April 25, 2016
What should be in a Brief to Cabinet on the Future Submarine Decision
After looking at only unclassified material on the Australian Future Submarine issue what I would put in a Brief to the National Security Committee of Cabinet on the Future Submarine Decision is the following [no doubt reams of attachments on bid technical and other comparisons would go in a real one]. The brief below has been placed on the internet now to give time for Prime Minister Turnbull/Cabinet to study it before he announces a submarine decision on any day from 26 to 29 April 2016.
ISSUE: Gaining pre-electoral benefits through a future submarine announcement
1. Most of the Future Submarine build will take place in Adelaide
2. All States will benefit from the Future Submarine build. South Australia and all other States will supply parts and services for the submarines in the building and sustainment phases.
3. Australia deeply values its strategic and trade relations with Japan.
4. Two finalists will be chosen by mid-2017 after further consideration of the bids.
5. [[If thought advantageous to say at this stage, but this holds dangers] the two finalists in the Competitive Evaluation Process are TKMS and DCNS in no particular order at this stage.]
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
[Regarding Talking Points 1 and 2]
Our Government has decided to "call" (ie. once authorised by the Governor-General) (between 4 May and 8 May 2016) a Federal Election to be held on 2 July 2016.
It is important/essential to secure at least 6 of the 11 Electorates in South Australia (SA) and at least
5 (of 12) Senate positions in SA .
“Swinging” (non-aligned) voters in SA and other shipbuilding States (NSW, WA, QLD, Tasmania and Victoria, in that order of likely obtainable vote importance) see the submarine build as a major, federal expenditure, business and job generator on practical and core-value (faith) levels.
Regarding Point 2 - even if all submarines are built in Australia around 50% of the parts will be primarily sourced from overseas but then assembled into submarines in Australia.
[Talking Point 3]
A previous Prime Minister made pre-emptive statements which unhelpfully raised Japan’s/Prime Minister Abe’s hopes, eg. in Parliament when an Australian said "the Japanese make the best large conventional submarine in the world."
The leak over the last two weeks has caused deep offence in Japan. Abe considered the submarine sale to Australia as a special symbol and export project for Japan's evolving change of defence outlook. It was also to be a symbol of, almost, an alliance with Australia.
Japan and Abe would lose more prestige (“face”) by being publicly told before 2 July 2016 that what Abe sees as his Japanese submarine project has been lost. It is recommended that any announcement implying winners/losers take the form of announcing two finalists around mid 2017. A further selection process could then take place with a decision point as distant as 2018.
The leak indicating Japan is third is a sufficient message which requires no further public comment. It is recommended the PM, Defence and Foreign Minister should eventually travel to Japan (if invited) (or meet at a regional/G20? Conference) to explain (apologise for) the leak. The frequent mentions of Japan in the 2016 Defence White Paper DWP can in retrospect be seen as a consolation prize - that Japan remains an important partner of Australia strategically and economically.
[Talking Points 4 and 5]
It is recommended any announcement on winners/losers can take the form of announcing One Winner in 2018.
- There is little to be electorally gained by announcing, before the 2 July Election, one CEP
winner. Every utterance/Media Release by a declared winner, or two finalists, could become
an uncontrollable feature of the 2 July Election campaign.
- There is time to further assess the two finalists (TKMS and DCNS) with a view to announcing the
winner by 2018. This consideration can include build in Australia industry plans proposed by
- Announcing a winner or the two finalists now would focus intense
media/public scrutiny on the business/location/build plans of that winner or the two finalists.
- More time is genuinely needed to technically compare the bids of the two finalists.
- There is time because the mid-life Collins submarine upgrade will extend the working life of the
Collins through to the early-mid 2030s. This permits the time extension of the CEP through to
2017-2018 as the first Future submarine only needs to be built from 2027.
Not declaring one winner or the two finalists can be justified in that the much earlier Future Frigate and Offshore Patrol Vessel Programs are themselves only at the shortlist stage.
That extended CEP timeline being the case bipartisan agreement from the ALP Opposition (as the ALP may actually win the 2 July Election) should be secured if Cabinet makes decision to announce an actual winner before the Election.
As US companies Raytheon or Lockheed Martin need also to be selected to supply the highly classified combat system (most of the database/weapons/sensors) the US DoD should continue to be copied into the selection process.
Posted by Peter Coates