now is that they have to spend the next 12 months having their vehicles tested. They also have to demonstrate to the Government what domestic defence industry they believe can be done here in Australia by both of their bids then obviously a recommendation will come to me from the department about which one of the bidders has the best vehicle, the highest capability and value for money, obviously, and defence industry’s involvement in that will be important but isn’t the deciding factor, it’s one of the factors. And at that time we’ll make another decision to go to the next stage.
QUESTION: South Australia’s in a good position to get that.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, all have significant capability to deliver aspects of the LAND 400 contract. It’s a $4 to $5 billion investment. All of Australia will benefit. Various governments are supporting the bids of- in fact, both of the bidders. I simply hope that all Australians have the opportunity to benefit from what is a significant investment in our LAND Forces.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Thanks everyone again, got to get going.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Now, we’re having a little walkthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Yep.
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