Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Adelaide:
(Source: Australian Department of National Defence; issued Oct. 4, 2007)
Interview of Dr. Brendan Nelson, Australian Minister for Defence


DR NELSON:
Today is an extremely important day for South Australia, for Australia, and for the Royal Australian Navy. We have formally signed A$8 billion in contracts for three Air Warfare Destroyers that will be built by the Australian Submarine Corporation.

More than 3,000 Australians will get jobs from this. More than 1,000 contractors throughout Australia will be undertaking work to help build the ships. More than A$4 billion of that will be invested directly in Australia, and importantly it means that the Royal Australian Navy will be able to protect our very large amphibious ships that we're also about to build, and make sure that Australia is able to play the key role in our area of paramount defence interest in our region, and in wider parts of the world.

QUESTION:
Dr Nelson, I guess the question everyone's asking, will we get a fourth ship?

DR NELSON:
Well I certainly am disposed to seeing a fourth destroyer being built. Obviously we have kept the option open. We will need to make that decision before the end of next year. But we'd be talking about A$1.5 billion, which is a lot of money, and we've got to make sure the ink dries on the contracts that we've just signed. But certainly I would be disposed to a fourth ship. We've kept the option open, and we'll count our pennies over the next few months to a year, and see how we go.

QUESTION:
Dr Nelson, you may have to make that decision in the next few weeks, given the pending federal election, of course, but has that put any pressure on you to come to a decision more quickly?

DR NELSON:
Well firstly, the decision as to whether we do have a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer, which means just over A$1.5 billion more, is a decision that does not have to be made until the end of next year, because Raytheon, which makes the Aegis combat system, which is the fighting part of the ship, will have a production line going until then.

We've got to make sure that we keep Australia moving in the right direction, we're in a strong economic position at the moment, but let's just bed down the three ships we've just signed up for, before we start looking at another one.

QUESTION:
So it won't be a pre-election announcement?

DR NELSON:
Well, we'll just watch this space.

QUESTION:
It could be a pre-election announcement, Mr Howard…

DR NELSON:
I'm not going to comment on it.

QUESTION:
What about the ASC sale, how is that progressing?

DR NELSON:
Well, we would expect that the Australian Submarine Corporation will go to sale some time next year. We will be obviously looking at the through-life support contract for the submarines to make sure that that meets the needs of both ASC and the Commonwealth and any potential purchaser.

Now that we've signed the contracts for the Air Warfare Destroyers, I think we'll be in a position to go to sale some time next year, and I expect that there will be healthy competition for it. By selling the ASC of course, it just locks in efficiency and ensuring that the people continue to get jobs in the company.

-ends-




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