Monday Night Q & A: The Submarine Deal


Satyajeet Marar, Member of the MACQ Liberal Club

The Turnbull government has awarded a 50 billion dollar tender for the construction of 12 state-of-the-art submarines to French company DCNS. The decision is a win for both Australian national security as well as Australian workers as it is set to create over 2800 new jobs with the submarines built within our own country.

At 25,670 km, we have the world’s 6th longest coastline. Combine that with a population concentrated overwhelmingly along the shore and geographic isolation from our major defense allies and its easy to understand why ensuring our borders are defended is a uniquely Australian challenge. Keeping our Navy well-equipped with the latest technology and resources is paramount and timely given the heavy investment our neighbours continue to pour into their own navies and our current reliance on obsolete electricity and gas powered submarines.

The move is great from an economic standpoint too. Economists have long recognised the potential liability of our narrowing economic base. Dependence on the energy and service industries has intensified in the wake of a declining manufacturing sector that can’t lower costs enough to compete with Asian economies. Conversely, our well-educated and qualified workforce means that we can gain from developing more sophisticated manufacturing that nations including Japan and those of Western Europe have benefited greatly from. However, ensuring that we can unlock this comparative advantage within our region calls for the import of foreign knowhow and expertise. France is internationally recognised for its naval defense capabilities. DCNS’s merits are further confirmed by its track record in building over 100 submarines for 9 of the world’s navies. The use of Australian steel for construction is also a plus for our mining industry that has taken a beating in recent years due to falling commodity prices worldwide.

The decision is also a victory in the foreign relations sphere as it is set to bolster the strategic partnership between our two nations. The relationship remains important due to similar challenges we face with regard to to border protection and a mutual interest in combating international terror networks that have fostered barbaric attacks on both Australian and French soil. The French premier’s decision to hop on a flight to Canberra to further discuss the development of economic partnerships in the wake of the tender’s grant confirms that there may be more exciting opportunities for Australian businesses and workers to come in the future.

Perhaps the most telling reaction of all to the move is that of the Labor party who has praised the decision even in the prelude to a federal election. Opposition defence spokesperson Stephen Conroy hailed it as a “win for the people of Adelaide” where the submarines are to be put together. Macq Liberal Club certainly agrees.


Aidan Galea, MQU Labor Assistant Secretary

It was only three years and an entire parliamentary term coming, but alas the Liberal Party has finally decided that Labor was right all along in supporting Australian manufacturing and ensuring that South Australia does not devolve into a banana republic. The Coalition has decided that this was one election promise that they ought not to break.

Initially the Liberals were willing to let South Australia wither on the vine, abandoning the one project in heavy manufacturing that South Australia had left – shipbuilding and submarines. The Abbott government’s callous disregard for the South Australian economy and the people who need it was summed up by the Defense Minister’s comments that he wouldn’t trust the ASC to ‘build a canoe’.

Now, in a desperate attempt to stave off the Nick Xenophon insurgency, and save Chris Pyne’s hide, they have back-flipped on their firm commitment to Japan, and pork barrelled South Australia to the tune of $50 billion dollars. It’s enough to make a corrupt Congressman blush. While Labor welcomes this investment into local industry, and recognition that local high-tech manufacturing is necessary if we’re build a viable economic mix, it is clear that the Liberals do not share the same enthusiasm for jobs in local manufacturing as Labor. This is an entirely cynical move by those on the conservative side of the fence as evidenced by their incessant flip-flopping on the issue depending on who was ahead of the opinion polls at any particular point.

The importance of building these submarines in Australia isn’t just limited to creating the 2,800 construction and manufacturing jobs that this project will result in. It’s about helping to ensure the future and viability of an entire industry of workers. With Australia’s car manufacturing industry withering by the year, it has never been more important to ensure that mechanical manufacturing workers are able to find high skilled, productive work and training programs such as this submarine project. Otherwise, we face the risk of an entire industry of skilled workers being now unemployed, or isolated from their preferred industry; a brutal blow to the livelihoods of thousands of Australians.

Labors’ belief in building these subs in Australia also makes sense from a national security standpoint. Whilst it is unlikely that we’d be in any sort of diplomatic conflict with France or any other international tender nation anytime soon, when the stakes are so high, it’s best not to leave anything to chance.

Labor have consistently called for our submarines to be built in Australia, for economic, social justice and national security reasons. After three torturous years, it’s great to finally see the Liberals proceed with Labor’s plan, even if it’s the Libs just engaged in cynical pork barreling in order to save Christopher Pyne’s bacon.