Oh Look! Another defence ‘mistake’ costing billions
The French submarine debacle was a topic covered by Dingo News in April 2022.
We were the only media outlet to challenge France’s outrageous demand that we pay them $5,500,000,000 as compensation for cancelling the submarine deal.
A large part of the article was about how unsuitable Naval Group was for such an expensive and security-sensitive project.
Much more could be said about this drama-plagued submarine purchase…
“The arms company at the centre of a deadly criminal saga and numerous global corruption scandals, Naval Group, was selected by the Australian government to build our new fleet of submarines – a deal heralded as ‘one of the world’s most lucrative defence contracts‘.”
The signing took place despite the emergence of two more investigations into Naval, including alleged corruption on a 2009 submarine deal with Brazil and a significant security breach where complete plans of the new Scorpène submarines Naval had provided to India were apparently leaked from within Naval.
I offered an explanation, “Why would anyone trust an organisation with such a dodgy record to undertake a multi-billion-dollar defence project involving National Security in the first place?
Unless you too were dodgy and knew access to a huge slush fund with little oversight made such an association very attractive?”
Most of the credit for this expensive and time-consuming mess must go to Morrison’s LNP government. Labor deservedly receiving brickbats for being one of the weakest and most compliant/complicit oppositions in Australian history.[/box]
Labor didn’t get spared in our previous French submarine article
It’s very hard to separate Labor and the Liberals into the white hat and black hat dichotomy they prefer their adherents embrace. Especially when Labor has abandoned the basic principles that gave some semblance of product differentiation.
“The questions that have been asked about this $5,000,000,000 discrepancy have been about as useful as the answers.
The ABC’s defence correspondent – Andrew Greene didn’t seem to know about the $400,000,000 penalty clause, nor even Labor’s own submarine expert Penny Wong. They certainly didn’t mention it.
Under questioning from Labor’s Penny Wong, Defence Department deputy secretary Tony Dalton confirmed the final cost of the aborted program could exceed $5 billion.
“We now have a situation where the taxpayer will pay up to $5.5b for non-existent submarines?” Senator Wong asked.
Mr Dalton responded that: “The final negotiated settlement will be within that price, senator.”
I’ve no doubt Penny engaged in a furious bout of eyebrow arching, but her inability to cut to the crux of the matter, with perhaps a simple, “Why are we paying $5,000,000,000 on top of the agreed contractual penalty for backing out of the submarine deal?” is difficult to comprehend.
It’s almost as though Labor were giving this very dodgy, massive waste of public monies a pass.” – (French submarines – Why are we paying $5.5 billion for a $400 million contract breach? – Mick Lawless – Dingo News
A BBC article states, “Australia has announced a €555m ($585m; £475m) settlement with France’s Naval Group as compensation for scuppering a submarine contract with Paris.”
In common with all other reports on the settlement it fails to mention the French demand for $5,500,000,000.
It goes on to say, “Mr Albanese added that the failed French submarine contract will have cost Australian taxpayers A$3.4bn (US$2.4bn; €2.28bn) with almost nothing to show for it.”
There was no talk of culpability by Albanese for this huge diplomatic furore and the billions wasted.
No incisive commentary on the matter from the BBC either.
Still, what can one expect from a news agency that describes Albanese’s Labor government as “centre-left?”
Labor did make (pre-election) performative inquiry noises
‘Losing billions deserves a full inquiry,’ Carr says
“The new partnership (American Nuclear submarine deal under AUKUS) also spells the end of the Australian government’s $90-billion project for French-designed submarines to be built in Adelaide.
There are also growing calls for an inquiry into the billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on the now junked contract, with about $2 billion having already been spent on the Attack-class submarines.
Former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr took to social media to call for a probe into the decision-making process.”
South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick (retired June 2022) said that, while the cost of walking away from the project was better than the government continuing with the program, there needed to be independent oversight of the billions of dollars spent on a program that would not eventuate.
“The taxpayers are right to look back and say, ‘How did we go through this? How do we get into this situation? What went wrong with the French program?'” Senator Patrick said.
“We’ve got a bunch of very senior people in Canberra, who have guided us through a program that failed, and that can’t be left without some level of inquiry.”
“We need to know the full cost of the abandonment of the existing program, but we also need to know what the cost of the proposed program would be,” Mr Albanese said.” – Australia to be left ‘strategically naked’ for 20 years under nuclear submarine deal, Rudd says – Stephanie Dalze – ABC
“The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, expressed support for AUKUS but criticised the prime minister for the “failure” of the French submarine deal, which already cost billions.” – Biden’s submarine accord with Australia angers both France and China – Karen DeYoung Michael E. Miller and Lily Kuo – Washington Post
Former Labor Senator Kim Carr urged caution about “instantly” joining AUKUS after the French fiasco. Carr cited concerns about “sovereign capability” in the project and stated the AUKUS pact needed to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. – Veteran Labor senator demands Senate inquiry into AUKUS submarines pact – Rob Harris – SMH
Mr Carr retired in 2022.
