Doorstop Interview, Osborne, South Australia
- Minister for Defence Industry
- Minister for Education and Training
- Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills
Topics: The Naval Shipbuilding College; Energy; Violence in SA
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, good morning everyone and thank you all very much for coming to this really important announcement here at Osborne. It’s a delight for me to be joined by the, I still call him the newly minted Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall, although he’s probably feeling he’s been there for a good few weeks now; and Simon Birmingham, of course, my Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Education; and the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Training, Karen Andrews, coming from Queensland.
But it’s also great to be joined by the consortium that are delivering the Naval Shipbuilding College. Apart from Huntington Ingalls Industries and Kellogg Brown and Root, who are the two who won the tender to deliver the Naval Shipbuilding College through the Naval Shipbuilding Institute that will be based here at Osborne, we also have a number of the representatives of those who’ll be delivering the education services in the Naval Shipbuilding College: the universities of Adelaide – Flinders, Uni SA; RMIT from Melbourne; the University of Tasmania, through the Australian Maritime College; our Defence Teaming Centre here in South Australia; but also as part of that consortium is the South Metro TAFE in Western Australia that has, of course, the shipbuilding assets there for building platforms in Perth; and of course, TAFE SA, which will also be providing significant services here in South Australia.
The Naval Shipbuilding College will be operated as a hub and spoke approach. So, initially the consortium, the Naval Shipbuilding College will match students, potential workers, with institutions that can provide the courses that the eventual employers say that they need to deliver the $90 billion naval shipbuilding industry for Australia, the largest build-up of our shipbuilding industry in Australia’s history – 54 vessels over several decades. Employers are going to be critical to saying what the skills are that are needed. The Naval Shipbuilding College will be critical to matching the potential employees with those skillsets, with the employers, to then create the industry.
So it’s a really interesting approach to the delivery of a workforce, which as I’ve said many times before, is one of the most challenging aspects of this $90 billion naval shipbuilding industry. We need 5,500 workers here at Osborne and at Henderson by the mid-2020s. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s certainly a challenge to deliver that number of highly-skilled individuals. Sixty per cent of the workers in naval shipbuilding are tradesmen and women, so we are creating jobs right across the economy, but there’s also engineers, mathematicians, of course, managers, many other skills – research and development. It’s a very exciting industry to be in.
Before I hand over to Simon and to the Premier, it’s great to be here at Osborne. As you can see, those of you who’ve been visiting with me now for a couple of years, we’re making tremendous progress. The Sydney is behind us; that’s to be launched in May. We just witnessed the Brisbane leading on sea trials with the Hobart, so all three Air Warfare Destroyers are here at the same time.
Lendlease has broken ground last year at Osborne South to build sheds that will be larger than the Adelaide Oval Stadium. Osborne North, just to the north of us, is where the submarine yard will be built, and of course, Naval Group have chosen KBR to work with them on the plans for that submarine yard. Again, a single shed larger than the Adelaide Oval Stadium. So you’re starting to get some sense of the scale of what the Federal Government is doing here in South Australia and for Australia in creating a highly-technical sophisticated new industry for our country and for our state. So thank you very much for coming along to be part of this important announcement, and I might ask, perhaps, the Premier- who wants to go next? Simon?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Premier can go next.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The Premier can go next, and then Simon and then Karen.
STEVEN MARSHALL: Very good. Well, thank you very much, Minister. A very happy day for the people of South Australia with the announcement by the Federal Government that the Naval Shipbuilding Institute will be the lead for the new Naval Shipbuilding College here in South Australia. This is absolutely critical infrastructure to make sure that we have the skills in place to deliver these wonderful national projects. We’re very grateful to Federal Government for their commitment to establishing this Naval Shipbuilding College. It’s an enormous investment, $62 million over the next three years.
This is going to be critical. Getting the skills in place will mean that not only will we deliver these massive projects for the Commonwealth in full and on time, but most importantly, there won’t be skills shortages flowing throughout the rest of our economy here in South Australia. We’ve been very concerned that these skills shortages that we currently have in South Australia will turn into a skills crisis without the requisite planning and infrastructure put in place. Now, that’s exactly what is happening today. This National Shipbuilding College will make sure that we have the skilled workforce in place as soon as possible. We’re really looking forward to this rolling out.
