Motions: Defence Equipment

12 May 2020

Senator Patrick: I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) the Collins class submarines are a vital capability for Australia,

(ii) historically the Collins class had poor availability, at worst not one was available to go to sea,

(iii) after a significant commitment of resources, and more than half a decade, submarine sustainment has improved, now achieving world benchmarks,

(iv) the current sustainment model works, and

(v) there is a proposal before Government to disrupt the sustainment model and move Full Cycle Dockings from South Australia (SA) to Western Australia which would:

   (A) result in a huge loss of corporate knowledge from Australia's submarine sustainment organisation,

   (B) inject significant challenges and risk into submarine sustainment,

   (C) reduce submarine availability, thereby damaging national security, and

   (D) achieve at best the current performance, and thus cannot represent value for money; and

(b) calls on the Federal Government to:

(i) recognise the success of the current sustainment model, and

(ii) continue the current sustainment model, retaining all Collins class submarine Full Cycle Docking activities in SA.

Senator Cormann (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate): I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 526, standing in the name of Senator Patrick.

The PRESIDENT: Is leave granted?

Senator Patrick: The motion has been on the Notice Paper since February. I'm denying leave to have a last-minute amendment.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is denied. Senator Cormann?

Senator Cormann (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate): Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving the amendment as a motion.

The PRESIDENT: This motion is no longer subject to debate. It is immediately put to the Senate. So I will put the motion to suspend standing orders to the extent that it allows Senator Cormann to move an amendment to the motion moved by Senator Patrick. I remind senators they have the ability to avoid the need for divisions by recording party votes in the Journals of the Senate through the process adopted last time. Senator Patrick and Senator Griff, do I take it you would like your votes recorded as voting against the motion? Those two votes are recorded as against the motion.

Senator Cormann: I move:

Omit subparagraphs (a)(ii), (iv) and (v) and paragraph (b), substitute:

(a)(iv) recognises the demonstrated skills and expertise of the existing Collins Class submarine sustainment workforce,

(v) notes the Government's statement that a decision on future full cycle docking arrangements is yet to be made and that it will be made in the national interest; and

(b) agrees that future full cycle docking arrangements for Collins Class submarines must best guarantee optimal ongoing availability of our nation's submarine capability throughout the transition to the fleet of twelve new Attack Class submarines.

Senator Patrick: I seek leave to withdraw the motion.

Leave not granted.

Question agreed to.

Senator Patrick: I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator Patrick: Just so people who are watching this are clear as to what is going on here: I put a motion to the Senate recognising the great work that has been done down in Adelaide in the sustainment of Collins class submarines and asking the Senate to agree that that work should stay in South Australia, where the expertise is, to avoid a billion-dollar cost which we can simply no longer afford in the face of what has just happened to this nation. What's happening here is that neither Labor nor Liberal want to recognise that that is the best place for this to happen. We know last time government senators were not in the chamber for the vote, and it was the same with Labor the last time around. This is just a stunt to avoid making a commitment to South Australians.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'll go to Senator Cormann and then come to you, Senator Roberts.

Senator Cormann (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate): I seek leave to make a one-minute statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator Cormann: Nothing could be further from the truth. The work that is being done by the workforce in relation to Collins class submarine sustainment is very important, and the workforce is doing a great job. There is a process underway, which is a matter of public record, of assessing the optimal future configuration of the submarine sustainment effort in the context of our transition from Collins class submarines to Attack class submarines, but that will be a decision made in the national interest. Clearly, Senator Patrick has moved his motion knowing that no decision has been made. He knows that a decision will be made based on an assessment of the national interest. He knows that these decisions will not be made by a Senate motion. That is why the government has moved this amendment, which the Senate has supported unanimously, which recognises the demonstrated skills and expertise of the existing Collins class submarine sustainment workforce and, of course, a number of other matters. (Time expired)

Senator Roberts: I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator Roberts: We supported the original motion. The current sustainment model that supports the Collins class submarines works well in South Australia, and it is not warranted to move this to Western Australia. Of greater significance is the absurdly expensive contract that the government signed to purchase 12 new submarines over the next 20 years. The current cost of building them with all peripherals is now around $200 billion. Has this government gone mad? In the middle of this pandemic, we cannot afford to proceed with this contract. This money would be far better spent supporting the Australian recovery from the economic pit that is being caused by the pandemic. By the time these submarines are delivered they will be obsolete. They are a complete waste of money that would be far better spent elsewhere. The cost of $400 million to cancel this contract is a pittance compared with proceeding. We need to dump this new subs contract.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the motion moved by Senator Patrick, as amended by the Senate, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

Bills: Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 - Second Reading
13 May 2020
Senator Patrick: I thank the whips for assisting me as I juggle committee and chamber duties.
Read More
Petitions: Regional Australia - Airports
13 May 2020
Senator Patrick: I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to the petition on regional airport security.
Read More