Well, what an exciting business! Here we are in Adelaide, Fugro Laser Airborne Depth Sounder – an Australian technology developed, commercialised, taken to the world, developed originally for Australian naval purposes and is now exported right around the world.
We've just seen how this technology is examining and mapping the seabed off Samoa; in the Gulf of Arabia. This is a great story. This is the exciting future of the 21st century economy that awaits Australians if we continue to successfully transition from traditional manufacturing, from a mining construction boom, to the technology-based innovation-based businesses, applications, industries of the future.
This is what every lever of our Government is pulling towards. Every lever of our Government is pulling towards the growth and the jobs of the 21st century and so that's why I am delighted to be here with the Defence Minister, Marise Payne; with the Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science, Christopher Pyne; and of course the Liberal Leader in South Australia Steven Marshall to announce that the Centre for Defence Industry Capability will be established here in Adelaide.
This centre will ensure that the businesses, the innovators, the food growers of the future are able to connect with Defence and Defence is able to connect with them.
We have an enormous budget for Defence and we need it to keep our country secure. But we want to make sure that as far as we can, every dollar possible is spent here in Australia. As far as possible, every technology, every innovation that we can draw from the genius of the Australian people is put to work for our defence, because we know that not only will that make us stronger and more secure but it will also build on the jobs and the export potential in the future.
This is a very exciting time for Australian defence industries because they are at the cutting edge of innovation and as you can see here and as Marise and I saw in Canberra last week, at CEA, the phased radar array technology firm, again a world leader, like Fugro here. What you see is if you put your faith and your dollars behind Australian innovation, as we are doing, if you commit to that, if you commit to that for the long term as we have in the Defence White Paper, then you’ll drive the jobs, you’ll drive the innovation, you’ll drive the prosperity and the security which we deserve and our people expect in the 21st century.
Now I'm going to invite Marise Payne to say some more about the centre and then of course the Minister for Innovation himself, Mr Pyne.
Thank you very much Prime Minister and Christopher and Steven, great to be here this morning.
That is a fabulous ad for the Defence Industry Policy Statement, which was launched with our white paper this week and really is an essential reset of the relationship between Defence and defence industry in Australia.
And Mark thank you so much for having us here at Fugro LADS this morning, it is a great location as the Prime Minister said. The technology here at Fugro LADS actually came out of the old Defence, Science and Technology Organisation now our Defence, Science and Technology Group and really sets a path in being here today to show industry and frankly to show Defence, how we can continue and build on that sort of fabulous work.
What the Defence Industry Capability Centre is all about is industry development, is innovation, all the things that the Prime Minister's just mentioned and is competitiveness. Being able to take the work Fugro LADS, the work of CEA radar and so many other companies, many of which are here in South Australia, internationally and put Australia where it needs to be, where it often is, on the world stage.
And Fugro LADS demonstrates that perfectly. The work that they've done here internationally is absolutely exemplary. So between Defence and industry and Mr Pyne's department, we are building the Defence Industry Capability Centre to do exactly that, to facilitate that relationship, to build that relationship and to put that relationship at the forefront of our engagement with Australian industry and Prime Minister it's great to have the opportunity to be here to announce that today.
It is! Christopher.
Well thank you very much Malcolm and firstly can I welcome you to South Australia and of course my colleague, Marise Payne, the Minister for Defence and Steven Marshall, the Liberal Leader, who’s doing a fantastic job in rather a thankless task of Opposition but he’s doing a fantastic job.
It's great news today for Adelaide to have the Centre for Defence Industry Capability cited here.
Adelaide is the centre of defence industry in Australia and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability cements that reputation but the important thing about the centre is it's going to be very proactive in creating jobs and growth in defence industry. Making the most of the Government procurement dollar, bringing together business and the Defence Department, making sure that business knows what Defence needs and can then provide it and Defence knows what's available in the Australian defence industry and then can use it rather than looking overseas.
So this has a long-term impact. Sure the physical site of it will be here in Adelaide and the people who’ll be working in it, about three dozen workers will be working in it, but it will actually have a much greater impact across the economy as it maximises the jobs and growth in the defence procurement dollar.
It's also a recognition that Adelaide has been doing a good job in defence industry for decades really since Tom Playford made a play for defence industry back in the Second World War and I think it's a day of great joy for the South Australia voters and the electors who see our growing economy.
Prime Minister, does this now mean whilst this is a great announcement for South Australia, that Offshore Patrol Vessels are now, pretty much we’re headed in the right direction for those as well?
Well, there is a competitive evaluation process underway. Minister do you want to add to that?
As you’d be aware there is a competitive evaluation process underway. We indicated that the $30 billion Future Frigate Program would be based here in Adelaide and that the Offshore Patrol Vessels would be engaged in a competitive evaluation process slightly differently from that. Those results will be announced later in the year.
Can I just emphasise this, I mean this centre is obviously a national centre. It is based in Adelaide because the very substantial defence industry presence here in South Australia and makes sense for it to be here but it will obviously be covering the whole nation.
Can I also say that I cannot stress to you enough how important I regard the commitment of our defence dollars as far as possible to Australian industry. There is no question that – this is a matter of profound national importance, that as far as possible we use our defence dollars to drive Australian industry, Australian innovation, because the benefits go well beyond the defence budget. As you build these industries up, as you build that tradition of innovation up, people will move from those industries into those businesses and move into other areas, as you've already seen in South Australia and you will see much more of that.
The focus of a strong, credible defence policy is to make Australia and safer and stronger. And we make ourselves stronger, not just by having a strong army and strong Defence Force, we make ourselves stronger by building our economy.
