Bill's Transcripts

FIVEAA INTERVIEW WITH LEON BYNER - Australia’s Future Submarines; Abbott Government’s broken promise on submarines






SUBJECT/S: Australia’s Future Submarines; Abbott Government’s broken promise on submarines.


LEON BYNER: Earlier this morning I caught up with Bill Shorten about the submarine contracts. If it is Labor Party policy to build the subs here in South Australia are you prepared to say to the Federal Government – ‘cause there’s an election next year – ‘well do not sign any agreement with an overseas builder because if you do we won’t honour it?’


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Let me state first of all that this morning in Adelaide I will be announcing on behalf of the Labor Party – that Australia’s future submarines will be built, maintained and sustained in Australia under the policy we are announcing today. When I go to the question of contracts if the Government rushes a contract through, this is Labor’s view: we think the Government when it’s making a tens of billions of dollars decision which will effectively be the most significant naval deterrent Australia has for its national security the Government  should adopt a bipartisan process and it should be transparent. We will honour contracts but with a $50 billion construction and maintenance project spanning 40 years, I would be appalled if the Government rushed in some sort of political gain to sign away the next 40 years in a contract barely weeks or months before a scheduled election.


BYNER: So are you expecting them not to sign an agreement to build the subs in Japan or overseas somewhere else before the next election?


SHORTEN: Well, on one hand there’s concern that there’s been a secret deal already done between Tony Abbott and the Prime Minister of Japan, although we get mixed messages out of the Government about the nature of the deal and the certainty of that deal. When you’ve got tens of billions of dollars of contract, get the right process then no-one can complain about the outcome.  When things are done behind closed doors with tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money with thousands and thousands of jobs at stake, with advanced manufacturing and indeed the most fundamental deterrent for naval national security, the Government does no favours to the nation by keeping this process secretive and by rushing things.


BYNER: Bill, given that the election is next year and it’s probable that we won’t have a decision until later this year, are you prepared to put it on the line to say to the Government quite officially ‘ look don’t sign an agreement for overseas because we won’t be building subs overseas if it’s anything to do with us’ but you’re saying ‘no, I can’t do that.  We’ll honour the contracts even if we don’t like them?’


SHORTEN: What I’m doing is thinking about the future, not just the latest political game in Canberra. Today I will be offering bipartisan support for a proper procurement process for our future submarines.


BYNER: But they’ve said they won’t do that.  They’ve got this thing called ‘competitive evaluation’ they’re sticking to this, you know that.


SHORTEN: Well they’re weasel words. I’m hoping that once the Government sees the fuller range of our proposal that not only will the Government realise that this matter shouldn’t be something they rush on some secretive arrangement but  I’d be interested to see what other people say about the right way forward to go is. When you are looking at spending $50 billion over the next 40 years, when you are looking at building 12 submarines our key deterrent in terms of our navy and our national security – I think it would be appalling if the Government was to try and rush matters. I hope that the better angels of common-sense give the Government room to recognise that Labor’s not saying that people just have to do it our way. We’re saying let’s do it the Australian way with a transparent process.


BYNER: But Bill, that’s all fine but the Government have said that they’re not going to do that what leverage have you got? What leverage can you use to stop the Federal Government from doing this deal when you guys were in government you could have made the decision but you didn’t, you put it off and off and off and now the Feds have got this decision and we may not like what they want to do.


SHORTEN: First of all the Government hasn’t made the case that there is the rush to have it done by December of this year. We accept that the previous government spent $200 million developing the process to get it where it is. The real reason why the Government’s saying that they have to rush through whatever botched process – and I think everyone agrees they botched the process – the real reason why they are saying that is there is soon to be a capability gap if we don’t just go with the truncated process that the Government is proposing, the Abbott Government’s dragged its feet since coming to Government. It’s clear that the work on future submarines has been focussed on delivering the Prime Minister his captain’s pick of having Japan build these submarines.


Expert after expert supports Labor’s process for choosing our new submarine fleet. We’re confident that if they adopt our approach there won’t be a capability gap. The Government needs to stop focussing on retro fitting Tony Abbott’s unilateral captain’s pick. We’ve seen the Government’s capable of changing its mind to chase a few votes in a leadership spill. The other thing is which we can’t afford to lose sight of – and you never have in this process – the current Government stood out the front of the gates of the ASC and said they’d build them in Australia.