SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

NICK CHAMPION MP

SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR MANUFACTURING

MEMBER FOR WAKEFIELD

TRANSCRIPT

11 March 2016

DOORSTOP – AUSTRALIAN SUBMARINES CORPORATION

TOPICS: JOBS, LIBERAL PARTY’S BROKEN PROMISES TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SHIPBUILDING JOBS

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much for coming. It’s always good to be here at ASC, but it’s not good when we have a Government that keeps betraying South Australian jobs. So I’m here today with my Labor colleagues, also with Steve Georganas, the candidate for Hindmarsh, with Nick and Senator Anne McEwen, but most importantly with workers and unionists representing the people who work here.

Malcolm Turnbull’s been in South Australia lately, he’s been in South Australia this week and he’s been telling us how much he cares about South Australian jobs. And he’s announced with great fanfare a Centre for Defence Industry Capability. Well Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for South Australia is 36 jobs for South Australia, 3000 jobs for Spain. Turnbull’s plan – 36 jobs for South Australia, 3000 jobs for Spain. It’s very clear what his priorities are.

Now, let’s understand the supply ships which have been sent offshore, when the Government tells you they had to be built overseas don’t believe them, because it’s just not true. And we know it’s not true because not only the advice we got in government but we know from the Senate Committee that shipbuilders here have said these ships could have been built here. These ships could have been built here and we could have made sure Australian jobs could have been supported.

But this isn’t the first betrayal from the Liberal Government. South Australians remember David Johnston coming down here and telling these workers behind me and telling South Australians everywhere we would have 12 submarines built in South Australia. Well, we’re still waiting. And what everyone should remember is Malcolm Turnbull’s White Paper does not deliver that promise. It does not deliver that promise because it leaves open a completely offshore build for the submarines.

And then of course we’ve had Malcolm Turnbull tell us that the offshore patrol vessels would start here in Adelaide. Well Malcolm Turnbull’s White Paper does not deliver on that promise, does not deliver on that promise. South Australians have experienced what the workers behind me have experienced, is betrayal after betrayal when it comes to South Australian jobs.

So what I’d say to Mr Turnbull – stand up for South Australian jobs and deliver your promises. 36 jobs for South Australia, 3000 jobs for Spain is not a plan for jobs here in our State. So I’ll throw now to Nick Champion.

NICK CHAMPION, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR MANUFACTURING: I have here the Spanish newspaper report which has a picture of one of our Navy supply ships under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And what this headline says is it’s a historic day for Cadiz in Spain. 3000 Australian jobs, that should have been at this shipyard with these workers standing behind us, have been exported to Europe, to Spain. And the Spanish Mayor is bragging, bragging about the historic day for the Port of Cadiz.

This is a disgraceful betrayal of the workers behind me, a disgraceful betrayal. And it is a disgraceful betrayal of our national interest and our national sovereignty and it cannot be allowed to stand. This Government must come clean with the Australian people about what they’ve done with these supply ships, not just the two that they’ve tendered for now, but the third one that’s coming up in the mid-2020s. It’s time for this Government, the Turnbull/Abbott Government or the Abbott/Turnbull Government to come clean with the Australian people. And today you’re going to hear from union officials, you’re going to hear from unionists, you’re going to hear from workers, who are all angry about this terrible decision.

Joe Szakacs, secretary unions sa: Thanks everybody for being down here today. The message from the workers here at ASC is very clear. They’re just sick and tired of political games around their jobs. Malcolm Turnbull told us last week that there’s never been a more exciting time to be Australia, well I think there’s never been a more exciting time to be a Spaniard worker.

It’s now the time to bring these jobs home to South Australia. It’s not too late and our message is very clear to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals. Bring these jobs home, bring these jobs home to South Australian working people. These hard working men and women behind me today, they’re the most highly skilled, highly specialised workers amongst our economy and Malcolm Turnbull wants to send their expertise offshore. These men and women, they shop here, they pay their rent and mortgages here in Adelaide, their families go to school both here along the Peninsula and right across our State, they pay local taxes. Don’t you think they’re worth $1 billion of investment? Don’t you think South Australia, don’t you think that our local economy is worth that $1 billion, Malcolm Turnbull?

Our message is that we’re not going to stop this fight. We’re committed to taking this fight all the way through to the election, because there is nothing more important to our community, there is nothing more important to the men and women behind me today than our local jobs. We’re willing to fight for that, we’re committed to fighting for that and I’m very pleased that we’re joined here today by political representatives, the likes of Senator Wong, Senator McEwen, Nick Champion and Steve Georganas, who are absolutely committed to that fight as well. Thank you.

