Press conference - Opening of Naval Group facility, Port Adelaide

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Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC

Minister for Defence

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Nicky Hamer (Minister Reynolds’ Office): +61 437 989 927

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16 October 2020

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LINDA REYNOLDS: …the future submarine program. It’s a step change for defence industry here in Australia, it’s a step change for manufacturing in Australia, and it is a step change for jobs here in Australia.

This project, as we have seen demonstrated here today, is on time and it is on budget. And we now have over 250 Australian workers at this new Naval Group facility here. So it is something that all Australians should be incredibly proud of, that we have not only delivered this project during COVID but we have so many wonderful Australians who are using their hands and their minds to develop this new program.

The package of works – the $900 million package of works – for 23 new pieces of equipment to be manufactured for the first time here in Australia. And that is a tangible demonstration of the success of this program and also of the successful collaboration and also of Naval Group’s intention and also delivery of jobs and over 60 per cent industry content here in Australia. From the Australian government’s perspective that 60 per cent is not a maximum; it is a starting point. And today we have seen the next step in that becoming a reality.

It’s wonderful to be here today with my colleague Senator Simon Birmingham and also the Premier of South Australia, who has been such a tireless champion for this project and also for defence industry here in Australia. Senator Birmingham.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks very much, Linda, and thank you so much for coming today for what is a significant milestone for South Australia, for Australia and importantly for our defence industries and the future capability of our Navy.

What we’re celebrating today is the fact that real jobs are being created here, more jobs will be created here and Australian industry is getting an even greater opportunity to buy into this project. When our government announced the commitment to build submarines here in Australia we also committed to build a capable defence industry that would deliver us with sovereign abilities for the future to support and grow defence service and support that as well as to grow other industries and businesses around the country.

The announcements by Naval Group today aren’t just about opening an office; they’re about demonstrating that sovereign capability for Australia will be achieved through the contracting of work never before done in Australia to Australian businesses. And it’s a wonderful celebration and achievement of yours, Linda’s, and of the government and of Naval Group working in partnership with the South Australian government to make sure that across the board this project delivers the Navy the capability it needs for the future, our country with a stronger defence industry in the future and creates the type of jobs and opportunities that we all wish to see generated as part of a Navy capability and defence industry for the future. Thanks very much. Premier.

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, a massive thank you to the Federal Government for their investment in C-1000, the Attack Class submarines, 12 submarines to be built right here in South Australia. It’s been a dream. It’s been a long time coming, and now we’re finally seeing the headquarters for the Naval Group right here in Port Adelaide already supporting 250 employees in South Australia. They’ll be at 300 before Christmas, and there are thousands and thousands of jobs in the defence sector on their way to South Australia.

This is a rapidly growing area. It’s an area that the Federal Government is investing in, not just in maritime but, of course, out at Edinburgh with the great work that’s being done out there by men and women out at Edinburgh in ISR and EW. So many different platforms that South Australian men and women are now supporting. So we’re very grateful to the Federal Government. This is a happy day. A happy day for South Australia. A happy day for the men and women of the Naval Group and a happy day for Port Adelaide. And on that note, go the Power.

JOURNALIST: Senator, can I just check with you on the question of sovereign capability, it’s the case, then, that there’s still a chance that work will go overseas if you can’t meet your thresholds there.

LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, we look at that completely the other way around. Our previous position and Naval Group’s demonstrated commitment is to do as much of this as possible. In relation to the current work package -- $900 million worth of work package – these are for 23 pieces of equipment to go on all 12 submarines that are so integral to the design of the submarine that they have always been manufactured by Naval Group in France.

So Naval Group has already got several hundred companies that have given expressions of interest who can do this type of work. So Naval Group is now going out seeking more expressions of interest and will work with companies here to develop their capability to manufacture all 23 of these items. So our predisposition, as I said, the 60 per cent is not a maximum; it is a target to work from. And again, this is a great demonstration of working with Australian industry.

One of the things I would make the point is that sometimes in Australia we’re all too quick to criticise our manufacturing or to downplay our manufacturing and fabrication sectors here. Australia is one of the most capable manufacturing and high-end fabrication nations in the world, and we are doing extraordinary things here. So what this project does is take the start point is we can do it here in Australia. And guess what? We can.

And as I said in my speech here today, we have every confidence that Australian companies can do the majority of work here because we have 60 Australians currently in Cherbourg in France – they’ve been there for a couple of years, and their families – and they are learning the know how and the know why to bring that IP back to Australia so that we can design and build – not only assemble the submarine here but build as many of the components here as possible because we are incredibly capable in the job. So this is all about our nation’s security, but it’s also about, as we said today, multi-generations – fifty years - of work for Australians in this project.

