Submarines open tender process falls short of Federal Government’s promise to build locally, SA Defence Minister says

A shift to an open tender process to decide who will build the nation’s next fleet of submarines falls short of the Federal Government’s promise to build them in Adelaide, the state’s Defence Minister says.

South Australian Senator Sean Edwards said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had given him an assurance that Australian companies would be able to bid to build the submarines.

Mr Edwards said the Prime Minister made the pledge after he told Mr Abbott his support would depend on it.

But South Australia’s Defence Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said that did not guarantee any work for Adelaide-based shipbuilder Australian Submarine Corporation.

He said the open tender process could still result in the ships being built overseas.

“Nothing short of adhering to the promise that was made to South Australians prior to the federal election that there would be 12 submarines built in Australia, based in Adelaide, will do,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

“That was the promise the Coalition made, that’s the promise that should be kept.”

Mr Hamilton-Smith said there should be a condition in the tender which fulfilled the Government’s original promise.

“I think that would be a massive step forward in adhering to the promise that was made in good faith to South Australians prior to the last election, promises are promises and they should be kept,” he said.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he was also deeply sceptical about Mr Abbott’s new promise for an open tender process.

Mr Xenophon said the Prime Minister should have announced that the tender process would lead to the subs being built in Australia.

“What was announced in the last 24 hours really is not good enough,” he said.

“I think it’s a bit of a snow job for backbenchers who are seriously concerned about whether the subs will be built in Australia.

“If the Prime Minister was genuine about the subs being built in Australia he could have, should have, announced that there would be a competitive process culminating with a build right here in Australia.”

Process is ongoing and ‘will not be rushed’

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the Government had made a “genuine” commitment to allow Australian companies to bid to build the next fleet of submarines.

He said the process for choosing where the next submarine fleet would be built was ongoing and would not be rushed.

“South Australian colleagues are obviously concerned for the interests of the people that they represent in South Australia and I am sure that a competitive evaluation process is something which they will welcome,” Mr Andrews said.

“I’ve always said that I would approach this in a cautious, conservative way that we would go through whatever evaluation was required in this respect and that we would continue the consultations and that’s where we’re at, at the moment.”


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