ANDREW DANIELS: Hi, my name’s Andrew Daniels. I work here at ASC. The decision to send those two supply ships is pretty disgusting. Three years ago I started as a delegate here, I started campaigning for future shipbuilding in Australia. Since then we’ve lost Forgacs, 900 shipbuilders. Their jobs are gone, that shipyard’s gone. We’ve got BAE in Williamstown, that shipyard’s just about closed. And ASC here, well we’ve got 42 job losses coming up on April 13 here with the submarines, and another 66 jobs next door at the south shipyard. The future’s not looking good here.

We can’t just keep sending jobs overseas. 1300 jobs in shipbuilding in the last two years have disappeared. This Government’s only going to be known for one thing when they finally do get kicked out, for the job losses in manufacturing in Australia. They dared the car companies to leave, they left. They allow cheap steel to come into Australia, Whyalla’s suffering from that. And now they send ships overseas and we suffer for that. They’ve got to take a stand, they’re voted in by Australians to support Australians. It’s about time they take a stand for Australians. Thanks.

JOURNALIST: These ships that are being built in Spain, what would it have meant to ASC if they had been built here instead?

DANIELS: Well, it means work for at least four years, five years, there’s $2 billion there. The lads next door, they wouldn’t be getting laid off.

JOURNALIST: So over in Spain there’s 3000 people who’ve got a job now. How does it make workers here feel that the 3000 jobs aren’t them, or people in Adelaide’s northern suburbs?

DANIELS: Have a look at their faces. Look at their faces. Look at these young lads here, they’ve got a future in shipbuilding if we can get ships. If we don’t get ships these young lads here, they haven’t got a future. They’ll be on the scrap heap like the other 1300 shipbuilders who have already gone down the road.

JOURNALIST: Defence Minister Marise Payne has said that we don’t have the capacity here to build the ships. Is that untrue, because of the size of the ships?

DANIELS: We do have the capacity. It needs a $50 million injection into the ship lifting stall to allow it to bring it up to capacity, to lift that ship. When they talk about the ship, you talk about it being a certain size and weight, but when it’s dry, nothing in it, it’s lighter. So we need to upgrade that to a 25,000 tonne, you must be able to pick that ship up. We can still build modules here. We can actually make the modules here and ship them, if that’s the case, and then ship them to Spain. Similar to what they’ve done with the helicopter landing ships, they actually made the hull and then shipped it across and BAE finished it off. We could actually do the outfitting of the ships when they come back, there’s work there for Australians, there’s work there for Victorians, South Australians, New South Welshmen.

We’ve got to get these ships, we’ve got to get something. They can’t just keep on giving all this work away to overseas.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) frigates being built here though and the language is positive around the submarines. Does it get to a point where potentially ASC is being greedy in wanting all the projects?

DANIELS: I can’t speak for ASC. I can only speak for the workers here, that’s who I’m elected for. You’ll have to talk to management if you want to talk about whether they’re greedy or not.

JOURNALIST: Just say, if the Federal Government invested $50 million on a better ship lift that’s bigger and has more capacity-

DANIELS: -Increase the capacity, yes.

JOURNALIST: Then there was full capacity for this $2 billion project.

DANIELS: That’s what we were told two years ago, yes.

JOURNALIST: And it hasn’t happened.

DANIELS: No.

JOURNALIST: Andrew, can you give us a sense, from a workforce perspective, this continued uncertainty around the future of this yard, what sort of impact is that having on yourself and your colleagues behind you?

DANIELS: In six weeks’ time I may not have a job. Ok, six weeks’ time. No, five weeks’ time. On April 13 I may not be here. I may not have a job. I’ve got two kids, one’s disabled. I need my job, I need to have an income. But, yeah, I’ll be out there looking for a job if this place lets me go.

JOURNALIST: We’ve been told that ASC was out of the running on this job for a while now, the jobs that have been sent to Spain. Have you been campaigning during that time to try and change that and bring it here?

DANIELS: Yes, we’ve been lobbying. The unions have been lobbying every year for the last three years to try and secure work and we’ve talked about this in Canberra with politicians and it wasn’t just ASC that was locked out. Every industry, every shipbuilder in Australia was locked out. The only people who could tender were Spain and Korea, that’s it. They were the only two countries that could tender, no Australians were allowed to tender for this work.

JOURNALIST: Can I get a response from you too as well, Senator? What do you make of the fact that this has been in the pipe works for well over two years, the fact that it’s a limited tender process. Why all the noise now?

