LEON BYNER: A multi billion dollar submarine project designed to provide thousands of jobs is at risk if the Coalition is elected. That was suggested by the Premier Mike Rann today. Now, I notice that the Opposition Defence Spokesman, David Johnston, was reported in Perth saying that it might not be feasible to build 12 submarines in Adelaide and the project would be reconsidered by a Coalition Government. Now, Tony Abbott did say … he is signalling that he intends, according to some, to cancel a submarine contract but Abbott has denied that that is the case. So what’s the score, Simon Birmingham? … did David Johnston … say what has been reported by the Australian Associated Press?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … David’s comments have been mischievously taken out of context by Premier Rann in a bit of a desperate last minute election stunt. The Coalition remains absolutely committed to building submarines in Adelaide. We remain absolutely committed to Adelaide being the centre in Australia for building naval infrastructure. We were the ones that gave the air warfare destroyer contract, being the Howard Government, to…
LEON BYNER: … did David say that it might not be feasible to build 12 submarines in Adelaide and the project would be reconsidered? Did he say it, yes or no?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … David was being asked about the feasibility of the submarine project and what he was commenting on was the fact that … the Labor Government has not committed one dollar to these projects yet. They’re promising them but it’s a promise on the never-never; they’ve not committed the dollars to the feasibility that has to go into actually making the projects happen. So he was being very critical of the fact that the Rudd Government and the Gillard Government hasn’t put the money on the table to start the ball rolling. He was indicating that we will do so and he was indicating that we will do so in a way that is absolutely committed to the project happening in Adelaide. How it happens, the detail of how it happens, the feasibilities around it, are things that responsible governments need to get on and do. We’ve had too many instances of Labor coming into Adelaide making promises about something that will happen in 10 or 20 years’ time but we’re actually committed to doing the hard yards, putting some money on the table, having the feasibility and making it happen.
LEON BYNER: Are you telling us that the promise of building these submarines was also dependent upon a contribution from the state? How much was that contribution?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon …I don’t recall the… and I obviously wasn’t part of the promise because it was a Labor Government promise originally set some years into the future. We have committed over a long period of time to naval infrastructure in this state. The Howard Government gave the air warfare destroyer contract to Adelaide, it was because of having strong Liberal representation in the Howard Government that delivered it and I can guarantee you that the Liberals elected in South Australia want to see naval infrastructure built in this state. We want to make sure that the submarines are built here, they will be built here under a Liberal Government. But unlike Labor whose promises exist on the never-never and often fail to materialise, David Johnston was saying we will do the hard yards and starting the feasibility work and making sure that there’s actually some timeline, some detail and some commitment for South Australia to live off it.
LEON BYNER: Did he say it may not be feasible to builds the subs in this state?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: David I think was … responding to a range of questions about feasibility…
LEON BYNER: … the press have reported the statement that, quote, ‘It might not be feasible to build 12 submarines in Adelaide’. Now, you know as well as I do that in an election campaign that is political dynamite.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Indeed and … I’m not disputing that he said those words. What I am saying is you need to look at the whole context of the interviews he was having and that context was being critical of the fact that the Labor Government have not committed to the feasibility work necessary to build these submarines in Adelaide. They haven’t committed to even starting that work. We will get on and commit to doing that and we anticipate that we will do it in a way that shows they can be built and they will be built in Adelaide.
LEON BYNER: Okay, thanks, Senator Simon Birmingham.