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Monday, 9 February 2015

Labor accuses PM of making up term to win spill votes

Labor accuses PM of making up term to win spill votes

Competitive evaluation process: Labor accuses PM Tony Abbott of making up submarine project term to win spill votes


Labor has accused the Prime Minister's office of
making up a term about Australia's biggest ever defence project to win
the party room votes of South Australian MPs.
Whether the
Government builds its next fleet of submarines locally or overseas is a
hot political issue in South Australia, where thousands of jobs could be
on the line.

On Sunday night Tony Abbott, in the hunt for
crucial party room votes, confirmed the contract worth tens of billions
of dollars would be awarded through what he called "a competitive
evaluation process".

It appeased South Australian Liberal senator Sean Edwards, but he admits he had not heard the term until now.

"Defence has a way in which they operate and that's the terminology they use," Senator Edwards told the ABC.

"But when I spoke to the Prime Minister and I said 'let me be
very clear does that mean ASC (the SA-based Government ship builder)
would be able to participate in this process' and he confirmed that they

Labor's David Feeney says the defence community is horrified.

"This is a form of words that I think we can reliably say has emerged from the Prime Minister's office," he said.

"Everybody in the defence community is aghast.

can it possibly be that a project of this significance is bandied
across the Liberal Party's factional manoeuvrings like a bargaining
chip? It is a desperate outrage."

Senator Feeney believes the
promise does not bode well for Australia's relationship with Japan, the
country Labor believes the Coalition wanted to give the work to.

think that the Japanese are entitled to say that their engagement with
Australia ... has been marked time and time again by shifting sands," he

"For Japan as it moves slowly and deliberatively out of
what has been quite an isolationist defence posture, that is a
completely impossible set of circumstances for them to tolerate."

Xenophon worried Government is dragging out decision process

analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Andrew Davies
says "competitive evaluation process" is not a formal defence term.

"It's not a formal part of the nomenclature in defence, no," he said.

Dr Davies does not believe Mr Abbott's promise provides any more clarity on how the contract will be awarded.

I get the terrible feeling that the Government's making this up as they go along.

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon
"Before the comment made in the press yesterday about the
submarine strategy we didn't really know how defence was going to go
about acquiring the new submarine and I'd suggest that we still don't,"
he said.

On Monday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann repeated the
PM's pledge of "a competitive evaluation process" but said it did not
mean the Government's policy had changed.

"Obviously the Government will be determining the process and how it works," Senator Cormann said.

"I mean at the moment no decision has actually been made in relation to the procurement of the next generation of submarines."

Asked whether he was alarmed by Senator Cormann's comments
Senator Edwards said: "It doesn't alarm me because I know what I've
spoken about with the Prime Minister and he was unequivocal."

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon is worried the Government is dragging out the decision-making process.

"I get the terrible feeling that the Government's making this up as they go along," he said.

"The face is that, prior to the last election, the Government committed to having the subs built in Australia.

the election, the Government said it would be making a decision within
18 months on the subs, to ensure there wasn't any capability gap.

now find that the Prime Minister, despite those statements time and
time again in the last 12 months, is now talking about a decision being
made at the end of this year.

"That's stretching it out an
additional eight months, despite the urgency that Joe Hockey as
Treasurer professed on this issue just a few months ago."

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