Narelle Graham: Let’s go to Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training also Liberal senator for South Australia. Thank you for being available senator.
Simon Birmingham: Good afternoon, great to be with you.
Narelle Graham: And, why France?
Simon Birmingham: Well Narelle, France was chosen – DCNS of France –the company chosen as our preferred international partner after a very extensive and thorough evaluation process. Obviously there were three countries invited to put forward proposals – the Germans, the Japanese and the French and we went through a very thorough assessment against the capabilities of the submarine proposals, the cost and the local industry content and local benefits from it and in the end they were three high-quality bids but France stood out across the metrics of consideration…[indistinct]
Narelle Graham: [Interrupts] And, Minister Simon Birmingham, what was it that stood out about France? We heard the Premier Jay Weatherill say just before that, you know, he agrees that it’s less than 10 per cent of this build that’s going to happen over in France and that is some specialised components – was that one of the big selling points as to why the French bid was successful over the others?
Simon Birmingham: Well absolutely the local industry capability and strength that the French will bring to partnering with Australia and partnering down there at ASC and building that local industry capability was a key factor but on top of that we have to recognise that first and foremost we are procuring the submarines for Australia’s strategic defence and so we have to get the submarines that are best for our navy. So we’re confident we got the best submarines for the navy at an appropriate price that will deliver of course, long-term industry certainty and opportunity to South Australia.
Narelle Graham: Let’s talk about that price – the $50 billion contract – so how much of that has to be spent in Australia on this as the Prime Minister said, ‘Australian jobs, Australian steel,’ really marked the Australian side of things. So $50 billion, how much of that stays here?
Simon Birmingham: The vast majority of that will be spent in Australia –
Narelle Graham: [Interrupts] Can you put a figure on it?
Simon Birmingham: And well you’ve heard of course DCNS themselves saying that less than 10 per cent of the build activities would occur in France [indistinct]…
Narelle Graham: [Interrupts] Which is not the same as costs though is it though?
Simon Birmingham: What happens is we move to the next stage of the procurement process here. Submarines are the most technologically complex thing that are being built in Australia. So to proceed to this next stage, we will sign a legal and binding agreement with DCNS that’ll go through a much more detailed design phase of the submarines that’ll identify exactly how the construction will take place. But you can be guaranteed that Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear ever since he became Prime Minister that he wants to maximise the amount of work that is done in Australia because he sees this project as being incredibly complementary to the Innovation Agenda that Malcolm has championed. This is about hi-tech [indistinct]…
Narelle Graham: [Talks over] And I appreciate…Senator I’m sorry we are very short of time and I understand you have your points to get across and people need answers on some questions that haven’t been answered today either so I do want to flick through them. So the entire build to be in South Australia – obviously we’re talking about France being involved with those key components that have to be built in France, less than 10 per cent of the overall build. What about the rest of Australia? There was talk over the weekend that part of the work might be done in Western Australia, is that still happening? Or are we talking about the rest – the 90 per cent or plus – being done here in South Australia?
Simon Birmingham: So the submarine work is well and truly centred around South Australia. What we’ve acted on is expert advice about how we structure shipbuilding and submarine building and sustainment in Australia which is to really centre the activity around two shipyards. So we will have the shipyard at, down there at TechPort in South Australia which will build large naval vessels and the submarines and manage the sustainment of the submarines. Over at Henderson in Western Australia, smaller naval vessels and other sustainment activities will take place. Really the decisions we’ve taken over the last few months have been driving towards that type of approach that gives a big centre here. The big point that I would also highlight out of today’s announcement though for South Australia, and sort of, all of the Australian steel industry, is that I think this really is about the first time that as part of an announcement of what’s occurring in these shipbuilding activities, a clear commitment’s been given that it’s not just Australian construction, Australian build, Australian submarine, but it will be using Australian steel as well, which is a very critical reassurance [Indistinct]…
Narelle Graham: [Talks over]…Certainly very good for Whyalla and Arrium. Is that where the steel could come from? From Whyalla?
Simon Birmingham: Aspects of it yes, that’s my understanding. There are different types of steel required for the different parts of the vessel of this nature but I understand there are components that could certainly come from there.
Narelle Graham: Are you able to put a dollar figure on that?
Simon Birmingham: Look not at this point in time…
Narelle Graham: [Talks over]…Look we have to leave it there, Si-
Simon Birmingham: [Indistinct]…the commodity level in terms of the different parts…
Narelle Graham: [Talks over] Sure, thank yo-…
Simon Birmingham: We should celebrate great news for security of jobs today and seek to leverage off this in the types of jobs and industries we can deal with in making these submarines
Narelle Graham: Thank you Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, Liberal Senator for South Australia.