Doorstop with Minister for Defence, Minister for Defence Industry and Chief of Navy

03 Oct 2017
Sydney NSW
Prime Minister
Naval Combat Systems; Las Vegas; Toyota

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning.

I’m here with the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Defence Industry and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Barrett.

Today, Australia mourns with the people of the United States after the shocking and callous attack in Las Vegas.

Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and we pray for the swift recovery of those who have been injured.

This was a brutal and callous killing, completely senseless. It's a reminder of why we must be tireless in our efforts to protect Australians in crowded places, so that we can go about our lives at concerts, sporting events, walking down the street, safe from harm.

We've seen, too, in Edmonton, in Canada, and in Marseille in the last few days, terrorist attacks. Again, our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and we stand as we always do in solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

Now, the first duty of every government is to keep its citizens safe. This week, I'll be meeting with state and territory leaders to further advance and harmonise our response to the threat of terrorism.

As you know, a little over a month ago, we released our National Crowded Places Strategy - a very important piece of work, a collaborative piece of work which I commissioned last year after the Nice truck attack to ensure that we had the high standards in terms of protecting crowded places, places of mass gathering, stadiums, concerts and so forth. That's been a very important piece of work and I want to thank everybody who has been involved in it, from the government and indeed the private sector. But we have to be relentless. There is absolutely no place for ‘set and forget’ when it comes to national security.

Now, we’ve been talking today about an important step forward in keeping Australia safe on the high seas. We are undertaking the largest recapitalisation, regeneration of Australia’s Navy in peacetime - 54 new ships.

This is nation building. This is a national enterprise as the Chief of Navy has often described it.

It is bringing the most advanced manufacturing, the most advanced technological skills here, focused on building our Navy of the future.

And we’ve announced today a very historic development which I’ll ask the Ministers and the Chief of Navy to say a little more about in a moment.

What we are doing is for the first time, taking an enterprise approach to combat management systems. Instead of selecting one ship by ship, we are going to have a standard across the fleet. You can understand the importance of that, in terms of training, in terms of the capabilities of our sailors and of course in terms of the certainty that it provides to Australian industry.

So, the choice of Aegis and the SAAB systems is going to make the defence of our nation on the high seas stronger than ever, at every level and in every field. Whether it is defending Australia from regional or global threats and threats from rogue states like North Korea, or threats of terrorism, from threats right here at home, your government, my government is committed to keeping Australians safe. That is and always will be our first priority.

There is no room for complacency, no room for ‘set and forget’.

We are tireless and we are relentless in doing everything we can, deploy every technology we can, engaging every Australian skill and talent we can find or develop to keep Australians safe. That is our commitment and today’s announcement about the future Navy, the Navy that will defend us and our children and grandchildren for generations to come, is a historic step in securing our future.

I’ll now ask the Ministers to say a few words and then I’ll ask the Admiral to add to them.

Thank you.


Thank you very much Prime Minister and to my colleague, the Minister for Defence Industry and the Chief of Navy. It’s a great pleasure to be here this morning with the Prime Minister to make the announcement in relation to the combat management system decision for the Future Frigates.

It is fair to say that we set out in the Defence White Paper and our words used then in February 2016 ring even more true in September 2017, October 2017; we are in an extraordinarily dynamic strategic environment, both within our region and more broadly.

The Government’s commitments to develop the Navy of the future, to commission the 54 ships in coming decades is an important representation of our commitment to Australia’s national security.

The announcement today of the Aegis Combat Management system for the Future Frigates enables us to take a very important step in de-risking the development of the Future Frigates project to ensure that we are able to cut steel in 2020.

It also ensures that the Future Frigates will be as effective as they can possibly be, in tandem with our newly commissioned Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Hobart and her sister ships, which will come online in due course.

And the Prime Minister is quite right; the decision that we have adopted in relation to the other vessels which will make up the fleet, whether it’s the tankers, the LHD’s themselves, the Offshore Patrol Vessels, which will be equipped with the SAAB combat management system, the enterprise decision that that represents, is an extremely important step for Navy in ensuring that we are using a platform that is common amongst a vast number of ships within the Navy itself, that we can train for, that we can have technical support for and that is an efficiency in and of itself.

So these are very important decisions for capability reasons, for strategic decisions and for the Navy itself. They come at a time when we see around us an increased level of submarine activity. We know that by 2035, 50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in this region alone. So for Australia, these are very important steps. These are steps that the Turnbull Government has taken carefully and decisively and ones which we are very much looking forward to implementing.

Thank you very much Prime Minister.