JOURNALIST: Is there any change to the contract change proposal between Naval Group’s, including its pledge to reach that target?

LINDA REYNOLDS: We’re just finalising the contractual arrangements for that. So that will be finalised by Christmas. We’re in the process now of dotting the i’s and crossing the t ‘s. But as you can see from this, we haven’t waited. As you can see from today’s announcement, we haven’t waited for that contractual change to be finalised. We are implementing it now.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you’re obviously in Port Adelaide, and we’re talking about jobs for the future. What about the current jobs? What guarantees can you give the workforce at ASC at Osborne that the submarine maintenance positions will remain in South Australia?

LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, ultimately this is a national program, a national ship building program. It’s not just Western Australia and South Australia; it’s in New South Wales, we’re in Queensland and Tasmania. So this is a national enterprise. And we have to continue to grow the workforce to 15,000 Australians in our naval ship building strategy. So the strategy itself has been designed and is being implemented to ensure that we have the workforces available in South Australia, in Western Australia, in Cairns and in Darwin to make sure that we can not only build but also sustain and maintain. So we are looking at this as a national workforce to make sure that we have a growing workforce in all locations.

JOURNALIST: Will the jobs remain here? It’s a very simple question, Minister.

LINDA REYNOLDS: And I answered it very clearly to say not only will the workforce stay here in terms of numbers, in terms of numbers, the numbers will grow here in South Australia. Again, I thank the Premier because, again, just before we came here we were talking about how do we grow the workforce not only here in South Australia and sustain it for the next 50 years, but also how we do that nationally.

JOURNALIST: I think it’s a question of whether the full cycle Collins maintenance is going to continue to be done in Adelaide or whether that’s going to be moved to Perth?

LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, I think the Prime Minister said here recently – and I’ll restate again today – that the government will make the decision on full cycle docking when it is the right time to do so for our naval ship building plan. Today was all about taking that next step change in the future submarine program, which we clearly have done. And we will take a decision on full cycle docking when it’s the right time to do so.

JOURNALIST: What would constitute the right time? I understood previously that the decision was supposed to have been before Christmas or the end of the year. Could you give us an indication of at least a timeline, not the decision itself?

LINDA REYNOLDS: I would very say very good try. But, again, as I’ve said, we will make the decision when it is in the interests of the project and also the wider national ship building program.

JOURNALIST: And the decision hasn’t been made already?

LINDA REYNOLDS: No, it has not.

JOURNALIST: Any other questions to anyone else?

JOURNALIST: Yes, I have a question for Senator Birmingham. Minister, within months you’re going to take over oversight of ASC. Do you want to see the jobs stay here?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I’m not yet Finance Minister, and I’ll deal with those issues when I’ve taken on the portfolio and been sworn into it and briefed appropriately.

JOURNALIST: As a South Australian Senator would you be advocating for them to stay in South Australia rather than it be shifted?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: As the Federal Finance Minister, when that occurs, I’ll be making sure that what we do is in the nation’s best interests for defence capability, as Australians would expect, to keep us safe and secure and, of course, wanting to make sure that we see the jobs growth that our government has promised occurring here in South Australia as part of the naval enterprise. And that’s what we’re witnessing today.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there would be risks associated with shifting the program from South Australia to Western Australia?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’ll be thoroughly briefed I’m sure in due course.

JOURNALIST: Have you been briefed on China’s clamp down on cotton exports?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, in relation to reports we’re getting from the cotton industry about disruptions to their ability to supply product into China, these are concerning reports. It is for China to rule out any action that may be discriminating against Australian producers, and I would urge them to do just that. Australia backs all of our farmers and producers to compete on the world stage in a fair and competitive manner. That’s why we’ve been such a successful exporting nation, and more than 30 consecutive months now of Australia exporting more than we import as a country. And we want to continue to back those exporters to be able to compete fairly, squarely and without facing discrimination in any corner of the world.

JOURNALIST: Premier, what did you make of Commissioner Vanstone’s statement yesterday?

STEVEN MARSHALL: We’re very pleased that she’s clarified that she’s no longer taking a look at many of the people who were previously under some scrutiny from the previous commissioner. So we’re very pleased with that level of clarification.

JOURNALIST: Former ministers Knoll and Whetstone, will they be returned to cabinet?

STEVEN MARSHALL: No, I’ve made it really clear that I don’t envisage that there’ll be any changes to the cabinet through to the election, which is in March ‘22.

JOURNALIST: And then afterwards?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, that’s a long time away. So we will have a look at that. But, look, I’ve made it very clear that their resignation was, you know, based upon removing the distraction to the government. We suspected right from day one that there hadn’t been anything untoward with what had occurred. And, so, look, they’re both very, very capable ministers and they could return to the cabinet in the future. But there certainly won’t be any changes between now and March 2022.

