Doorstop interview, Govan, Glasgow

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

31 August 2022

SUBJECTS: Hunter class frigates; Solomon Islands naval visits; Australia-UK relationship.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s fantastic to be here in Govan, in Glasgow, to see the progress on HMS Glasgow, the first of the Type 26 frigates which are being built for the Royal Navy. This is the reference ship for the Hunter Class vessels which we are building in Australia. The lessons which are being learnt right here in Govan enable us to hit the ground running in Adelaide. What we’re seeing is a really impressive undertaking. This is a project on an enormous scale, but what this is high‑tech, high‑scale manufacturing that we are going to see happen in Australia, and I really want to thank BAE Systems for hosting us here today and showing us around HMS Glasgow.

Amongst the people we met today who are working on HMS Glasgow were a number of Australian shipbuilders, part of a program which has seen 80 Australians come through here to get their skills which they will take back to Adelaide and, in fact, Perth, which will help them build the Hunter-class program. And it’s a really exciting initiative to see those people working here, and we’re actually going to see that exchange happen in the other direction. As we get the Hunter‑class program up and running, we will see people for whom this will be their home base come and also get experience in Australia. But this is part of the growing relationship between Australia and the UK. This is a fundamentally important project for Australia’s Navy and it was really fantastic to see how the progress is going here, and we really look forward to seeing this evolve in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the progress in Adelaide will be as speedy as the progress here in Govan?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, there have been delays with the Hunter-class program and we’ve been speaking with BAE Systems about that. We’ve had a really frank conversation not only today, but over the last few months, about what the government expects in respect of getting the program on track. The frigate really is the heart of our service fleet, and it matters that we get that program on time, delivering for the Australian Navy, and we have seen real progress being made here in the British program and we’re confident that we will see that same progress in Australia in terms of getting the program on track.

JOURNALIST: So, when do we get our first frigate compared to when the British put this ship in the water?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, this frigate is expected to be operational in 2028. Right now, the expected time frame for the first of the Australian Hunter-class is 2031. We’re obviously working with BAE Systems to see whether we can get that date sooner, but we are looking at that as the date for the first and we hope that we can get the subsequent ships in the program in the water as quickly as possible.

JOURNALIST: Minister, turning to events at home, would you support delaying or even slashing the next stage of tax cuts so that you’re not funding tax cuts for the rich, but maybe speeding up defence procurement projects like this one?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think while I’m abroad I will leave domestic commentary to those who are at home, so you’ll forgive me for not giving a comment to that question.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Australian ships will be welcome in Honiara?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, that is ultimately a matter for Solomon Islands, this is their decision‑making. But we are doing everything we can and we believe that we are the natural partner of choice for Solomon Islands, that in doing the work – and you have seen a focus from this government, from our Foreign Minister Penny Wong in visiting Solomon Islands, on building our relationship with Solomon Islands, I’m confident that in doing that we will be the natural partner of choice for Solomon Islands. It is ultimately a matter for them, which we respect, in terms of how they manage naval business.

JOURNALIST: I mean is the idea that one day when our frigates are in the water, we would be seeing them around the Pacific? Is the threat China, is that who it will be guarding against?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: These ships will help protect Australia’s interests in a world in which the strategic complexity is as grave as at any point that we have really seen since the end of the Second World War, and it’s the whole environment which is complex. But these are going to be the most high‑tech antisubmarine warfare ships that we will see in the water. We are really confident about that, and they will make an enormous contribution to Australia’s naval capability.

JOURNALIST: Why has it taken so long for a member of the new government to come to the UK when we are bedding in one of the most important military agreements that we’ve ever signed?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve been in constant contact with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has obviously got its own political processes on the way at the moment and so –

JOURNALIST: So, has that delayed a visit that you might otherwise have made?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are obviously respectful of the processes that are happening in another country, but we’re really pleased to be here now. It’s very important to see this facility. Tomorrow, we’ll be at Barrow where submarines are  made by Britain and BAE Systems. That’s going to be a really important visit as well, and we look forward to that very much. And, obviously, I’ll be catching up with Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, who I’ve already spoken to on the phone. This is a really important relationship for Australia. Obviously, in the context of AUKUS, but before AUKUS, with our history with the United Kingdom, but through the frigate program, it is actually a relationship which, whilst being our oldest relationship, is one which is being given really significant contemporary life.

JOURNALIST: You saw the former government use gates in the contract subs deal –


JOURNALIST: We saw the former Government use gates in the contract to exit the subs deal. If you’re not happy with the progress of the frigate build in Australia under BAE, is this something you’d consider for this project?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, we’re working really closely with BAE Systems to make sure that the Hunter program is brought back on track and is ultimately delivered in a timely way for Australia’s Navy. And we are confident that that is what will happen, and we are pleased that the project is getting back on track and that we are going to see the capability delivered in a timely way.

JOURNALIST: And are you still meeting the (inaudible) procurement schedule on your ships?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we’re working on the existing schedule.


Other related releases