Minister for Defence - Transcript - ASC Doorstop

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The Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Minister for Defence

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10 February 2015


We are now going to be taking you live to the Defence Minister Kevin Andrews. He's speaking live in

Adelaide today. He's at the shipbuilder ASC. Let's go there now.


As you all know, I was here just a few weeks ago. One of my first visits to any facility such as this

after becoming Defence Minister. I'm delighted to be here this morning with Federal and State

colleagues, with Matt Williams, with Rowan Ramsey, with David Fawcett, with Sean Edwards and of

course my - and Andrew Southcott, and with my State colleagues Stephen Marshall and Dan van Holst

Pellekaan. So it's wonderful for all of us to be here this morning.

The first priority of a Defence minister in Australia is about the security of this country and in order to

ensure the security of Australia we have to ensure the capability of our military into the future and

decisions which we make now, and over the next few years, will have ramifications not just now, not

just in the next decade, but indeed for decades into the future because we're talking about decisions

which to put into fruition will take up to a decade and then the life of vessels such as a submarine or a

destroyer are there for the next 30 or 40 years after that. So these are very important decisions that I'm

responsible for making on behalf of the Government which will have, as I said, ramifications for the

next half-century so far as Australia is concerned.

As I said when I was here last time, we will deal with this in a careful, methodical and cautious way

and since I was here a few weeks ago I've had the opportunity to have further discussions with my

colleagues, to have further discussions with the Defence Department and with the military themselves

about how we continue to progress this. And that's why we have decided that in relation to the future

submarine program that we will have a competitive evaluation process. That will mean that there is an

opportunity for anybody who can meet the requirements which are important to this program to be

able to have a part in that and those requirements go first of all to capability. We must have to meet the

security requirements of Australia for the next half-century to ensure the capability of any vessels that

we will build in the future. We also have to look at the technical specifications, we have to look at the

cost, we have to look at the time frame in terms of delivering these vessels into the future. So these are

all matters which will be taken into account and they will be taken into account as part of this

competitive evaluation process.

Now this is going to be something which I will continue to work on, as I said, in a careful, cautious

way. One of the reasons that there is some tension, if I can put it that way at the moment, is because

the previous government delayed and neglected to make a decision for six years. And they've also

taken some $16 billion out of the forward estimates of the Defence budget. So that places us in a

difficult position as a new government and me as a new Defence minister. But given that background,

this is something which we'll work through. We want to see a sustainable industry, so far as Defence is

concerned in Australia in the future, but we'll have to weigh up all of these issues and it's been great to

be able to come here previously again today, to talk with people here at the ASC and to have ongoing

conversations, particularly with my colleagues here in South Australia so that we can continue to work

through these issues.


So what's new about this? What's new about an evaluation?


Can I just say how grateful I am for the Minister coming to South Australia. It's fantastic that he's here

again. This is his second visit to South Australia so far this year. He's a dedicated, hard-working

minister. It's an incredibly important portfolio and it's great that he's seen first hand the great capability

that we have here in South Australia, not just at the ASC but across the entire Defence sector here in

this State. Thank you very much for coming.


So Minister, what's different about an evaluation process as to what the Abbott Government has

already had in place?


Well, I can answer for what I'm doing as the new Defence Minister. As I said, one of my first visits as

Defence Minister was here to this very site in South Australia a few weeks ago and that's formed part

of my consideration about the way in which we go forward so far as these issues are concerned and

what's important seems to me is that we need to ensure capability, that we have to look at issues about

the technical specifications, we need to look at issues in relation to scheduling and cost and the best

way to do that is to have a competitive evaluation process which we will do.


Are they confident about their immediate future?


Well what I can say to the workers here is that I think this is a very good work force. It's quite clear

that this is a highly skilled work force here in Adelaide and in South Australia and as I said, we will

carefully, methodically, cautiously work through these issues. These are not issues that we can decide

just overnight and I think the Australian people will understand that when we are making decisions

now, which will have ramifications in terms of our Defence capability for the next half-century, then

I'm sure the Australian people would want us to work through this very carefully.


Where did the term come from and how does it differ to an open tender process?


Look, tender has a very specific meaning. We have to evaluate a whole range of issues. I've given you

some indication of what those issues are. Primarily it's the capability that the Defence will have at its

disposal. We have to line up a number of things so far as the future defence of Australia is concerned.

