House of Assembly: Thursday, March 23, 2023



AUKUS Submarines

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Leader of the Opposition) (11:42): I move:

1. That in the opinion of this house, a joint committee be established to inquire into and report on matters relating to South Australia’s contribution to the AUKUS agreement, and particularly to consider—

(a) how to ensure that all submarines are delivered on schedule;

(b) education and training initiatives to build the future workforce;

(c) the role of the South Australian industry;

(d) opportunities from emerging technologies;

(e) the progress of task forces and working groups;

(f) interstate and international partnerships; and

(g) any other relevant matters.

2. That in the event of a joint committee being appointed, the House of Assembly shall be represented thereon by three members, of whom two shall form a quorum of assembly members necessary to be present at all sittings of the committee.

3. That a message be sent to the Legislative Council transmitting the foregoing resolution and requesting its concurrence thereto.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to move this motion today and to do so in a bipartisan spirit. There is absolutely no doubt that the AUKUS agreement is one of substantial transformational significance to Australia as a nation, but of course in a much more significant way to the state of South Australia and to the city of Adelaide. We do hope that this transformational project will have statewide benefits not only to the capital city but also to regional South Australia as well.

The opposition is calling on the Malinauskas Labor government to support this motion that would establish a bipartisan joint committee into the AUKUS submarines build and the anticipated benefits to South Australia to ensure that our state and our state's population, both now and well into the future, are poised and prepared to receive the benefits that will inevitably flow from such a significant defence project.

We know that this project is going to extend beyond the life of this government, beyond the life of multiple governments. In fact, it could be a project that lasts for as long as this century, if not longer. This week in parliament, we heard from the Premier that he foresaw the transformational extent of this project transcending not only parliaments but generations within South Australia. The Premier, to quote him, said:

We are capable of doing this, but it is going to require long-term effort and it is going to require ongoing bipartisanship, which I know exists in this place, to commit ourselves to this effort. The honest truth is: of course this project is going to outlast the life of this government, but it will outlast the life of the next one too, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that. This is a 100-year project.

So I am very hopeful of bipartisan support for this joint committee. I think it is a great opportunity for politics to be removed out of this, for the demonstration of true bipartisanship and for parliamentarians representing communities, industry groups and sectors across this state and the regions of South Australia to come together to scrutinise, to challenge where appropriate and to ensure that in the state of South Australia our government departments, our industrial sectors and our population are well placed to maximise the benefits of AUKUS and those submarines being built here in South Australia.

The first Australian SSN-AUKUS is not expected to be delivered before 2042 at the earliest. Even that is an ambitious time line, which the Premier has also mentioned. We expect at least 9,500 jobs, promised to South Australia under the AUKUS agreement, but that figure could in fact be much greater if South Australia is properly prepared, if we have the skills in place and if we have the strategic foresight to ensure that we can maximise the benefit, from a jobs perspective, of this project.

It is for that transformational reason that the opposition want to see a bipartisan parliamentary joint committee established to keep on top of the AUKUS submarines build and, as I foreshadowed, to make sure that we are best prepared as a state for the huge journey ahead and to ensure we get everything out of it that we can.

This project, this initiative, is a defence initiative that largely, from a strategic point of view, operates at a federal level, with relationships being built between the United Kingdom and between the United States of America. But to maximise the benefits of this project to South Australia, this state, its governments, its industry and its people are going to have to be at the forefront of lifting our capacity, of building resilience into our workforce and of developing our skills so that we can get the benefits from this.

We believe, based on the comments of the Premier in recent days, that the government will certainly be open to considering this bipartisan support for a joint parliamentary committee. It is my view that this committee should last well into the future. It should become a committee that is seen as part of this place, a committee that transcends governments and politics and allows true bipartisan commitment to the AUKUS deal.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Odenwalder.