Singapore show


More information has come to light on two topics of great interest: nuclear powered submarines and the very strange purchase of SURTASS.  In linked decisions of enormous consequence – taken with zero public debate or discussion – we are apparently buying two second hand Virginia class submarines and, if that isn’t bad enough, are disposing of them in Australia. Decommissioning a nuclear submarine is very expensive, highly dangerous and complex.  Australia will have to start building a massive facility soon, which will need to be guarded for decades to come.  On SURTASS, this is looking worse by the day.  Defence says it has ruled out Australian industry because of an RFI process.  The problem with that is that the information collected is not much better than company brochures and cannot be the basis of a serious decision, so there’s something weird going on – perhaps connected with AUKUS.

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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. AUKUS seems to just better and better, I’m starting to think the previous Government was a competent, Political Masterclass and open book compared with the present one. It’s obvious that there is a lot more to AUKUS than what is being said and all of it weighted in favour of the U.S. If Australia must have Nuclear Boats ( and I am beginning to question that) the Government should explain why and explain why the options won’t do the job. At present there seems to be very mixed messages about Australian Sovereignty and Industry Involvement. The fact that successive Governments have insisted on buying overseas has led to current situation where they now have no choice but to buy overseas. This is not across the board, quite a lot of Australian Companies a leaders in their fields, it’s high time Australian Governments started to look after Australia instead of overseas (and their own self interests). Projects that can be sourced with Australian Equipment should be given priority, Projects that offer a high Australian content (the higher the better) come next, Projects that are sourced entirely overseas should only be considered when there is no capability available In Australia. The Government is doing the same thing in Defence that Australia did with Chinese Trade and we all saw how well that went. It’s time to start getting smarter and start doing what’s right for Australia in preference to what’s good for a political career or what looks good in the paper.

  2. Hi Kim, thank you for your great commentary. I am a long time follower of military/ strategic maters. I have some industry experience on the supply side. And some limited, inside gossip from some leading major suppliers. All that aside, as a normal tax paying Australian, I take great disappointment in the clear, unjustified lack of debate & information coming from Government and defence. Today’s news of the Gov finally trying to secure fuel supplies/ refining is way too little, and so obviously overdue. It would only take a year 9 hi school person to see the obvious. Never mind our failed international obligations to have a 90 day fuel reserve for domestic.
    I do believe that Australian industry can meet the challenge. In most of our military needs, but it must be prioritized. We can’t do everything at the moment, but we could. And all the rhetoric, has to be held account; make it here when we can, then develop what we cant. As you said, we have a leading sonar industry, use them, develop them.
    In a world were countries can’t get enough IFV’s, why not build them here and export? S. Korea wanted a second supply line, and spent huge here. Why are we screwing that up?
    And seriously, how do we always manage to spend ten times what it costs anyone else for the same shit? There might be more accountability for our defence spend, if there was more transparent accounts of all of our defence projects. And a better discussion with the Australian public. I know most average Australians have no, to little idea on defence projects, or capability. But at least the Government would have to explain it. And justify how it keeps us safe. If they can’t provide that, then maybe the money would be spent better to achieve a realist goal. I firmly believe that we can achieve self defence, on our own terms, within a budget that we can afford. I tear my hair out that the gov doesn’t we are capable of highly enough to take part of the debate. Mick

    • Thanks Mick – I’m in complete agreement. I wish there was more sustained coverage in the mainstream media about Defence procurement because I am sure that if all Australians knew what was going on they would be appalled. A big part of the problem is a kind of conspiracy of silence between the major political parties never to criticise Defence and that means that various procurement bungles are swept under the carpet. On the specific point of the awful SURTASS towed array contract going to the US – at the end of the last podcast I said it couldn’t get any worse. Guess what? It is even worse than first thought – and I have a bit more to say on the topic. In other countries people would be rioting in the streets and Ministers would be under pressure to resign.


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