Thank you Prime Minister, to Marise and to Tim Barrett, Chief of the Navy. Today’s announcement is another important decision underpinning this Government’s approach to security and defence industry. Because it’s an historic decision to have an enterprise-wide approach to the Navy’s combat management systems. But it’s also a huge vote of confidence in the technological ability of Australian industry, in SAAB and in CEA, to use their radar, SAAB’s combat management systems interfaces and of course the Aegis system from Lockheed Martin, which gives us the capability that Navy needs. It means that companies like CEA and SAAB can invest in their businesses in their workforces, in research and development, to get these combat management systems right. As Marise has pointed out, it certainly means the capability of whether it’s the Air Warfare Destroyer, the LHDs the Offshore Patrol Vessels, the Future Frigates, moves to a whole new level in an uncertain time. For Defence Industry, it says that the Government is putting it’s money where it’s mouth is, a billion dollars of Australian value in this particular announcement. That goes with building 54 ships, becoming the Asia-Pacific hub for the sustainment and maintenance of the Joint Strike Fighter as we keeping winning, one after the other, of those announcements. We will soon announce the winner of the tender for the Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles. Again, with major Australian industry content. So you can see, along with the infrastructure, the Naval ship-building college,  the skills and the work force, we are putting in place all the foundations that are necessary to have a thriving, healthy, value-full defence industry in Australia for our own needs and for our export opportunities.


Tim can you just explain perhaps the significance of this decision, in terms of the Navy’s future? You’ve talked about this shipbuilding plan as being a national enterprise. Taking this enterprise approach, how significant is that in terms of the future of the fleet?


Prime Minister it’s vastly important and very significant. It allows us to provide certainty in our development for not just the Future Frigates that will arrive in 2020 or start construction, but this is a 30 to 50 year horizon in how we manage our combat systems. It’s important for training. It’s important for certainty with our allies and partners in how we operate. It’s a sensible decision for industry as well, because it allows them to invest in future capability and indeed allows them to design and develop our own solid capability for combat systems into the future. So it’s a significant decision, made at the right time, so we can guarantee provision of the Frigates when they need to be delivered but it also enhances the ability for industry to be able to plan and invest and deliver what is needed for the future.


Thank you, thank you, do we have some questions?


Do we have a timeline on when you’re going to see these systems in place and operational?


Well I’ll ask Tim perhaps to add to that. But as he said, construction will begin 2020. Did you want to elaborate?


The decision was important to be made now because it will allow whomever wins the contract for the Future Frigates, to already start to [inaudible] how the system will be embedded within the ship itself. So we needed to make that decision early and that’s the significance of the decision today.

The plan is to cut steel by 2020. For the ships then to be delivered into that decade. So, they are still some years off, but you need to start the process of development and this is why it was important to make the decision today.


Admiral, the tender for the Frigates is focused on them being an anti-submarine warfare vessel. Will this sort of, compromise that performance?


No, not at all, in fact it’s complementary. To practice anti-submarine warfare, you will, by it’s very nature be doing it in a contested environment. That means in today’s contemporary view, people will be looking at you in terms of missiles and other action. So you need to be able to defend yourself whilst you’re conducting anti-submarine warfare. The Aegis system with the SAAB interface will allow us to successfully defend ourselves, contribute to task groups, while actively conducting anti-submarine warfare.


Do you see the key to defending missile attack being sea-based rather than land-based?


The truth be known, to be able to manage and defend yourself, is a combination of what you do at sea, what you may at land. It’s also about intelligence, it’s also about knowing who would be doing these sorts of things to you. So you cannot set it as one particular thing at sea. It is the knowledge that you have that will allow you to defend yourself in many different ways. So a layered approach to defence. It’ll require all aspects to be aligned and joined. That’s why a commitment to Aegis is so important, because it allows you to do that.


Admiral, does it mean that down the track we could have a dozen warships with ballistic missile defence?


The decision today was our ability to go with the Aegis system. That has an evolutionary approach that will allow the system to be developed over a number of years and certainly the US Navy is looking at developing over a number of years, to enhance the capability that’s offered. One of those may well be used in missile defence but the decision today is to set us on a path that allows us to set the baseline for capability.


So whether it has the BMD nodule or not for the start is a design decision that is still to be taken?


As I said, the point we make here is you need the core facility to be able to establish the future enhancements. The decision made today allows that core capability right from the start. Enhancements that may be offered in the future are numerous, one of those may be BMD, but the decision today is around developing the core capability. 


To be clear, at this stage of the technology can’t take down an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or anywhere close to it, once it’s in the air? That’s essentially the case?


As I’ve indicated, the system, the layered defence that is offered to any nation goes beyond just those platforms at sea. So the capability that we currently hold at the moment will not allow us to do that. Where Aegis and it’s other enhancements may take us in the future, may well indeed offer us the opportunity to –


Prime Minister just on Las Vegas, you’ve talked about terrorism in the context of the shooting. Can you just explain, what connection are you actually drawing between them and is there a risk in blurring the boundaries between a single –


Well I haven’t. You’re the one that’s blurring the boundaries in that respect. Keeping Australians safe in crowded places involves protecting them against actions by terrorists, that is killers, people who are murders who are politically motivated and of course by those who are not.

