Doorstop Interview – Henderson, Western Australia

Doorstop Interview

Henderson, Western Australia

2 July 2015

QUESTION

Minister, maybe if we could just start with you telling us about the tour and what you have just seen at Austal this morning.

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, I’m delighted to be here at Austal this morning. This is a wonderful operation. It’s a magnificent shipbuilding operation. I had the chance to look at the latest boarder force vessel, the Cape Class vessel. I had a tour of that, but also looked at the construction of craft, no only for Australia but for Oman as well.

QUESTION

Do you think that WA has the capacity to be the nation’s shipbuilder?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well my first and foremost consideration is to ensure the safety and security of the people of Australia. That means that it’s my job to ensure that what the Chief of Navy requires by way of naval capability can be delivered. As to where that’s done and how that’s done, they’re matters still be worked out in the process. But over the next 25 years we will effectively be replacing the entire Naval fleet. That means great opportunities for defence naval shipbuilding in Australia.

QUESTION

Do you think that WA will get a slice of that opportunity or has potential to?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Look, this is an impressive operation. I’m sure that there will be keen competition for building ships for the Navy in Australia. And that’s as it should be.

QUESTION

And obviously WA will get a fair go in the bids for shipbuilding contracts?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, we will have a proper process, which has integrity around it. As I said the first and foremost responsibility I have is to deliver the capability in terms of ships for the future. That’s what the Royal Australian Navy need. And then after that we want to, if possible, have a vigorous, vibrant shipbuilding industry in Australia. And the way to do that is to try and ensure that we have a continuous build. What we have now with the troughs, with Labor’s Valley of Death, is not the way to go forward and we’ve got to overcome those problems for us in the future.

QUESTION

In terms of workforce, obviously we’ve got a lot of people who have been working on the mines etc, and a lot of those people could be working somewhere like here. Is that something that you would take into account or consider?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, I’ve been speaking with Defence industry representatives over that last day or so here in Perth, and they see it as an opportunity. As the resource sector moves from the construction phase to the production phase, there is obviously capacity in terms of both capital investment and in terms of employment. So, this is an opportunity for places, such as here at Henderson.

QUESTION

Are you feeling the push from local Liberals to bring more shipbuilding contracts into the State?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Look, my Colleagues right around this country do their job in representing their constituents and their States. That’s what we expect. At the end of the day, I’ve got to deliver for the Navy what they require and we will have a proper process to determine that.

QUESTION

Minister, just on another issue, your colleague Eric Abetz has said that frontbenchers who don’t tow the line on gay marriage should consider leaving the frontbench. Do you agree with that – with not towing Government policy on gay marriage? Secondly, do you think that gay marriage can lead to polygamy or marrying multiple people?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Let me say this on the topic, my position is well known. I support the current definition of marriage. I have for a long period of time and I will continue to support that definition. Secondly, we have a policy on this in the Party, but we are also a Party that says that on any issue, whether it is this or any other one, that a member of the Liberal party is entitled to exercise their conscience and to abstain or cross the floor on any issue on a matter of conscience. So that’s the position. We have a policy, I support the policy, I believe that we should maintain the policy.

QUESTION

So you are happy to have frontbenchers have their say about this?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Look a number of people have had their say about this and they will continue to do so. I’m having my say right now. Other people are having their say. That’s fine. But at the end of the day the Liberal Party has a policy, it’s a policy we took to the last election, it’s a policy we should maintain. But there has always been the freedom in the Liberal Party to exercise your own conscience on any issue you like, whether it is this issue or any other issue.

QUESTION

Are you happy that some members of your party seem to have reached out to the Opposition to try and strike a deal on this?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Look, I’m not going to comment on machinations one way or the other on these things. This is not a first order issue. The main issues that we face as a Government are really two-fold. They go to the security of this country. There is the national security of this country, which is part of why I’m here inspecting this shipyard, and there is the economic security of this country. They’re the two focus point of this Government. They’re the things that people talk to me about wherever I go around Australia. And that’s what we will continue to focus on.

QUESTION

So the Government should be focusing on those two things, not side issue like gay marriage?

MINISTER ANDREWS

This Government is focused on those two things. We are focused on national security and we’re focused on economic prosperity – a safe and secure Australia and one which is growing and creating more jobs for Australians. That’s what people want and that’s what we are going to deliver.

Thank you.