Opening address to the Fifth Biennial Conference of the Submarine Institute of Australia

West­ern Aus­tralian Mar­itime Muse­um Fre­man­tle, 10 Novem­ber 2010
Thank you Peter (Horobin, Pres­i­dent, Sub­ma­rine Insti­tute of Aus­tralia) for that intro­duc­tion.
My Min­is­te­r­i­al col­league, Jason Clare, Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel, My Par­lia­men­tary col­league, Sen­a­tor David John­ston, Sen­a­tor for West­ern Aus­tralia and Oppo­si­tion Spokesman for Defence, Vice Admi­ral Russ Crane, Chief of Navy, andRear Admi­ral Robert Thomas, USN, rep­re­sent­ing the Com­man­der of the Unit­ed States Sub­ma­rine Force in the Pacif­ic Fleet.

I thank the Sub­ma­rine Insti­tute of Aus­tralia for invit­ing me to give the open­ing address to the Institute’s Fifth Bien­ni­al Conference.

The Sub­ma­rine Insti­tute is a keen and well informed par­tic­i­pant in the pub­lic debate about sub­ma­rine issues. 

The Insti­tute has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to both the debate about the Collins Class sub­ma­rine and the Future Sub­ma­rine Project.

The Insti­tute has also played an impor­tant role in pre­serv­ing the his­to­ry of sub­marines in Aus­tralian ser­vice, includ­ing the AE2 sub­ma­rine project, ded­i­cat­ed to the AE2’s role in the Gal­lipoli campaign.

Mar­itime strat­e­gy and capa­bil­i­ty are vital to Australia.

Deter­ring and defeat­ing a poten­tial armed attack upon Aus­tralia depends in large mea­sure on our abil­i­ty to con­trol our mar­itime approaches. 

The impor­tance of mar­itime pow­er is clear­ly stat­ed in the 2009 Defence White Paper. 

Mar­itime pow­er is crit­i­cal to the future struc­ture of the Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) – clear­ly seen in Force 2030. 

The Government’s deci­sion to acquire 12 Future Sub­marines, to be assem­bled in South Aus­tralia, is a defin­ing ele­ment of Force 2030 and Australia’s future mar­itime power.

It is appro­pri­ate that your Con­fer­ence is held here in West­ern Aus­tralia, on the shores of the Indi­an Ocean. 

The Indi­an Ocean and its region are very impor­tant to Australia’s nation­al interests. 

The Indi­an Ocean is the third largest body of water in the world. Aus­tralia has the largest mar­itime juris­dic­tion with­in it.

It is even more appro­pri­ate that your Con­fer­ence is held here in Fremantle.

Dur­ing World War Two, Fre­man­tle was a most impor­tant base for Allied sub­marines. It was the sec­ond largest Allied sub­ma­rine base in the Pacif­ic The­atre after Pearl Har­bour. A stone’s throw away, Fre­man­tle host­ed British Roy­al Navy, Dutch and Unit­ed States’ submarines.

Fol­low­ing World War Two, the pro­gres­sive draw down of the British Roy­al Navy’s pres­ence in the Indi­an Ocean spurred the devel­op­ment of naval infra­struc­ture in West­ern Australia. 

In 1969 the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment approved con­struc­tion of a ‘mod­est’ facil­i­ty on Gar­den Island. In 1973, the four-kilo­me­tre cause­way was com­plet­ed and con­struc­tion on the island began in earnest.

In July 1978, the Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy (RAN) com­mis­sioned HMAS STIRLING as a for­ward sup­port base. 

In 1987, Defence Min­is­ter Kim Bea­z­ley announced that the RAN would become a two-ocean navy with­in ten years. 

For the first time, up to half of the RAN’s sur­face and sub­ma­rine fleet would be based in West­ern Australia. 


Eigh­teen months ago, when the Gov­ern­ment released the 2009 Defence White Paper, the White Paper affirmed the Government’s com­mit­ment to: 

(i) the defence of Aus­tralia;
(ii) a secure imme­di­ate neigh­bour­hood in the South Pacif­ic;
(iii) strate­gic sta­bil­i­ty in the wider Asia-Pacif­ic; and
(iv) sup­port for a rules-based glob­al secu­ri­ty order. 

The White Paper also set out Force 2030 – an ADF that is prop­er­ly struc­tured, equipped and pre­pared for the long-term defence of Australia.

Australia’s best defence will con­tin­ue to be an inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment in which nation states address their dif­fer­ences before any use of force. 

In this respect Aus­tralia will con­tin­ue to con­tribute to the region’s evolv­ing peace and secu­ri­ty architecture. 

Aus­tralia wel­comes the estab­lish­ment of the ASEAN Defence Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing-Plus, or ADMM+, the inau­gur­al meet­ing of which I attend­ed in Hanoi last month. 

By involv­ing the coun­tries of the East Asia Sum­mit togeth­er with the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia, the ADMM+ cre­ates an insti­tu­tion in which Defence Min­is­ters of the region’s key pow­ers can have a con­ver­sa­tion about the full range of peace and secu­ri­ty mat­ters in our region.

