TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP FOLLOWING SPEECH TO THE ADM CONGRESS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 21 February 2012
TOPICS: Collins Class Submarines; Joint Strike Fighter, Leadership.
JOURNALIST: First of all, on Collins submarines. Big challenge, where can we take Collins Submarines? It almost seems intractable.
STEPHEN SMITH: It’s been a longstanding deeply engrained maintenance and sustainment issue and that’s well recognised both within Defence and Industry but also in the mind of the general public. This is a problem we have had since inception. The first Collins came into service in 1996 and the last in 2003 and it’s been a problem since then.
I think the Coles Review will give us a positive way forward. It’s taken us, and by us I mean Governments of both political persuasion, over two decades, too long to come to this point. But I think there is substantial improvement that we can make in maintenance and sustainment.
The problem with the Collins Class Submarine is that we don’t get them into the water often enough. Once they’re in the water and in operations they do very well. So that’s the longstanding endemic issue that we have to confront, which we are.
It’s also clearly the case that one of the big mistakes with Collins was we didn’t at the time and by we I mean government didn’t at the time, take into account what a challenge and what a burden the maintenance and sustainment would be. Now that is not a mistake that we’ll make with the Future Submarine program. So there are a lot of lessons that we have and will learn for the planning of the Future Submarine program.
JOURNALIST: On JSF something I think I hadn’t heard you say before is that any decision on a tranche beyond the original 14 will go beyond this year.
STEPHEN SMITH: I’ve said repeatedly that the priority for this year is the capability gap: making sure that we don’t have a capability gap and I’ve been saying that since July of last year.
More recently, when the changes in the United States were formalised, I’ve been making the point that we now need to look at the first tranche, the timetable for delivering the first tranche, 12 of which are currently scheduled for delivery in 2015-2017.
The United States is now looking at rescheduling 179 JSF over the same timetable. We’re doing the same. In that context the priorities for this year are making sure there’s no capability gap and determining the timetable for that first tranche. I don’t think that we will see any need or any cause to make judgements about further tranches of the JSF in the course of this year.
JOURNALIST: Does that push initial operating capability out to past 2020?
STEPHEN SMITH: At this stage I don’t believe so. My focus on the Joint Strike Fighter program has always had, as an almost exclusive focus, scheduling and capability gap. We continue to monitor it very carefully. We’ll do our exhaustive review in the course of this year and make those decisions that I’ve referred to.
JOURNALIST: On the leadership do you anticipate a spill on Monday when Parliament resumes?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well a number of things. Firstly, I strongly support the Prime Minister. I’ve made that point repeatedly and I think that people should simply get on with doing their job. That’s what I’m doing and one of the best ways of getting on with doing a job is not to add to a running commentary and that’s what I’m proposing to do.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t think it should be brought to ahead on Monday, just to get it out of-
STEPHEN SMITH: I am absolutely confident that the Prime Minister will deal with these matters. I strongly support her and I’ve got every confidence in her ensuring that the Government’s reform program prevails rather than these distractions in the media.