Interview with Minister Pyne - Press Conference, Adelaide - 30 September 2016

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Media contact

Release content

18 October 2016

Press Conference - Adelaide

30 September 2016

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, thank you very much for taking the time to come to this press conference given all the things that are going on in Adelaide and South Australia at the moment, and I’m happy to take some questions if you like on the storms and other things appropriately, but today is a red-letter day for Adelaide, and for defence industry in Australia, because we’ve signed at noon today the contract with DCNS for design and mobilisation of the 12 submarines. What that means is a contract for about 450 to $500 million has been settled ahead of schedule with DCNS to start designing the submarines, which will be a unique design for Australian needs, and also to start preparing the workforce, the infrastructure at Osborne North as it will become.

So this heralds a team that will go to Cherbourg from Australia and set up an office within the DCNS operation in Cherbourg. It will increase the presence of DCNS here in Adelaide, who will soon be moving their offices here to Adelaide, and then they’re starting to expand those offices. They’ll start the design work, and we will be able to – and so will they – finalise plans for the infrastructure that will be needed at Osborne North to create one of the world’s largest and busiest submarine yards down at Osborne North. So infrastructure will start being built in 2017, this means jobs for Australians and South Australians. It means that the planning for all of those things can begin in earnest, and we are essentially a month ahead of schedule, which for a Defence project is something of an achievement.

And also, we are announcing today that Lockheed Martin Australia have won the tender for the combat system integrator role with the submarines. So Lockheed Martin will win a contract for $1.4 billion or thereabouts over the life of the project to integrate the US combat systems, which is a torpedo essentially, into these 12 submarines. That’s a very big contract. Practically, that means 200 Lockheed Martin Australian workers – technicians, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and specialists – here in Adelaide, wherever they decide to establish their offices, probably at Mawson Lakes or wherever they choose to put them. So that’s new jobs for Australians, new investment in our state, and getting on with the job.

So not letting the grass grow under our feet, and that’s why it’s a proud day for the Government, but also a great day for Australia that this very large submarine project of $50 billion, the foundation blocks are starting to be put in place and real things are now starting to happen, even ahead of schedule.

JOURNALIST: Were there any sticking points? I understand there was about a week of top-level meetings here in Adelaide. Was there anything the French were concerned about in the contract?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, as we announced when we said that DCNS had won the down select as part of the competitive evaluation process, you then go into a period of negotiations for the commercial contracts to be signed. Australia had certain red line requirements, particularly about access to intellectual property and security. All of those were met by DCNS, so there were no outstanding sticking points, and that’s probably the reason why the contract has been able to be signed a month ahead of schedule.

JOURNALIST: Did the leak of the Scorpene data come up in those negotiations as an issue?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we’ve made it very clear – not in the negotiations necessarily with DCNS, but certainly from Department of Defence to French Government – that the very strict security arrangements we have over the Collins-class submarines that satisfy both us and the United States will be in place for the Australian-designed new submarine, and the French Government has agreed to that, and of course that means that DCNS has agreed to that. So we are absolutely comfortable around the security of our plans, our designs, and then the build, and I’d make the point that of course the Scorpene submarine is the export model submarine that DCNS makes for several countries around the world. It is not anything like the designs that have been made for Australia, because of course that’ll be a unique design, because it has to meet unique requirements.

JOURNALIST: Can we talk about the floods? Do you guys …

JOURNALIST: Yeah. Have you heard- as Minister for Defence Industries, have you heard of any ASC being affected by the power outages? Are they back online? How long did that take to get back online?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, I’m not aware of that. I haven’t had any brief from the Department of Defence about ASC being inconvenienced by the storms any more so than any other business in South Australia. But if they had a problem, I’m sure they would have contacted us, because we have unique capacities to assist them. I think the serious issue here that needs to be dealt with is that the South Australian Government has been in power for 14 years, and the lights went out in South Australia. It is a metaphor for 14 years of Labor Government. We can’t- we have the most unreliable energy in Australia we have the most expensive electricity in Australia we have the highest unemployment in Australia, and for the Labor Government to pretend that this has got nothing to do with their policies flies in the face of what we all know in South Australia: that this is not a unique error. We’ve had, for the last 12 months, incidents of blackouts and brownouts and surging power price and excuses from the Labor Government about why this is nothing to do with them. The simple truth is there was no backup for the interconnector with Victoria, for the 40 per cent reliance on wind power, and when those things began to fail, the State Labor Government had no answers.