Now, from our perspective here in South Australia, one of the consortium partners, of course, is our TAFE. They’ve had some difficult times in the recent months. The previous government didn’t do what they needed to do to make sure that we had a high-functioning TAFE here in South Australia. Well, this is non-negotiable for this government. We’re going to make sure that we get TAFE right, because they will be a fantastic consortia partner, and they’re going to deliver for this Naval Shipbuilding College and more broadly, for the people of South Australia.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks Christopher, Premier, Karen, members of the NSI consortia, and indeed, their partner organisations who are here already.
It’s easy standing in this shipyard to really focus in on the ships, but the thing about our naval shipbuilding enterprise that the Turnbull Government is driving is that it really is a people focused and oriented enterprise and undertaking. It’s focused on ensuring that our naval personnel who serve on our ships and submarines will have regionally superior capability in the ships and submarines in which they serve, and that in building a national shipbuilding capability, we are investing in the Australians – the individuals – who will build those ships, who will sustain those ships, who will fill the jobs necessary to give us the warships and submarines for the future.
The Turnbull Government knows full well that one of the greatest challenges to the success of this mission is ensuring the education and skills of the people who will work on it, the people who will design the ships, who will build the ships, who will sustain the ships. That’s why we’re investing in the Naval Shipbuilding College. We are thrilled today to have such experienced partners joining us with global experience in driving the Naval Shipbuilding College forward. We’re delighted that it has a national footprint; that although there is, of course, strong engagement here in South Australia and across the three SA-based universities, the TAFE sector, as the Premier just identified. We also have partners from all other states of the country making sure that the whole supply chain who will feed and sustain naval and submarine shipbuilding and sustainment in the future is, of course, drawing from all of the skills of Australia, but building those skills so we have new skills and new workers able to build new ships for the future. It’s a great undertaking and we’re delighted to see this important next step in its delivery.
KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you, Simon. What’s happening today is important not just for Adelaide, not just for South Australia, but important for all of Australia. We know that we are facing an unprecedented skills shortage right across the nation, and where we have opportunities to showcase the great work that is happening here in South Australia, that quite frankly is leading Australia in developing the skills that our nation needs for the future.
So, the NSC is going to play an absolutely critical role in making sure that we are developing the expertise that is needed here, and reaching out to other states – to Western Australia, to Queensland, to other states – to make sure that we are building a skilled workforce. And with us today, we have two tradies: we have Chris and we have Simon. Simon from a [inaudible] electrical trades, and these are the sort of people that we need into the future to demonstrate that you can come in here, you can start an apprenticeship, you can go on to complete your trade, potentially develop your skills, go into engineering, go into supervision, go into management, but build your skills in shipbuilding, because that gives you the opportunity to not only start your career here, but to develop it and grow it and go on to a great reward in the future. And that’s the message that I want to give to the mums and dads and the grandparents right across Australia: that shipbuilding is here, it provides a great career opportunity and it’s here to stay.
QUESTION: Minister Pyne, does the college today represent, I suppose, the underlining of Rex Patrick’s claims last week that operations might move from here in the future?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Rex Patrick really isn’t very well informed about the naval shipbuilding policies of the Government and I’m not really interested in commenting on his latest musings. Obviously, the Government is getting on with the job. We’ve been doing so. We’re on schedule. We are creating the submarine and shipbuilding industries for the future. This morning, you can see the Sydney, the Hobart, the Brisbane – three Air Warfare Destroyers that are very much part of the future of our defences as a nation, but also our capacity in manufacturing and highly technical sophisticated work.
That’s the beginning. Soon, there will be Offshore Patrol Vessels in Osborne South, being built by ASC and Lurssen. There’ll be Future Frigates being built here in the same shipyard, either by Navantia, or Fincantieri, or BAE. Naval Group is established at Richmond – their headquarters. They’ve got about 100 workers there already and soon they’ll be starting on Osborne North to massively expand the submarine yard. That will employ 2800 people – 2200 in Osborne South – and everything you can see, as far as the eye can see, on the other side of the shipyard, will be built out with private businesses, with submarine yards, with shipyard sheds that are creating something for Australia.
