Australian news, and some related international items

Australian-French submarine contract on verge of being abandoned

Australian-French submarine contract on verge of being abandoned

Independent Australia
1st March 2021,   The submarine deal France proudly called ‘the contract of the Century’ appears to have collapsed, reports Alan Austin.

IF THERE WAS one thing which should unite all media commentators, economic and military analysts, and informed citizens in outrage against the Morrison Government, it is this. The Government has wasted billions of dollars on a deal to buy 12 new submarines which have virtually no chance of fulfilment.

As this is written, the head of the French naval construction company Naval Group, Pierre Eric Pommellet, is in Australia meeting federal ministers in an attempt to rescue the contract. Tragically for Australia – and for Monsieur Pommellet – not one of those ministers has the experience or competence to wrangle a successful result.

Many informed commentators in FranceAustralia and elsewhere now expect the much-celebrated deal to be abandoned. If that happens, replacing the current ageing submarines would be delayed many years, depending on the timing of the change of government to a capable administration.

Although defence is just one example of Coalition mismanagement, this is where Australia’s losses are arguably most devastating: both in billions of dollars wasted and in the risk to national security.

Like a fish out of water: Australia’s submarine project is a flop

Australia’s submarine project launched by the Abbott Government is an abject failure, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark.

Responsibility for the project

Multiple failures are evident. The most basic is accountability. Since negotiations with France began, Australia has had three prime ministers, three deputy PMs, three failed treasurers, five defence ministers and four ministers for defence industry. Of the 15 individuals to have held these portfolios, seven have left the Parliament. None remaining has the competence to deliver for Australia or the mettle to take responsibility. The current Defence Minister is in hospital on leave.

Political priorities paramount

A major factor in dashing into the connection with France was the set of promises the Coalition hoped to make chasing votes. In the run-up to the 2019 election, then Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne promised hundreds of new jobs, the “majority of which will be based in South Australia”.

Cost and defence considerations were secondary.

Many military observers were dismayed at Australia taking the French Shortfin Barracudas over the lower-cost and more suitable alternatives tendered by Japan and Germany.

Design and cost errors

Several of Australia’s specifications were plain foolish, as Binoy Kampmark summarised for IA. A nuclear submarine with a diesel-electric engine is a fail. An American combat system won’t work in a French vessel because the Americans and the French do not talk. Lead-acid batteries will be obsolete well before the subs are delivered.

France’s original tender documents put the cost of the project at between $20 billion and $25 billion. The cost in the initial agreement signed in late 2016 was $50 billion.

By February 2020, the Parliamentary Library research service reported that the acquisition cost:

Today, estimates range up to double that quantum.

White elephants of the sea: The French-Australian submarine agreement

The Australian navy has made an agreement to purchase a dozen submarines from France, but the deal isn’t without complications.

Missed deadlines

Delays so far have pushed back delivery of the first Barracuda from the mid-2020s to the early 2030s and now to the 2040s. The latest missed date was finalising the critical Strategic Partnering Agreement which governs the entire project. This was due before last Christmas.

Australian content in labour and components

This is the main area of contestation between the French company and the Morrison ministry. The Defence Minister is holding out for 60 per cent local input, down from 90 per cent when the project was first announced. The French now insist it must be much less as Australia cannot deliver. This was not settled before the production agreement was signed in 2018.

How many subs are needed?

Replacing the current six Collins-class vessels is certainly justifiable and possibly increasing that to seven or eight.

Comparisons with other countries suggest 12 is excessive………..

Excessive secrecy, even from the Senate

Compounding all these failures is Morrison’s Cabinet refusing to be answerable to the Parliament. In an ugly confrontation in last month’s Senate Economics References Committee, Defence Department head Greg Moriarty refused point-blank to provide documents which the Committee had the constitutional right to access.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick warned Moriarty:

Moriarty steadfastly refused the Committee’s requests, insisting he would do the bidding of the craven Minister and Cabinet.

The remedy

Thus the solution is for the people of Australia to get rid of this secretive bungling regime at the earliest opportunity: to save hundreds of billions of dollars and to ensure effective military capability.

March 25, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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