The engage­ment and pres­ence of the Unit­ed States remains vital to the Asia-Pacific. 

The Unit­ed States net­work of alliances and secu­ri­ty part­ner­ships in the Asia-Pacif­ic has helped under­write sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty in the region since World War Two.

The Unit­ed States is con­duct­ing a Glob­al Force Pos­ture Review to ensure that it will be appro­pri­ate­ly posi­tioned for future secu­ri­ty chal­lenges through­out the world, includ­ing in the Asia-Pacific. 

As Unit­ed States Sec­re­tary of Defense Bob Gates made clear this week at AUSMIN in Mel­bourne, that glob­al Review has nei­ther been com­plet­ed nor fall­en for Unit­ed States Gov­ern­ment consideration.

Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States have resolved to work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly on our force pos­tures in the Asia-Pacif­ic, and to con­tin­ue to work with our region­al part­ners to main­tain a sta­ble and secure region. 

At AUSMIN, Sec­re­tary Gates and I agreed that our bilat­er­al Force Pos­ture Review Work­ing Group would devel­op options to align Aus­tralian and US force pos­tures in the Asia-Pacif­ic in ways that are of ben­e­fit to our coun­tries’ nation­al security.

Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States will work togeth­er to, for example:

devel­op options for increased US access to Aus­tralian train­ing, exer­cise and test ranges;
con­sid­er the prepo­si­tion­ing of US equip­ment in Aus­tralia; and
devel­op options for greater use by the Unit­ed States of Aus­tralian facil­i­ties and ports.


The strate­gic envi­ron­ment into which the Aus­tralian Defence Force may need to deploy con­tin­ues to be chal­leng­ing. As the Asia-Pacif­ic region becomes more pros­per­ous, we see an increase in region­al capability. 

While mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion will be uneven across the region, there are emerg­ing, sophis­ti­cat­ed capa­bil­i­ties includ­ing submarines. 

Mar­itime capa­bil­i­ties are par­tic­u­lar­ly promi­nent in region­al mil­i­taries’ mod­erni­sa­tion plans.

The White Paper focus­es on a sig­nif­i­cant enhance­ment of Australia’s mar­itime capa­bil­i­ties for the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry includ­ing a sub­stan­tial­ly expand­ed sub­ma­rine fleet. As the White Paper states:

By the mid-2030s, we will have a heav­ier and more potent mar­itime force. The Gov­ern­ment will dou­ble the size of the sub­ma­rine force (12 more capa­ble boats to replace the cur­rent fleet of six Collins class submarines)…

A potent and cred­i­ble mar­itime capa­bil­i­ty is impor­tant to Australia’s eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty. More than 70 per cent of Australia’s exports and imports by val­ue are trans­port­ed by ship. Australia’s min­er­als and petro­le­um resources indus­try depends upon the secu­ri­ty of mar­itime trade routes for its exports.

The Asia-Pacif­ic is crit­i­cal­ly depen­dent on seaborne trade for its dynam­ic eco­nom­ic growth. The major North Asian economies rely heav­i­ly on import­ed ener­gy and resources which pass through South East Asian and Indi­an Ocean sea lanes. 

It is vital for trade, invest­ment and pros­per­i­ty pur­pos­es that these sea lanes be pro­tect­ed from poten­tial threats such as pira­cy or mar­itime ter­ror­ism, and that any mar­itime dis­putes be set­tled peace­ful­ly and in accor­dance with inter­na­tion­al law.

Mod­ernising and expand­ing mar­itime capa­bil­i­ties is nec­es­sar­i­ly a long term endeav­our, giv­en the long lead times, the lev­el of invest­ment involved and the chal­lenges of technology.

Acquir­ing the Future Sub­ma­rine will be a capa­bil­i­ty and pro­cure­ment pro­gram that will span three decades into the 2030s. 

That pro­gram will be deter­mined by options for sub­ma­rine design and con­struc­tion cur­rent­ly under devel­op­ment for gov­ern­ment consideration. 

Our start­ing point, as it was in the White Paper, is Australia’s strate­gic outlook.


The Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to deliv­er­ing an expand­ed sub­ma­rine capability. 

In the 21st Cen­tu­ry, sub­marines con­tin­ue to pro­vide a means for Aus­tralia to defend our mar­itime approach­es, if nec­es­sary at con­sid­er­able dis­tance from our shores. They allow the ADF to under­take sen­si­tive mis­sions where a submarine’s nat­ur­al advan­tages such as stealth are crucial. 

This is par­tic­u­lar­ly valu­able for main­tain­ing sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness and oth­er sen­si­tive strate­gic mis­sions, to ensure that the ADF attains the widest pos­si­ble mar­gin of infor­ma­tion supe­ri­or­i­ty over an adversary. 

This is crit­i­cal for a rel­a­tive­ly small force with enor­mous oper­at­ing areas, like the ADF.

A potent sub­ma­rine capa­bil­i­ty also sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­es the risks and plan­ning chal­lenges for any poten­tial adver­sary. Coun­ter­ing our sub­marines requires a dis­pro­por­tion­ate expen­di­ture of mil­i­tary effort. 