So, this is a critical element in our innovation strategy. Every lever of my Government is pulling in the direction of ensuring that we have a strong transition to the 21st century economy and that is built on innovation. It’s a key element, it's a key element in our future, in our future strength and security and prosperity.
I’m sorry, you will have to, one at a time. The stereo was confusing.
Have leaks and disunity caused today's Newspoll result?
I'll leave you to plough through the entrails of the polling results.
Prime Minister, it is a disappointing result though for you, after the giddy heights of last year.
There's so many talented commentators on the opinion polls I will leave it to you. I will stick to my job.
You did talk about Tony Abbott's, you know 30 Newspolls I think he was behind in. That’s one of the reasons why you changed the prime ministership, so…
All of these…
What is your view on your fall in the Newspoll, is it something you're concerned about? Is it a reason to bring forward an election?
Thank you for your editorial. It's very interesting…
It was a question, it was a question…
It’s very interesting, but we are focused on the – we are here talking about the defence of Australia. We're here talking about the 21st century economy of Australia and we have here the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Innovation and the Prime Minister, and what we'd like to success is those big economic issues.
Are there any questions on that?
On South Australia, should South Australians be worried that our naval ship building work force will be so severely depleted before the frigates come around because the Offshore Patrol Vessel contract will go to WestERN Australia? Do we have reason to be concerned about that?
Can I say to you firstly, the South Australians are paying a price, as the nation is, for six years of Labor neglect and doing nothing on naval ship building. I mean, six years of doing nothing. Two white papers, but no commitments, no orders placed.
Now I'd ask Marise to expand on that as the Defence Minister.
The Prime Minister’s quite right. And you know that not one single order for one single naval vessel was placed in the entire term of the previous government.
What we have already undertaken is to announce in the white paper the acquisition of 12 future submarines, to bring forward the acquisition of the future frigates and to confirm their build, their construction here in Adelaide, to bring forward the acquisition of Offshore Patrol Vessels. The AWDs, as you know, are underway, and, one alongside in the water at Adelaide now, one on the hard stand and one coming together.
They are concrete examples of a government that is actually taking decisions to address the issues that you've raised, Paul. We know they're serious issues and I treat them very seriously. Any job loss is a matter of concern. But what we have underway is a serious program of naval reconstruction for the Australian Navy to address precisely that.
There is a lot of concern about whether the submarines will be built in Adelaide. Can you give a commitment that you will be able to say one way or another a result of where the submarines will be built even if an early election is held?
Well, as you know, there is a competitive evaluation underway and when that is complete then announcements will be made.
Marise, did you want to add to that?
It won't be a commitment before the election?
The competitive evaluation process will be completed and a decision will be made after due and careful consideration. This is a very important decision. We are making decisions. We are getting things done. We've succeeded six years of Labor government where they made no decisions at all.
So we are going – these are big calls. The critical responsibility for us, as three of the leaders of the Government of Australia, as three of the members of the Australian Cabinet, is to ensure that we make the big calls right. That we get the big issues right and that's what we're doing and that requires due deliberation.
This is not government on the run, careful consideration from that will flow sound decisions.
The iron ore price was up 20 per cent overnight. Does that take the budget pressure off for you guys?
Commodity prices move around, as I think we all know, and obviously a higher iron ore price is better for Australian iron ore producers which ultimately flows through into better revenues. But beyond that, I can't really add anything more than that because these commodity markets are big, are very big liquid markets and they do move around a lot.
Speaking of the budget though, Prime Minister, are you open to bring it forward from May 10 or is that where we're going to see it handed down?
The Budget will be delivered in May.
Prime Minister, just on one quick question, the Premier of South Australia will ask the Commonwealth to dig deep to help out the Arrium steelworks at Whyalla. Are you prepared to dig deep? Is the Commonwealth prepared to save that company?
We're certainly in very careful discussions with the Government of South Australia.
Industry Minister, do you want to say something further about that?
Certainly. Mike, well, obviously we're very concerned about the steelworks at Whyalla. They are the only steelworks in Australia that produce construction steel. At Port Kembla they obviously produce flat steel, roofing products, etc. So, it is a strategically important industry.
Arrium is working with their workforce and with their board and with their debtors to try and work their way through it. I was very pleased that recently they had a recapitalisation plan which will go to their debtors to determine whether that will be accepted but I'm hopeful that will be the case, that will buy them some time.
I've asked the Anti-Dumping Commissioner to bring forward some decisions around Asian steel that's been alleged to be dumped in Australia and circumvention cases, where duties have already previously been applied on products and those products have been changed in a most minor way to avoid the duties.
There's, I think, half a dozen of those cases that are yet to be decided and the Commissioner has told me he will be able to bring those forward to me very soon.
What about Federal money Minister?
Well, that will make quite a difference, in fact, to the board's confidence about the market.
So, you can commit money today to that?
Well, what I’m saying is we’re using the levers, as the Prime Minister has talked this morning, I’m using the levers that are available to me as the Minister to do things that are immediately within my power to help the Whyalla steelworks.
Arrium is doing their part, the employees of Arrium are doing their part and I'm very confident we will be able to work our way through it.
In terms of cash grants, there hasn't been a request for a cash grant from the business and they've talked to me about how we can all work together to make Arrium operate successfully.
The South Australian Government might make that request today. There are things that we can do to help Arrium. We're considering all of them. We're not ruling anything in or out at this stage. I think it's moving in the right direction.
Can I just say thank you very much, Mark from Fugro for showing us through your amazing centre of laser technology.
The innovation that you've commercialised here is an example that I hope many, many others emulate.
The centre that we've announced today is going to enable many more businesses, small businesses to grow into big Australian businesses, big Australian exporting businesses in the future.
Now, on that note we must take our leave because a Cabinet meeting calls.
Thank you very much.