JOURNALIST: And so they’d be eligible for cabinet in a second-term Marshall government?


JOURNALIST: Premier, on jobs, you’ve just heard the response from both the Defence Minister and the incoming Finance Minister, are you concerned that these jobs still are in limbo?

STEVEN MARSHALL: I think what the commonwealth has made very clear is that there are thousands of additional jobs coming to South Australia. We still remain convinced that this is the right place to do the full cycle docking. We’re doing it. Now, we built the Collins class in South Australia and we’ve got a great workforce. But ultimately this is a decision of the National Security Committee. They haven’t made a decision. We continue to put forward our credentials to keep that work right here in Port Adelaide.

JOURNALIST: But do you concede the longer this drags on there is an increased risk?

STEVEN MARSHALL: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think that the longer it takes for the decision the more we are building up or workforce in South Australia. The most recent NCBR figures show that. We’ve had a massive surge in the number of students starting and completing their apprenticeships and traineeships in South Australia, which is completely against the national trend. And, in fact, the most recent figures show that we had an 11.9 per cent increase against an Australian decrease of 7.7 per cent. So this is an area that we said when we came to government we would focus on, developing our skilled workforce in South Australia, identifying those skills gaps and meeting them as quickly as we possibly could. And we’re delivering on that. And there’s still plenty more to go.

JOURNALIST: Premier, given the issues with the use of expenses this year in various forms, do you think the time is right for the Parliament to look at a parliamentary code of conduct again?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, that’s something that the parliament can consider from time to time. But, no, I think that at the moment the arrangements we have in place at the moment are clear.

JOURNALIST: Do you stick by that, I guess, in light of the former ICAC statements in this area that really he was quite limited in what he was able to achieve without a parliamentary code of conduct?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, I think those issues have been cleared up the existing commissioner.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, just on that, in what way do you think they’ve been cleared up? Can you elaborate on that?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, the commissioner, the new commissioner, has taken a look at all of the evidence and decided not to proceed.

JOURNALIST: But she hasn’t said that she doesn’t think a code of conduct’s not necessary.

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, look, these issues, you should probably direct to the commissioner rather than to myself and sort of interpreting what she has said.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, just, I guess, with the government’s current view, is it your view that a code of conduct is necessary or that’s not something you think should be pursued?


JOURNALIST: Premier, with regards to the Christmas pageant, what’s going to happen with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that’s already come in off the back of the sales of corporate tickets?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Where do you get your hundreds of thousands of dollars from?

JOURNALIST: It’s a calculation, Premier. There’s some 2,000 corporate tickets have been available and they’ve been sold –

STEVEN MARSHALL: I think you’re responding to the spurious claims made by the Australian Labor Party. I tell you one thing, I’ve become very sceptical about numbers that come from the Australian Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: Well, perhaps the numbers can come from you. How many tickets?

STEVEN MARSHALL: I asked the SATC this morning. They think the revenue from this line is around about $35,000. and all of that will go into defraying the costs associated with the Christmas pageant in its form for this year. Obviously there were calls for it to be cancelled because of the health concerns. We’ve come up with a unique way of going about it this year, which will involve not only people attending the Adelaide Oval, but, of course, a broadcast as well. Hopefully next year we can return to the normal format.

JOURNALIST: What about those who have already bought their corporate box tickets? Will they get to keep them?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Yes. I made that clear yesterday in parliament.

JOURNALIST: Premier, when were you first aware that there were corporate box tickets being sold for the event?


JOURNALIST: Premier, I understand you’re meeting with some Aboriginal elders today?


JOURNALIST: What are you hoping to achieve in that meeting?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Look, I am not only the Premier but the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation in South Australia. My door’s always open to meet with groups. There are complex issues. Some of them are state, some of them are federal. But even if they are federal, I’m very happy to be advocating for them on the national stage.

JOURNALIST: Do you see there being an inquiry into Aboriginal corporations in South Australia? Do you think that’s a prospect?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, it’s something which is sort of dealt with at the federal level through ORIC, not something which is dealt with at the state level. But I’m very happy to sit down and listen to what these groups are saying. If there are issues that we can assist with here in South Australia, well, then I’m happy to look at all of those. And if there are things that they would like me to be advocating to my federal colleagues, then I’m certainly happy to do that as well.

JOURNALIST: (indistinct) New South Wales borders back on the agenda?

STEVEN MARSHALL: Look, can I just make it clear that we are increasingly concerned about clusters in New South Wales. There are five clusters that we’re looking at at the moment. In particular, the cluster in Bargo and Beverley Park have some concern for us. I don’t think there’s a decision which is imminent, but our focus since day one has been listening to the expert advice, acting swiftly and keeping the people of South Australia safe, and that won’t change into the future.


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