So, there are always naysayers, and unfortunately Rex Patrick seems to have adopted that role of being a naysayer, as his predecessor Nick Xenophon did. We see what happens to naysayers. The public works them out. What we’re doing is getting on with the job and it’s very exciting. And the Naval Shipbuilding College is just the latest stepping stone for creating something in our country, and luckily for South Australia, that is based here for large platforms and Henderson for smaller platforms in Perth. So, it’s a great and exciting day.
QUESTION: There has been some concerns out of Tasmania, though, that their maritime [inaudible]. Can you [inaudible] that it won’t be [inaudible]?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Absolutely. The Australian Maritime College, which is based at the University of Tasmania in Launceston, and Peter Rathjen, the former Vice Chancellor of UTAS, is now the Vice Chancellor of Adelaide – Natalia Nikolova, is here representing the Australian Maritime College – will be a really intrinsic part of this consortium. Because the way that the Naval Shipbuilding College will work is the employers will say these are the number of people we need in skilled trades – engineers, mathematicians, others – and then they’ll go out to institutions. That’s what KBR and Huntington Ingalls Industries will do, through the Naval Shipbuilding College in phase one. They’ll say, where are those places, the institutions around Australia, and the Australian Maritime College will say - this is what we provide already. So, rather than duplicating that, we will use the Australian Maritime College’s capability. So, the students will go to the AMC, physically, for the first year or two, and then transfer to this shipyard or submarine yard here to learn some of their skills on the actual tools. That’s what the hub and spoke approach means.
So, this is an enormous boon to the Australian Maritime College, in the same way that it is to RMIT, the South Australian universities, TAFE in Western Australia, TAFE in South Australia.
QUESTION: Premier and Senator Birmingham maybe as well. Can you talk us through how you’ll make sure that TAFE graduates are up to scratch? Is it that you can guarantee all the courses will be totally above board, or is it that each individual student will get assessed before going to the college?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, both Steven and Simon might like to comment on that. I’ll simply say that the reason that the NSC is being announced today, rather than earlier in the year, is that we are satisfied in our discussions with TAFE SA that they can deliver the courses that are part of the necessary requirements for shipbuilding and submarine building.
QUESTION: Was there a political timeline for that, though? You could have had those discussions before the election.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We’ve been having those discussions since late last year. We weren’t satisfied late last year that TAFE SA was in a position to do so, because of the unfortunate scandal that engulfed TAFE SA under the previous Labor government. But we’re now confident they can provide those services. But, Steven and Simon might like to comment.
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, the reality is that Labor took their eye off the ball with regards to TAFE. TAFE is an incredibly important partner for the National Shipbuilding College. We’ve got to make sure that all of the courses are absolutely 100 per cent guaranteed, but I’m sure that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’ve already taken steps to dissolve the current board. We’ll be appointing a new board in the coming days. We will fix Labor’s mess at TAFE, and it will go on to be a very, very important partner here with the Naval Shipbuilding College.
QUESTION: What’s the latest on the process with ASQA? Have you had a briefing on that?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, ASQA are about to bring down their final report, obviously people saw the interim report before the election. It was very damning. It goes back to issues which have been problematic at TAFE and ignored by the previous government for far too long. Well, we’re not going to have that very casual approach to TAFE. As I said, TAFE is critical to the future of South Australia, to making sure that we have skilled people in place ready to deliver on these projects and on plenty of other projects right across South Australia. We’ll get TAFE right.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: And look, just to add to that, the reason we have an independent national regulator in areas like this is to have absolute confidence that, ultimately, standards are applied and are met, regardless of the area in which the training is being undertaken, regardless of whether they are a public provider like TAFE or a private provider or a community provider across the sector.
Now, ASQA will very shortly release the findings of their latest assessment of the information that TAFE has provided, but obviously TAFE SA has been given far more than a wake up call. It was told for a period of time that it was ineligible to deliver certain qualifications. If it is to be able to rebuild and restore its reputation, it’s going to take the type of leadership and reforms that the Premier has spoken of, but you can rest assured that the national regulator will stay very closely on the case in terms of making sure that TAFE SA is up to scratch.
