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FOR – Committees — Selection of Bills Committee; Report

Katy Gallagher

I move the following amendment:

At the end of the motion, add ", and, in respect of the provisions of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Naval Nuclear Propulsion) Bill 2023, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee report on 9 June 2023".

Nick McKim

I move an amendment to that amendment proposed by the government, as circulated in the chamber:

Omit "9 June 2023", substitute "26 July 2023".

David Shoebridge

I'll speak to that amendment. The Australian public were blindsided when they woke up about two months ago and found out that the Labor government intended to spend $368 billion on nuclear submarines. In fact, one of the real offensive parts about that is that the Albanese government has not told the truth about the real cost. It turns out that $368 billion only gets you the first five of the AUKUS subs, and the last three happen outside that budget envelope, bringing the real cost of the nuclear submarine project to close to half a trillion dollars. It's extraordinary, isn't it, that the Albanese government comes out and scares everybody with a $368 billion bill but it's not even the truth. The real truth is that it's close to half a trillion dollars.

Then they say: 'Don't you worry. It'll all be safe because Defence will look after it. Defence will be looking after it.' They'll look after the nuclear safety. In fact, we found from the Defence Strategic Review that the government wants to have a standalone defence agency to look after all the nuclear safety regulation regarding their nuclear submarines. So we could have 12 nuclear reactors, each containing more than three times the fissile material in the Hiroshima bomb, floating in Port Kembla or a few kilometres off the coast of Perth or the coast of Sydney Harbour—and entirely regulated by Defence. Defence would be regulating Defence, and Defence would be regulating its own nuclear reactors. They're floating them into our harbours and floating them across our shores. Now we find that the government wants to slip in a little change—just a little change—to our nuclear regulatory legislation to start facilitating this, to start allowing Defence to be its own regulator. And just remember what Defence has been like when it comes to safety. Think about the contamination from PFAS in site after site. And you want Defence to be its own regulator on nuclear safety?

You're trying to sneak it through and start it, but we can tell the deal is in here, like everything on defence—like a $30 billion frigate deal that blew out to $45 billion, and it turns out no-one checked, from the coalition or Labor, whether or not it was value for money. You've got top-heavy frigates that sink in a heavy sea that are 50 per cent over budget and none of you checked. None of you bothered to check if it was value for money, none of you lifted up the bonnet to have a look at what was actually happening in Defence because you agree between you, Labor and the coalition, to not put this stuff under scrutiny.

Now you're trying to slip through a quick and dirty inquiry on nuclear safety regulation for nuclear submarines. Labor and the coalition are desperately not wanting anybody to look at this extraordinary project of intergenerational theft that is the AUKUS submarine project. Of course we want to allow a decent time for reporting. We don't want it rammed through in just another short, sharp, nobody-look-here, three-week non-investigation of Defence. Just think about what will happen if this nuclear submarine project blows out like the frigate project. It will go from half a trillion dollars to three-quarters of a trillion dollars—$750 billion. That's if they can even deliver it in the first place.

So what we're saying here, clearly, is: end the club. It's time to end the club where Labor and the coalition come together and agree never to ask the hard questions of Defence, never to check for value for money, never to check to see if this actually will make us any safer—or, in fact, will make us a nuclear target. We'll put a bunch of highly fissile nuclear material into 12 floating nuclear reactors sailing up and down our coasts and coming into our bigger cities. We want the public to have a right to have a say. We want to finally lift the bonnet and have a look at this club of secrecy that keeps protecting Defence. That's why we're moving this amendment. We'd love to see Labor and the coalition, for once, not come together like they do time after time and time and vote to shield Defence.

Sue Lines

The time for this debate has expired.

Honourable senators interjecting—

Order! Order across the chamber!

Honourable senators interjecting—

Order across the chamber! Order! Twice already this morning there's been disorder across the chamber, and, when I've called order, I've had to do it repeatedly. I ask that when I order you to be silent that you do that, and not continue the disorder. The question is that the amendment moved by Senator McKim to the amendment moved by Senator Gallagher relating to the Selection of Bills Committee report No. 5 of 2023 be agreed to.


Date and time: 11:43 AM on 2023-05-11
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 16
Total number of "no" votes: 31
Total number of abstentions: 28

Adapted from information made available by