The person responsible for the Bourke Street attack in Melbourne not so long ago was not politically motivated, but nonetheless killed a number of people as you know, in a tragic attack. The Police in Las Vegas have not attributed a political motive to the shooter in the attack in las Vegas, but obviously it’s a developing investigation. The focus has got to be on keeping people safe and that applies whether the attacker, the threat, is politically motivated or not.


Admiral Barrett would you be able to explain to us in practical terms – if you’re a frigate Captain out in hostile waters in ten years’ time – I’m sure you won’t be.


I won’t be, but nonetheless –



He’d be demoted to be a Captain.


What in practical terms will this mean and how will the various components of this technology all work to protect the ship?


The key to success at sea as it is in many other places, is to have full knowledge of where everyone is and your own capabilities. What this system allows you to do, in a seamless engagement, is to have that knowledge, to have assured knowledge of where people are and capabilities that you have at your disposal to be able to make decisions instantly and then act. In the nature of where warfare will go into the future - let’s say in ten years - you do have time to think and ponder you have to act straight away. To be able to do that, you need that information. The combat management system that was announced today will provide the Future Frigate Captain with all the information he or she needs to be able to make those instantaneous decisions.


Prime Minister would you offer any rebuke in terms of what this – I mean this is the biggest shooting in US history, they’re saying in terms of the gun laws – I mean everybody is crying out for changes over there?


As I said in my speech earlier, we owe a great debt of thanks to John Howard who showed extraordinary leadership in the wake of the tragic Port Arthur massacre, in really tightening Australia’s gun laws so that we have the strictest, among the strictest gun control laws in the world. As I said a little while ago, there is no ‘set and forget’ there. We’ve just had a gun amnesty and ran over three months, over the first two months 25,000 guns were handed in. We will continue to do everything we can to keep guns of the kind that were used by this killer in Las Vegas, off the streets, away from the hands of people other than those serving in the armed forces and security agencies.


Are there lessons for the United States in Australia’s success with its gun laws?


Well look it’s not for me, particularly at this time, to buy into what as we all know, has been a long running political debate in the United States. But I just simply say this; we are very, very proud of our strict gun control regime in Australia. We maintain it, we are not complacent about it at all, as indicated by the recent amnesty and its effectiveness and we will continue to police it. We go to great lengths, you would’ve heard the Justice Minister Michael Keenan often talk about the numbers of weapons that are intercepted by Border Force, people try to smuggle them into Australia. We are absolutely relentless in keeping Australians safe, whether it is through ensuring that our Navy has the technology to deal with the threats of the future and indeed of today. Or whether it is ensuring that Australians can walk along this concourse here at Darling Harbour or anywhere else, go about their business in their normal, way free from the fear of violence. So that is the first duty of my Government and indeed of every government to keep the citizens safe.


Prime Minister on Toyota, the Opposition is blaming your Government for their departure from Australia, what’s your response to that?


Well it’s very disappointing that on such a sad day when so many people are losing their jobs, ending in many cases decades of employment with Toyota, that the Labor Party would try to play politics with it. As you know since 2001, $7 billion has gone into the car industry over that time. There’s been enormous support for the car industry. The manufacturers who have progressively closed their operations in Australia have made it clear its not because of a failure of government subsidies, its because of changes in market taste, people stopped buying the sedans that were being made in Australia, or stopped buying them in sufficient numbers to support the industry.

But the important thing is, that while we do everything we can to support Australian industry, when businesses do close it’s important there are new businesses opening and new opportunities arising for jobs. Now that is what we’re committed to, to continued economic growth. I’ve said many times jobs and growth was an election slogan, last year. It’s now an outcome; 325,000 new jobs in the last year-  80 per cent of them full time. That is a great achievement. The investment that we’re making in defence, in naval shipbuilding in particular is going to deliver thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs, so that’s the important thing to have an economy that is growing, that is entrepreneurial, that is innovative so the new jobs are arising. And of course to have the target of support to support workers that are coming out of the auto industry. You have seen that particularly in Geelong, in Victoria, where you are seeing some really outstanding new innovative businesses that have been provided with government support to get going and they’re taking on the world. The Carbon Revolution is one you’ll all be familiar with, most the lightest, strongest wheel rims in the world, being made in Australia by a team that came out of the auto industry. So whether it was supporting the transition into new jobs and creating the environment where there are the new businesses and new opportunities for new jobs of the future to arise.

So that’s our commitment; a strong economy means more opportunities.