Defence Minister Senator David Johnston has explained his criticism of ASC as a “rhetorical flourish”.
“All Australian’s have come to know well the frustrations successive governments faced in fielding a world class submarine capability. And today we are in the middle of a $8 billion program to build three Air Warfare Destroyers,” Senator Johnston told the Senate. “I am committed to leading the effort to fix our problems. And regrettably, in rhetorical flourish, I did express my frustrations in the past performance of ASC. In these comments I never intended to cause offence and I regret that offence may have been taken. And I of course was directing my remarks at a legacy of issues and not the workers in ASC whom I consider to be world class.”
MINDEF further explained that no decisions had yet been made on the direction of the Future Submarine program. “And on the matter at hand, the Government has not made any decisions on the future submarine. Decisions will be made as I have said time and again on the advice of our service chiefs.”
The Senate formally voted to censure the Minister over his remarks, by 37 votes to 31, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott has expressed his support for Minister Johnston. “The idea that this fine minister should somehow be disqualified from serving simply because of a mistake made in the heat of the moment is simply absurd,” the Prime Minister told Parliament. “I have full confidence in the Minister for Defence. I will say this of the Minister for Defence: he wants to be the minister. He is doing a fine job as the minister.”