QUESTION: On another matter, can I ask you about the childcare providers that have been shut down for rorting taxpayer dollars - just how calculated was this rorting?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’ve seen some appalling rorting of ultimately billions of taxpayer dollars, which, thankfully, the actions of the Turnbull Government has seen saved over the course of the last few years. When we came to government, there were only a few hundred compliance checks a year across childcare. Now there are several thousand per annum. When we came to government, there were no suspensions or cancellations of services, now we do so regularly and we believe we are getting firmly on top of ensuring that taxpayer dollars for childcare go towards supporting hardworking Australian families, not those who seek to rort and rip off the system.
QUESTION: But could better regulation have stopped this from happening in the first place?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’ve been putting in place better regulation and indeed it’s tragic that we inherited a situation where the regulatory structures were so lax and the compliance checks were completely absent in many places. That’s why we’ve tightened the regulations, put in place compliance checks, cancelling services, and indeed there will be a whole new wave of capability that comes with our additional investment in the new childcare system from July this year.
QUESTION: Will people who rort the system be trusted to look after children?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This is why we toss people out who are doing the wrong thing, If you are ripping off the taxpayer you shouldn’t be trusted with Australian children. If you’re ripping off the taxpayer and we can, we will prosecute you and send you to jail. There is a very clear message there for people who do the wrong thing when it comes to childcare subsidies: we are increasingly catching you, we are punishing you, and you will not get away with it.
QUESTION: A large percentage of these providers were in Victoria. Was that concerning for you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We do see regional hotspots that evolve over a period of time and we’ve seen that in the case of parts of Victoria, parts of Western Sydney, Waverley. This is why we work closely, then, with communities in those areas, including sometimes multicultural communities, to make sure that we educate them about what the law is, how it applies, and that people, of course, understand the compliance regimes that are in place and the very serious consequences that come for people who do the wrong thing.
QUESTION: Minister Pyne, this so called Monash Forum or Monash Group – have people from that group approached you and talked to you about their concerns?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I’m not sure that they have concerns. I think from what I’ve read, they’re interested in promoting different forms of supply of energy in Australia at affordable prices and reliable energy, and that’s exactly what the Turnbull Government is trying to do. Through an agnostic approach to energy supply, we’re supporting the largest renewable energy supply in the Southern Hemisphere and in Australia’s history, Snowy Hydro 2.0. So hydro, solar, gas-fired power stations, coal-fired power stations are all part of the energy mix in Australia. That helps to keep prices low, or reduce prices, and it helps to provide reliable energy. And, as we’ve seen in South Australia, if you have an ideological approach to energy supply, it costs consumers and it costs businesses in prices and reliability. If the previous government had kept open the Port Augusta Northern Power Station, arguably we would’ve had cheaper prices and more reliable power. They didn’t do that.
We don’t bring an ideological approach to energy supply in the Turnbull Government. We want to use all the skills available to us, all the talent available to us, and that is exactly why coal has a future in energy supply, just as wind does and solar does.
QUESTION: But don’t you think the fact that a group like this has formed potentially undermines the Turnbull Government’s message or the Turnbull Government’s energy policy?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not at all. Over many years we’ve had backbenchers, frontbenchers, engaged in establishing policy groups to pursue a particular policy agenda. When I was a backbencher, I curated a journal called Options magazine that had 18 editions - you obviously haven’t kept your 18 editions of the Options magazine - and that promoted …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: They’re quite collectors’ items.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I’m sure that you’ve got all of yours, Simon. The idea of policy debate is a very good one. We aren’t a Stalinist party. We want people to have policy contributions. Craig Kelly is not only part of the Monash Group, he’s also the chair of Backbench Environmental Committee. And this is what good parties do, they encourage everybody in the team to contribute to policy, and then the Prime Minister and the Cabinet make a decision, and then we all get behind it and get on with it, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last four and a half years.