Now, it’s fine for them to be obsessed with wind power in an ideological way, as they have been. They want to be a national leader on renewables. That’s a decision that they’ve made. I’m happy for them to do that, but they also need to guarantee energy for our state. It is a number one requirement, and what this does is not only making us a laughing stock around the country and making us international news for all the wrong reasons, it drives away business, it drives away investment, that stops jobs, it stops people coming to our state. In the last 14 years, if we lose another seat in the coming redistribution, if there is another seat taken away from South Australia, we’ll have gone from 13 to 10 seats in the 14 years that Labor’s been in power. That speaks volumes for our population decline in comparison to other states, and this blackout is just another example of why people feel that they’re not going to invest in our state. So the State Labor Government needs to get its act together, and they need to guarantee our power into the future so this can never happen again, so we can restore our reputation in Australia and around the world.

JOURNALIST: And what role do you think wind power had in terms of the factory blackout?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I’m not the expert on wind power and its effect on the blackout, and I think that is a secondary issue, really, to – as you pointed out, in some respects, in your column today in fact – that the issue is when the power failed because of the storm, and I think even David Penberthy, he also had a good column today about how we keep hearing all these statistics about one in 50, one in 10,000 events; somehow they all seem to be happening on Labor’s watch in the last six months. The truth is when that happened, there was no gas-fired power station or coal-fired power station that could be brought online to deliver the energy that South Australia needed. The Northern Power Station is closed, at the time, they said they couldn’t compete with the subsidies for wind power. That was one of the reasons they closed, so pretending wind power has nothing to do with South Australia being able to respond to that energy crisis of the last week is denying the facts. Northern Power Station would not have said that they couldn’t compete with wind power subsidies if that wasn’t true, and at the time the Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said there were no subsidies, and it had to be pointed out to him by his own Department that in fact of course there are State Government subsidies for wind power. So he had to back down on that.

So there has been a hell-for-leather approach to promote wind power. And that- that’s terrific, but by the same token, what is the Government doing to ensure there is base load power for South Australians in a crisis situation? Cyclones hit Northern Queensland, unfortunately, regularly, too regularly, but it doesn’t wipe out the power across Queensland. So the South Australian Government in 2016 in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, one of the top three or four wealthiest countries in the world, has not been able to guarantee its power for 1.7 million of its citizens. That is a failure that can only be sheeted home to the policies of the Labor Government here in South Australia, for which they need to answer.

JOURNALIST: What do you think they should do? Do you think they should slow the transition to renewables?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I think they have to look at the options to be able to guarantee base load power. Greg Hunt, the Minister – when he was the minister for the environment, warned of this in a speech in Port Pirie and he said there’ll be more blackouts and the prices will keep rising unless the Government can supply base load power that isn’t intermittent. One of the difficulties of wind power is it’s intermittent, it doesn’t replace coal fired or gas fired power generation. So, the Labor Government, whether it was a Labor Government in power or a future Marshall government that will be in power, if the public vote for a Liberal Government will need to look at the options for base load power in this state that’s reliable and not intermittent.

JOURNALIST: And – yeah, did you want ask about Wyatt?

JOURNALIST: Yeah, what do you make of former minister Wyatt Roy travelling to Iraq?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Wyatt Roy’s a very good friend of mine so I’m very glad that he is safe and out of harm’s way. If he’d asked me my opinion about whether he should travel to Iraq I would have suggested it wasn’t a great proposal. Our advice on the Australian Government is not to travel to Iraq for Australians. Obviously we have defence personnel there and security personnel there but he didn’t follow that advice and I think he’s obviously wearing a bit of egg on his face today as a consequence of that but I’m glad he’s safe and I’m sorry he travelled there and other Australians shouldn’t follow that example.

JOURNALIST: Is it your understanding that he’s done something illegal?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I haven’t delved down into the legalities or illegalities of it.

JOURNALIST: Should he be investigated whether he’s broken the law?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: As I’ve said, I haven’t investigated that. It’s not my area of responsibility, that’s a matter for others to judge.

JOURNALIST: How embarrassing is it for the Government when you have the Prime Minister pleading with Australians not to travel there and yet a former minister of this government has done just that?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, obviously it is embarrassing but it’s particularly embarrassing for Wyatt Roy, and he’s the one who travelled there, not me or Malcolm Turnbull or any current member of the Government. Our travel advice remains extant and Australians should follow it and I think the pillorying he has been given in the press is a wake up call to anybody else who is considering travelling there that it’s not a very good idea.

JOURNALIST: And what would you say to Wyatt next time you speak with him.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Don’t travel to Iraq.

JOURNALIST: Okay, well, has the Australian Government received any requests from France to help prosecute any Australians involved in the recent leak of DCNS documents?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not that I’m aware of. You done?

JOURNALIST: Think so, thank you Minister.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Okay, thank you very much.


Media Contacts

Rory Grant: 0439 764 809,

Eleisa Hancock: 0427 981 990,

Defence Media (02) 6127 1999

Other related releases