PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much for that introduction and can I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal People, elders past and present and emerging. I also extend a very warm welcome to Minister Florence Parly, it’s wonderful to have you here with us today. I know you’ve made a special effort to be here with us today and I think that’s a mark of the wonderful relationship that has been formed as we’ve moved to this day and so thank you so much for making the effort to be here today and please pass on my kindest regards to President Macron. This is a day, as I was just mentioning to you, that he and I have been looking forward to as we discussed when we were in Buenos Aires not too long ago.
To his Excellency Christophe Penot, thank you very much for all of your efforts in bringing us to this point today, working so closely. To the Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall, it’s always good to see your smiling face whether in Canberra, South Australia, it’s wonderful to have Steven here, such a passionate advocate for this programme. To my ministerial colleagues who are joining us today, particularly the Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne, congratulations Christopher on your stewardship of this programme over a long period of time and it’s wonderful that we can join together with your other ministerial colleagues who are here today to mark this important occasion.
This really is a great day for Australia. It’s a great day for our Royal Australian Navy. I reckon it’s the greatest partnership between Australia and France since Nancy Wake was let loose on the Nazis in the Second World War. It really is a wonderful partnership. The Australian Government regards the safety and security of its people and its territory as our greatest duty and calling. As ‘a land girt by sea’, as our national anthem proclaims, a great Australian Royal Australian Navy is what is necessary.
What that means is that ensuring we are at the front of the pack when it comes to the latest naval vessels and firepower. As part of our Government’s plan to keep Australians safe, we’re celebrating a milestone today with the next phase of our Future Submarine Program. In 2016 the Government selected France and Naval Group as our international partners to deliver a 12 strong fleet of cutting-edge submarines, as we promised to do. The signing today of the Strategic Partnership Agreement to deliver these submarines underscores the longstanding and strategic partnership between Australia and France.
A spirit of defence cooperation and collaboration between our nations reaches right back to the First World War. But this program brings a new depth to that partnership through a multi-decade program to build and sustain these submarines in Australia. It’s more than a contract.
This is a project that will not only keep Australians safe, but it will deliver Australian jobs. It will build Australian skills. It will be made and require Australian steel and it will mean a stronger Royal Australian Navy.
Our Government is committed to maximising Australian industry content in the Future Submarine Program. This was a conscious decision of our Government. Beyond construction, the program will provide Australia with an independent, sovereign capability to sustain our fleet, including the upskilling of Navy and industry workforces. We will see long-term strategic cooperation, not only in defence industry as I know Minister Ciobo will be excited about, but across other sectors, creating even more jobs through more high-tech, high-paying jobs.
Hundreds of Australians are already employed on the Future Submarines Program and thousands more will be through the supply chain during the construction phase. So, as pleased as I know Premier Marshall is about the jobs in South Australia, these jobs reach right across our great continent.
The signing of this agreement today demonstrates our Government is delivering on our promise on the naval shipbuilding plan. It is a $90 billion commitment to build in total 54 new naval vessels and grow a strong, sustainable and sovereign Australian naval shipbuilding industry.
This is a very audacious plan. This is what vision looks like. The number of shipbuilding programs we are launching is beyond what just about any other country – including the United States – has done since the Second World War. The number of new starts on these projects is almost without parallel. This is a big project, this is an audacious program that we have set before us and we are committed to achieving it. 12 attack class submarines will be a cornerstone of that plan and it’s all part of Australia’s biggest-ever peacetime investment in defence. The strategies were laid out in the 2016 Defence White Paper and we are getting on with the job. Over $200 billion is being invested in Australia’s Navy, Army and Air Force defence capability over the next decade. With the signing of today’s agreement, we are strengthening our region, something I know Minister Payne cares about deeply and is part of her ongoing discussions not only in the Indo-Pacific region, but all around the world. This is a key part of our participation in creating a safer and more peaceful world.
Our region, which we keep secure, in close partnership with our valued allies. So we are delivering for our Navy, our nation and our people as we promised. We are delivering for our defence industry and jobs and we are delivering on our steadfast commitment to keep Australians safe and secure.
I conclude by thanking again all of those who have brought us to this point today, but I particularly want to commend Ministers Pyne and Parly for the wonderful working relationship they’ve had to bring us to where they are today and look forward to that relationship continuing into the future as we get this done. Thank you.