Sub­marines rep­re­sent an effec­tive and flex­i­ble capa­bil­i­ty that the Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to enhancing.

The 2009 White Paper judge­ment was that 12 boats will be nec­es­sary for the ADF to be able to deploy a suf­fi­cient capa­bil­i­ty on sta­tion to con­duct strate­gic mis­sions and sup­port mar­itime task groups. Our geog­ra­phy is such that the neces­si­ty of long tran­sits also leads one towards an expand­ed sub­ma­rine force.


Strength­en­ing the cur­rent sub­ma­rine capa­bil­i­ty is the first step in the evo­lu­tion towards the future sub­ma­rine force.

The cur­rent sub­ma­rine force has suf­fered in recent times from poor avail­abil­i­ty of the Collins Class and from work­force short­ages. The Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to solv­ing these prob­lems in the White Paper and sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made. This is vital­ly impor­tant, as the cur­rent force is the foun­da­tion for the future.

The Defence Materiel Organ­i­sa­tion has reor­gan­ised the way sub­marines are sup­port­ed. Sub­ma­rine sus­tain­ment is now man­aged from Ade­laide, where DMO and Navy staff work close­ly in an Inte­grat­ed Prod­uct Team with ASC Pty Ltd, the sub­marines’ builder and maintainer. 

An Inte­grat­ed Mas­ter Sched­ule has been agreed to meet Navy’s avail­abil­i­ty needs and work is under­way to estab­lish a new per­for­mance-based main­te­nance con­tract to com­mence in the next finan­cial year. Sta­bil­i­ty and cer­tain­ty in Collins Class avail­abil­i­ty is vital as we build towards the future sub­ma­rine capability.

Navy has also made sig­nif­i­cant progress in build­ing a sub­ma­rine work­force. Num­bers have grown by over 20 per cent in the past 18 months and cur­rent expec­ta­tions are that the sub­ma­rine work­force will exceed 600 by Decem­ber 2011. This gives con­fi­dence that the work­force expan­sion need­ed over the next two decades to crew the Future Sub­ma­rine force can be achieved. 


The com­plex, sophis­ti­cat­ed and cost­ly nature of mod­ern sub­marines adds to the chal­lenge of capa­bil­i­ty devel­op­ment and procurement. 

But the impor­tance of this capa­bil­i­ty means we must get it right.

The way in which we approach the devel­op­ment and pro­cure­ment of the future sub­ma­rine capa­bil­i­ty is a key issue. 

Our expe­ri­ence with the Collins pro­gram has lessons for us and the Gov­ern­ment is very focussed on mak­ing sure that these are tak­en heed of. 

My pre­de­ces­sor, Min­is­ter for Defence Faulkn­er, ini­ti­at­ed a lessons-learnt process into the Collins Class to inform the devel­op­ment of the Future Submarines.

One area of enor­mous and expen­sive dif­fi­cul­ty with Collins was the com­bat system. 

Issues such as the com­bat sys­tem are com­plex and impor­tant issues for nation­al secu­ri­ty. Accord­ing­ly, it is vital that we get them right. The Gov­ern­ment will take the nec­es­sary time to make the right deci­sions. The Gov­ern­ment will ensure deci­sions are sup­port­ed by robust plan­ning, com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge and appro­pri­ate capa­bil­i­ty devel­op­ment process­es – as must be the case for all capa­bil­i­ty acquisitions. 

In the case of the sub­ma­rine capa­bil­i­ty, the sig­nif­i­cance of the acqui­si­tion for future inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with the Unit­ed States means we will also work close­ly with the US Gov­ern­ment through­out the acqui­si­tion process.

At AUSMIN this week, Sec­re­tary Gates and I dis­cussed work­ing togeth­er to enhance our defence capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing the Future Submarines. 

We agreed that Aus­tralia-US coop­er­a­tion on sub­ma­rine sys­tems was strate­gi­cal­ly valu­able for both coun­tries. For this rea­son our high lev­el of sub­ma­rine inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, and our tech­ni­cal coop­er­a­tion, extends into future sub­ma­rine acqui­si­tion programs. 


Here in West­ern Aus­tralia, look­ing out to the Indi­an Ocean and its region, we appre­ci­ate the his­tor­i­cal and cur­rent impor­tance of our location. 

From here, we see clear­ly the great oppor­tu­ni­ty afford­ed by being part of this dynam­ic region. 

We also see clear­ly our mar­itime inter­ests and the need to pro­tect these. 

The 2009 Defence White Paper re-empha­sis­es the cen­tral impor­tance of mar­itime pow­er in Australia’s defence strat­e­gy through to 2030 and beyond. 

The Future Sub­ma­rine will be a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of Australia’s mar­itime pow­er. This Con­fer­ence will pro­vide wel­come insights into the devel­op­ment and future use of sub­ma­rine capabilities.

The Gov­ern­ment will be inter­est­ed in both its delib­er­a­tions and its outcomes. 

I wish you all the best for a pro­duc­tive Conference. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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