WONG: The noise is because of the people behind me. These are men and women who are highly skilled, who could have done this work, who have been excluded by this Government, a conscious decision by this Government to exclude this yard and shipbuilders around Australia from this work. And I again say what I said before, the Turnbull Government’s plan for South Australian jobs – 36 jobs for South Australia, 3000 jobs for Spain.

JOURNALIST: Just on the point about too many contracts for ASC-

WONG: -You know I listened to your question, you said the words are pretty good around the submarines. Well they’re just words. Let’s remember they’re just words. The Liberals keep telling South Australians here’s all the good news and then when you look at what’s actually happening, jobs are not coming here.

So we’ve had the big fanfare before the election, 12 subs here. Malcolm Turnbull’s White Paper does not deliver that promise. It leaves open the opportunity for a completely offshore build and people need to understand that. What I’d say to Mr Turnbull is this: you should be making a decision before the election to build the submarines here, you should be delivering on your promise because what we have learned, to the detriment of the people standing behind me, is that you can’t trust the Liberals when it comes to South Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it a bit unrealistic though to expect that all the contracts would go here, surely there is a maximum (inaudible)

WONG: That’d be a good problem to have, wouldn’t it? That’d be a good problem to have if we actually had the problem that we had too much work here. That’s not the problem we have. The problem we have at the moment is people being laid off.

JOURNALIST: Do you need to take any responsibility though? The Federal Government repeatedly makes the point that decisions weren’t made under the Labor Government.

WONG: I’m always interested, and I’m sure South Australians are, at the extent to which this Government for the whole of this term will blame Labor for everything. It’s pretty impressive. We’re going to be blamed for the heatwave next.

Let’s be really clear, we did a lot of work with ASC, the men and women behind me, on the sustainment of the submarines. They did what we asked them to do they improved the material ready days, we did a lot of work on that. As you know there were two big contracts which were let just prior to us coming to government – the Air Warfare Destroyers was one of them and these men and women did a great job on that as well.

But on the supply ships, we made clear before the election that we would bring them forward and we would ensure that Australia would be part of that build. This Government, after the election, said no we’re sending it offshore. That’s the difference.

JOURNALIST: Should the former Federal Labor Government then have budgeted $50 million or so to upgrade the ship lifts?

WONG: All I can say to you is this: when we were in government the shipyards had jobs, the shipyards were working. They’re in government, people are being laid off. People can make up their own minds.

JOURNALIST: The Government has said that while Spain is the preferred option, they’re in negotiations and they haven’t locked it in yet. Would you like to see-

WONG: -Has someone told the Spanish that?

JOURNALIST: Do you think there’s any chance and would you like to see them pull out of the deal with Spain?

WONG: Look, since the election Andy, his members, the unions, people who support South Australian jobs, have been saying to the Government build these ships here, build these ships here. And they haven’t been listening.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s reasonable that we probably won’t have a decision on the submarines and OPVs before the federal election?

WONG: What I’d say on that is that you just can’t trust what the Liberals will say on South Australian jobs. Time and again they’ve promised us jobs here and their actions have been very different. Andy went through it. We saw what happened to Holdens. We saw Joe Hockey, who’s now got himself a different job, but Joe Hockey goading Holdens to leave. Well, they did. And we’ve got a federal election coming and what I’d say is I don’t trust, and I don’t think people behind me trust, what the Liberals say about South Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Government’s claims though, that this shipyard didn’t have the space or the capabilities to deliver this particular project?

WONG: Well, I’d refer you to what Andy said, which is consistent with the evidence from the shipbuilders during the Senate Committee hearings over the last couple of years. It’s a convenient excuse for the Government.

JOURNALIST: Just briefly on another matter, if you don’t mind.

WONG: Anything else on this? Ok, let’s go.

JOURNALIST: With regards to the possible bill which could trigger a double dissolution election, would you like to see that debated next week?

WONG: Hasn’t it been fascinating to watch Malcolm Turnbull? Malcolm Turnbull was elected with such high hopes, wasn’t he? High hopes inside the Liberal Party, high hopes across the country, that he’d be different. And all he’s doing is running Tony Abbott’s election campaign. He’s delivering Tony Abbott’s policies and he’s going to deliver Tony Abbott’s election campaign. A negative election campaign, an election campaign that’s about hacking into unions, hacking into working people, and a scare campaign. That wasn’t what people elected him for.

On the ABCC bill, which is the one I think you’re referring to, we’ve got our position and our position is clear. I think the more interesting thing is that the Greens are delivering to Malcolm Turnbull the things he wants for a double dissolution, which is the changes to the Senate voting. Ok, thanks.