The aspirations of the Australian people, as expressed from time to time by the National Government.

That has to be lined up with the ability, the capability, if you like, to be able to say to the Defence

forces in this country that if we want you to do something on behalf of the Australian people then you

have the capability of doing that. And then finally, we have to also line up the cost of that.

Now, can I put that in the context and the cost is important here. The context is that not only do we

have this $666 billion deficit, we have a situation where the previous government stripped billions of

dollars out of Defence over their term in government. So these are the real situations we find. That's

why I'm working through this in a very careful, cautious, methodical way so that we can get the best

outcome so far as Australia is concerned so that we can ensure that the responsibility of securing and

defending this nation will continue into the future.


So it's not a tender process, it's not a tender process as Sean Edwards has said?


What I'm saying is and I'll...


Just a yes or no, is it a tender process or not?


Sorry, I will use the words I choose to use. What we are doing is a competitive evaluation process. We

have to evaluate this, we have to do it in a way which is methodical, cautious, that is a process that

goes forward into the future and obviously there has to be a competitive element to that, so that's what

we are doing.


But it's not a tender process, Minister.


It is a competitive evaluation process.


So why did Sean Edwards say it was a tender process and he was mouthing the words of the Prime



Look there were various reports in the media using all sorts of different words.


Well that's what he said.


I am the Defence Minister. I am deciding the way in which we go forward with this and the way which

we're going forward with this is a competitive evaluation process. That means...


What have you actually promised today that is any different from what has been promised or not

promised here before?


Well, as the new Defence Minister I have spent the last few weeks looking at this in detail and decided

the way in which we should go forward with this, particularly following my last visit here to Adelaide,

was to ensure that there is an evaluation process and one which is competitive.

Now, can I add to that that what we want to see is a sustainable industry, Defence industry in Australia

into the future and one of the biggest problems we face is that the previous government, by not making

decisions, by delaying decisions about this project in particular for six years, and ripping $16 billion

out of the Defence budget, have made these decisions much more difficult. I understand that, I

understand the concern that people in South Australia might have about these issues but I can assure

them that we're going to work through this in a careful way and as part of that careful working through

then places such as the ASC here in Adelaide can be assured that in that evaluation their views and the

way in which they might approach this can be taken into account.


Where did the term competitive evaluation process come from? Is it from Defence or did it come from

the Prime Minister's office?


Look, no, no, look, I'm not going to get into all sorts of...


Defence says that they've never heard that term before.


I'm not going to get into all sorts of definitions and what's a definition and what that is. I'm saying as

the Australian Defence Minister this is the approach that we are taking. I came here, as I said a few

weeks ago.

I was delighted with the tour that I had then. I've continued to have talks with my officials in Defence

and the military and others, including my South Australian colleagues, some of whom are here today,

including the South Australian Opposition and Stephen Marshall and Dan van Holst Pellekaan and as

a result of that what I'm announcing is a competitive, evaluation process and we will continue to

progress this in the coming weeks and months.


So there's still likely to be an international partner?


When will you come to a conclusion?


We will do that and make the decision that's right. I mean the idea that a decision, which is going to

have ramifications for the national security of Australia, the Defence of Australia, for the next halfcentury,

can I stress that. Decisions that we take now are going to have ramifications in terms of the

Defence capability of this country for the next half-century. Beyond the lifetime of probably most of

the people actually standing around here today. That's an important, serious matter which we have to

deal with in a very sound and serious way and we're not going to be rushed into making decisions.

We're going to do it in a careful, cautious, methodical way.


So just confirming what Sean Edwards said on Sunday about an open tender process is incorrect?


I'm not a commentator. What I'm doing is saying to you and to everybody who may be listening to me

now, that the process that we are going to undertake is going to be a competitive evaluation process.

I'm here saying that in Adelaide at the Australian Submarine Corporation, as an indication that so far

as Australian industry in this area is concerned that they can have a role in this but there are criteria

which will be spelt out in more detail as we work through them and they will go to primarily the

capability, the Defence capability that this country must have in the future because that's my prime

responsibility and indeed it's one of the most profound responsibilities of any national government. So

capability is an important factor but there are also cost and schedule and other issues that have to be

looked at including the technical issues. They are complex issues and we will work through them

carefully, thank you.


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