QUESTION: Premier, on that point, though, aren’t you having a foot in each camp? Vickie Chapman’s press release today goes through the reasons why the diesel generator deal is a bit suspicious, but at the end of it you say you’re keeping them in place for the next summer?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, we need them in place at the moment. When Labor made the disgraceful decision to drive Alinta Energy out of the Northern Power Station at Port Augusta, we were left without that baseload backup that we so desperately need to support the intermittent renewable energy that we have in South Australia. We have no choice but to support the lease of the diesel generators to act as that back up, but that’s not the long term solution.
The Liberal Party’s solution in this area is to have an interconnector with New South Wales to provide that baseload power. Labor acted absolutely appallingly in terms of their energy policy, and that’s why we ended up with the highest priced, least reliable grid in the entire nation. Now, we’ll work diligently through the options to improve that, and one of those options is looking very carefully and forensically at the deal that Labor signed up in the dying days before they went into the caretaker mode. The reality is we want to make sure that taxpayers aren’t further encumbered because of the poor decisions that Labor made last year and the year before.
QUESTION: Is it possible to unwind the purchase of the generators in the long-term?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, we need to look at that. We still don’t have a clear picture as to whether or not the purchase option has been concluded. Now, we had a lot of talk. The contract looks pretty flimsy to me and we’re getting some extra advice, and as the deputy leader has announced, we’re appointing Mr Livesey QC to do that important work, and to do it as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: So they could still be sent back to, thanks very much for your lease, and here, you can have them back now?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, the commitment that I’ll make is that we will not be making any single decision which puts a further burden on the taxpayers of South Australia. We will not be further disadvantaging them because of the poor decisions that Labor made. But we need some time to look carefully at the contract and the actions of the previous government to make sure that we’re making the right steps moving forward.
QUESTION: Just on a subject [inaudible] what do you think this crack down [inaudible]?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, look, there are laws in South Australia. We’ve got to make sure that the laws that are currently in place are being administered. Now, the previous Labor Government were violently opposed to deregulation, despite fact that the vast majority of South Australians wanted increased trading times in South Australia. So, they took a very casual attitude to policing the laws previously. We won’t be.
QUESTION: But do you think this crack down on [inaudible] something that will [inaudible] businesses would be against it or actually flouting the law?
STEVEN MARSHALL: I think what we will find is that there are plenty of people who have been opposed to deregulation who are already operating well outside the existing laws.
QUESTION: But the net outcome could be less trading, if you stopped people who are sort of skirting around the laws. You actually could have less trading under a Marshall Government than you had under the previous government.
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, Alan, we will be very enthusiastically pursuing the policy for deregulation which we took to the election, where we won the support of the people of South Australia, and moreover, this option enjoys the great support of the majority of South Australians.
QUESTION: But is this crackdown just getting out of hand [inaudible]?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Unlike Labor, we’re not turning a blind eye. There are laws in place in South Australia. They will be administered effectively by our government.
QUESTION: Premier, there’s been a number of very concerning incidents involving [nic] southern suburbs [inaudible] violence over Easter. What can be done to address this?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, look, that’s an issue which really does need attention immediately. The reality is the reports that came out over the Easter long weekend were completely and utterly unacceptable. We won’t be tolerating this. I know the Attorney-General and also the Police Minister Corey Wingard have got things to say about this in the coming days. We need to understand exactly how these incidents occurred, but once we’ve done that, we will be taking corrective action; we will not be turning a blind eye to these incidents.
QUESTION: Just further to that, should all foot bridges have video surveillance?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, that’s an option we’re currently considering. It’s an expensive option, but the consequences of the actions of some people over the long weekend have made this really come to the top of the list.
QUESTION: [Inaudible] some of the youths involved are under state care. Is the system failing them?
STEVEN MARSHALL: Well, the system has been in crisis for a long period of time. The previous government had a very [inaudible] attitude towards child protection. You’ll see a complete change of focus in this area under the Liberal Government. We’ve already appointed the very first dedicated Cabinet Minister for Child Protection. This will put a much greater focus on this area. We don’t accept that this area should be in crisis. We’ll get it in check, and we’ll do that as quickly as possible. Thank you very much.