Minister for Defence - Correcting the record on submarines - Opinion Editorial, Adelaide Advertiser

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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18 October 2014

The first priority of the Abbott Government is to ensure the safety and security of our country.

Right now, the Abbott Government is considering options for the Navy’s future submarines that will replace the Collins Class.

As the Prime Minister has consistently said, work in Australia on the Future Submarine Program will centre in South Australia. There will be more submarines and that means more jobs for SA. This will be an exciting opportunity for the State and for Adelaide.

The Australian Government has not yet made a decision on a submarine design. Our Navy and Defence experts are working with a range of companies and countries to help answer that question.

Decisions about this next generation of submarines need to be made on the basis of what is best for our Armed Forces – not what is best for a particular region or what might be best for a particular company in Australia.

Some pretend this is an all-or-nothing choice about all of the work happening in Australia or all of it happening overseas. The opposite is the truth. The Collins Class, for example, relied upon Swedish design, US combat systems and French propulsion.

Whatever the decision, there will be significant opportunities for SA.

It is well-known that, for a major project like this, over time twice as much is spent on through-life sustainment than is spent on the actual build. That means that even if the Government decides to build elements of the new submarines offshore, the lion’s share of the investment still stay in Australia and that means more jobs and long-term certainty for SA shipyards.

The Government’s approach to acquiring the submarines follows exactly the same process in place for major defence projects since the 2003 Kinnaird reforms to Defence procurement. This process was used by Labor when they were in government. There will be a thorough “two pass” Cabinet process, and we will receive advice from our Defence Chiefs and procurement experts to ensure we get the very best conventional capability.

It is worth remembering that the new submarine project is in addition to the almost $1 billion worth of Defence procurement and sustainment work being undertaken in SA this year. There are 44 acquisition projects in SA, support and upgrade of the RAAF’s P3 Orion aircraft, fleet, and upgrades to ANZAC Class Frigates and the Army’s communications systems. Over the next four years – subject to outcomes of the Defence white paper – there will be up to $4.2 billion in Defence spending for building and sustaining defence materiel in SA, including the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and the Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. These projects create over $1 billion of work in construction at RAAF Base Edinburgh and elsewhere, as well as future work to meet maintenance and other support needs.

The replacement of our Collins Class submarines is urgent after years of delay. Unfortunately, due to Labor’s indecision and inaction, we are now under extreme schedule pressure to avoid a submarine capability and security gap.

Labor sat on its hands for six years without making a decision on this crucial capability for the Navy, while moving $20 billion from the program out to the Never Never.

Australians should be rightly angered by the fact Labor has left our country and your state in this situation.

Media contact:

Brad Rowswell (Minister Johnston’s Office) 0417 917 796

Rebecca Horton (Minister Johnston’s Office) 0477 389 554

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