The same incompetents then decided American N-powered submarines were a great idea
“Instead of thinking through and independently acting in Australia’s best interests, Prime Minister Albanese has followed in the footsteps of his discredited predecessors and outsourced defence and foreign policy to the US.” – Albo is in denial. He seeks protection and reassurance By Bruce Haigh – Pearls and Irritations
It seems odd that neither the Liberal government nor their Labor opposition seemed aware of Naval Group’s history of corruption and bribes.
The Liberal government had access to our intelligence services and the Labor opposition has multiple contacts and could always punch a few words into Google.
Surely we’d expect a little due diligence for the largest expenditure of Australian public money ever outlaid on a defence project?
Perhaps as some cynics have suggested, it’s about connections and favours to mates and not merit?
As though to prove that point, Labor (now in power) have selected yet another shonky contractor for a sensitive security task.
Anyone else see these as red flags?
“A car packed with explosives drove into a bus of engineers in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002, apparently in revenge for unpaid bribes, killing 15 people, including 11 employees of French shipbuilder DCN, now Naval Group.
The French investigation into the bombing – known as the Karachi Affair – began in 2002 and uncovered a web of corruption that by 2010 appeared to involve then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
In June this year, 18 years later, a Paris court secured the first convictions in the case. Six men were found guilty of charges involving kickbacks on deals signed in 1994 for the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia. They include three former French government officials and the former head of the International Division of Naval Group.” – Murder, corruption, bombings – the company at centre of Australia’s submarine deal – by Michelle Fahy – Michael West
These aspects of the French deal won’t be raised by Labor because it would cause friction with the French government (an imperialist power in our region) who own 62.25% of Naval Group. A further 35% is owned by French multinational Thales which has large interests in Australia.
“Albanese is aware of the real forces behind the French submarine fiasco and the move to nuclear (The French subs were originally nuclear, modified to diesel under Australian contractual direction).
Yet still, he goes along with this bullshit transition from costly international blunder to a triumphant coalition of freedom fighters, as though it was a natural and sane progression in Australian defence strategy.” – The Albanese doctrine: ‘Don’t play politics with security’ – (Labor moves even further Right under “Albo”) – Annotated by Mick Lawless
For those Labor apologists who told us that Labor was being wedged to support the AUKUS deal. Or that it was just a pre-election gambit and they’d never purchase American nuclear-powered submarines – please note.
“Anthony Albanese is directly lobbying members of US congress to hold the line in supporting the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal as it comes under criticism in America, calling the pact essential in strengthening Australia’s defence capabilities.”
As Keating stated, “Labor gets a briefing one night and by 11 o’clock the next morning, they’re in the car”
Who knew impulse defence pacts were a thing?
More chance of the Second Coming than a French submarine inquiry
There are other reasons we won’t see an inquiry into the French submarine debacle getting up, not the least being the American influence within our government to scupper the French submarine deal.
“All told, six retired U.S. admirals have worked for the Australian government since 2015, including one who served for two years as Australia’s deputy secretary of defence. In addition, a former U.S. secretary of the Navy has been a paid adviser to three successive Australian prime ministers.
A Washington Post investigation found that the former U.S. Navy officials have benefited financially from a tangle of overlapping interests in their work for a longtime ally of the United States. Some of the retired admirals have worked for the Australian government while simultaneously consulting for U.S. shipbuilders and the U.S. Navy, including on classified programs.
One of the six retired U.S. admirals had to resign this year as a part-time submarine consultant to the Australian government because of a potential conflict of interest over his full-time job as board chairman of a U.S. company that builds nuclear-powered subs.” – Former U.S. Navy leaders profited from overlapping interests on sub deal – By Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones – Washington Post
This must be seen as a primary influence in Morrison and “Albo” choosing the American submarine path. We may as well couple that influence with the whole American defence dependency mindset that has existed since World War II, with perhaps a brief respite under the Whitlam Labor government.
But what if there was an inquiry? (Best to cover all the bases)
Let us suppose public pressure did mount over the French submarine fiasco, making some semblance of investigation necessary.
A defence-themed investigation ushers in our old mate National Security who can be counted on to make any inquiry or Royal Commission – already bound with the Terms of Reference set by the government – even more useless and farcical.
All to herald the inevitable conclusion – after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on legal theatrics, [Bankers, Black Deaths in Custody, Youth Detention (NT) et al.] – that while it was indeed a bad thing and people deserved censure, no-one was culpable to the point of being punished for it. The public and media having moved on anyway.
Royal Commissions (and Public inquiries) are essentially lightning rods for dissent.*
NB: Don’t start thinking you can walk out of a supermarket with some ‘unpaid for produce’ tucked beneath your clothing and expect similar leniency.
*A phrase from a sociological text whose provenance I can’t recall.
Some inquiry irony – “I do not think it is the business of a French company to conduct an inquiry into any Australian citizen that was not employed by the company,” Patrick said. “Naval Group were in a contract with the Australian government and could have requested assistance from Australian authorities if they thought there were Australian citizens involved in any leak.” – French submarine maker’s Australian job: On the hunt for a corporate leaker An Australian senator and a journalist investigated on behalf of France’s Naval Group – Elisa Braun and Jules Darmanin – Politico
Kieran Gilbert, Sky News – (interviewing Marles)