Defence Shipbuilding | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:44 :49 ): I rise to speak to this motion. I appreciate the fact that the Premier has brought it forward, and I wholeheartedly agree with it, as does the Leader of the Opposition and as do my colleagues. We wholeheartedly agree with the words in the motion. I will get to them in a minute, but it is important to point out that it really is just a stunt. As the Minister for Defence Industries has clearly outlined, it is really just an attack on the Liberal Party. That is what this is being used for, and that is completely inappropriate for such a serious issue.

This is a continuation of the government trying to use the blame game. Both the Premier and the Minister for Defence Industries have talked about the federal government stopping the car industry by saying that we cannot build cars here. General Motors decided that they could not build cars here. They actually said, ‘It would not have mattered how much money the federal government gave us, we would have had to go anyway.’ It is a public quote.

Members interjecting:


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: A public quote, Deputy Speaker. This is just about the government trying to use this as a stunt and trying to use it as a blame game, as they did on 5 March last year. A very similar motion was used on 5 March last year, but there was one key difference. Last year, the member for Waite thought a very similar motion was a stunt. He thought it was just politics and talked against it. I invite people to check Hansard of that date. Today, he thinks it is a good idea. Today, he is on the other side, so today he thinks the stunt is a good idea to pursue.

Let me just say that we support the motion. We support the motion even though we know that it is being used as a stunt. Let me go through the words the Premier has used:

(a) condemns the remarks of the commonwealth d efence minister that he would not trust the Australian  Submarine Corporation (ASC) to ‘build a canoe’;

Of course, that is blindingly obvious. It was a dreadful thing to have said, and I bet nobody regrets it more than the defence minister does. Nobody would regret that decision more than he does. While the Minister for Defence Industries says that he has not heard it, the Leader of the Opposition was extremely strong in his rebuke as soon as that remark was made. Publicly, privately, in our meetings, in the media and everywhere he went last week he was incredibly strong about rebuking that remark. We agree that it deserves to be condemned, and I bet that the Minister for Defence, David Johnston in Canberra, agrees too. The motion continues:

( b) reaffirms its support for ASC workers and all other South Australians employed in the defence industry;

Of course we do. We know how important this is. We understand the issues about defence industries. It is actually a much bigger industry than the automotive industry. It is a dreadful shame that we have lost the automotive industry, but this is an even bigger problem that faces us and we understand that.

There are 25,000 or 27,000 people with families, children, mortgages and other commitments working in the defence industry, and nearly 3,000 of them are working directly on shipbuilding and submarine sustainment. We understand how very important that is, and we took a package of policies to the last election that would have supported enhanced employment and enhanced business growth. Unfortunately, we cannot put those into place, but our support for those workers has always been there and will never, ever change. The motion also states:

(c) demands that the Abbott Liberal government upholds its elec tion commitment to build the 12  future submarines in Adelaide;

Of course, that is what we want, and I would say that anywhere. That is exactly what I want, and I am hoping and working, like the rest of my colleagues and I believe members of the government are doing so as well, to convince the federal government that that is exactly what should happen. There is no disagreement about that here. It continues:

(d) notes that Australians should have the right t o trust the word of its leaders—

and this is a very important point. The Premier has said:

(d) notes that Australians should have the right to trust the word of its leaders when it comes to decisions that affect the national security of this country.

Why on earth did the Premier put in that last bit? Why not just stop with ‘Australians have the right to trust their leaders’? Why did he say ‘when it comes to issues that affect national security’, which of course have nothing to do with the Premier or with the state Labor government?

I wonder why he decided to leave those words out. Would it be because of the promise of 100,000 new jobs that is not going to be fulfilled? Would it be because of a promise that there would be no job losses from the privatisation of the forests in the South-East? Would it be because the government promised the police Recruit 300 program and has failed there as well? Would it be because the government promised not to tax the family home, yet has introduced an increase to the emergency services levy and that increased money goes straight to Treasury? Not one extra dollar goes towards the emergency services sector.

Would it be that maybe that is why the Premier added that last bit, that this motion only refers to leaders and their decisions that affect national security? All leaders should be responsible for what they say. That last bit should not have been added; however, with the last bit in, we agree to the motion as well. I would have preferred that it was not there, but we agree with every single part of this motion.

So, anybody who comes in here and tries to pretend that it is not true is just making stuff up. Anybody who comes in here and tries to pretend that they do not know that the Leader of the Opposition has been out doing exactly this work very publicly for a long time is just making stuff up. Anybody who pretends, and particularly a person who has not done so himself, that the Leader of the Opposition has not gone to Canberra to advocate on shipbuilding and submarines or that the shadow minister for defence industries has not done it, and anybody who pretends that that is not happening is just making stuff up.

The Minister for Defence Industries should do exactly the same thing. The Minister for Defence Industries should go to Canberra and do what the leader has done and what I have done, to try to do everything possible to represent the workers of South Australia in this very important industry. We agree with every single point of the motion, and anyone who tries to pretend differently is playing politics. Anyone who says that there is any difference with regard to the government and opposition in our opinion on this motion, that person or that group are actually the ones who are playing politics with this issue.

Where are we really with submarines at the moment? It is an incredibly important issue; we understand that. We want the 12 submarines and future frigates to be built here—of course we do. That is exactly what we want, and I know the Minister for Defence Industries understands this. He knows defence better than anybody else in this house. Step one: the Navy must get what they want. That is the absolute highest priority. Defence says, ‘These are our priorities, these are our specs, these are our quantities—this is what we need.’ That is first of all.

Once those priorities are identified, we can only buy what we can afford. It is an unfortunate truth: we can only buy what we can afford. We cannot break that fact of nature. Then, after that, where do we go? We want as much to be built, bought, employed, used and to come from South Australia as possible. We understand that there are other states in Australia that deserve to share some of that work, but we in the state opposition, just like the state government, want as much of that work as possible to happen in South Australia. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

We need the right products at the right price and as much of it as possible coming from South Australia. We need this because it supports our economy for decades to come. It is a gigantic, huge contract, but it is not just about the purchase price. It is actually about the next 20, 30 or maybe more years of sustainment work that can be done in South Australia. This is about trying to set our economy up for decades to come. We understand that, that is why we are fighting for it,