October 28, 2015

Prime Minister Turnbull Remain Neutral on Submarine Issues

New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, relaxed but careful in power. He won't be drawn on submarine issues. (Photo courtesy The Guardian)

During an October 28, 2015 interview on ABC Radio 891 in Adelaide, South Australia, Prime Minister Turnbull refused to pre-empt the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP). This is most irritating for South Australians. Turnbull remains balanced and popular - such a change from the dark days of former Prime Minister Abbott.

1st Article

AAP via Australia’s 9 News, October 28, 2016, reports http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/10/28/08/37/pm-distances-himself-from-subs-pledge

PM distances himself from subs pledge

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has distanced himself from a promise made before the last election to build Australia's next submarine fleet in South Australia.

The federal government is still undergoing a competitive evaluation process, despite David Johnston, the former defence minister, pledging the 12 submarines would be constructed in [South Australia].

Mr Turnbull told ABC radio on Wednesday he wouldn't go "back into the archaeology" of what was said by [Senator David Johnston], but there will be a substantial defence industry in South Australia. 


I interpret Jenning's unusual "metal bashing" comment, in the ABC Online article, to mean welding specialists from Japan will do the welds even if they do it in an Australian shipyard. If it is Japanese welders then use of the the very difficult to weld of NS110 in Australian Soryus is more likely. 

It appears from the ABC Radio interview that the Turnbull Government is not necessarily tied to assembling the future submarines in Adelaide, South Australia. 

This may be because Turnbull and Defence Minister Payne have now had more time to recognise that other states, particularly Victoria and Western Australia, have strong claims to shipbuilding experience and efficiency

Six Liberals from South Australia may have been part of the 54 Liberal Party votes that were essential to give Turnbull power on September 14, 2015. But the 6 may have had no real choice. Abbott’s clear "Build in Japan" decision would have provided even less likelihood of any submarine build taking place in South Australia.

On September 23, 2015 Industry Minister Christopher Pyne appeared to confirm that the submarines would be built in South Australia but that might have just been a short-term tactic of the Turnbull Government to make the 6 South Australian Liberals feel that they had achieved a victory. Pyne's September 23 statements may also have been made for temporary consumption by South Australians. 

So the Turnbull views on ABC Radio above may indicate a longer-term reality that the Turnbull Government will divide the submarine between all the States. 

This may be in broader recognition that naval shipbuilding is an Australian national activity not just South Australian. Submarines are not the only items in the naval shipbuilding mix. South Australia can also benefit from being part of the Frigate and Offshore Patrol Vessel builds.


2nd Article

Meanwhile Australia’s ABC Online, October 28, 2015, interviewed Peter Jennings made available to backup Turnbull’s comments http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-28/highly-likely-submarines-will-be-built-in-australia/6893766

“Peter Jennings, is executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)” and “chair of the Government-appointed independent expert panel providing advice to the minister on the [2015] Defence White Paper.”

"It seems to me highly likely now that these [submarines] will be constructed in Australia," Mr Jennings told 7.30. "I think that's the option that governments will find politically and technologically most suitable.

"Whether that is all going to be in South Australia or if we will have a mix of different states, that's a separate matter.

...[Jennings] said that should be the industry's focus rather than submarine hull construction, something he termed "metal bashing".

"It means dealing with the smart innards of these technical systems, rather than the metal bashing that's associated with hull construction, which is always the low-end and frankly the least value of these major projects," he said....


I interpret Jenning's unusual "metal bashing" comment to mean welding specialists from Japan will do the welds even if they do it in an Australian shipyard. If it requires Japanese welders then use of the very difficult to weld of NS110 in Australian Soryus is more likely. 



Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,

So I'm curious about this "CEP" committee.. On the one hand it seems that the Defence Ministry is trying to be very transparent through the media and publicize a lot of information about the submarines tender. On the second hand, one of the key components for choosing the winning submarine design is by getting the approval of the CEP. BUT, there is almost no information about this committee's members and personnel. Shouldn't it also be disclosed for the public? Maybe because the designs have not been presented yet, but still.. then why the Experts Advisory Panel has been publicized. Anyway, I couldn't find anything about the CEP's composition, and I find it somewhat intriguing. Maybe you know something about its members or have another answer to this?


Peter Coates said...

Hi Dan

There is no specialised "CEP committee" (that I know of) that is directly choosing between the French, German and Japanese bidders.

On the Expert Advisory Panel then Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews said on 5 June 2015 http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2015/06/05/minister-for-defence-transcript-expert-advisory-panel-on-the-future-submarine-competitive-evaluation-process-5-june-2015/ : "...The Expert Advisory Panel will assure the Government that the competitive evaluation process remains sound, is conducted in accordance with probity and accountability principles, and that participants have been treated fairly and equitably." So that is a committee that assesses if the CEP process, of asking questions and receiving information from the bidders, has been conducted fairly.

However I would say the National Securite Committee of Cabinet will choose the winning bidder sometime in 2016 or at least eliminate one bidder in 2016 (with a tender like competition between the two remaining bidders). The National Security Committee of Cabinet has a standard "first pass" decision making process.

Much of Cabinet's decision making on weapons is Commercial-in-Confidence and National-Security-in Confidence equivalent to Top Secret.

Some of the reasons in Cabinet's ("the Federal Government's") decision is likely to be given by Media Releases by Turnbull and Marise Payne AFTER the decision is made.

There is no direct public choice (referendum) on weapons choices.