January 29, 2015

Australian Prime Minister's Decline Weakening "Buy Soryu"

Are the sinking fortunes of Prime Minister Abbott also sinking the Soryu?

The last week has presented a further example of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's  lamentable political  judgement. Abbott is weakening his influence in his own Liberal Party and in Australia generally.

Regarding Australia's biggest future defence purchase - Abbott has frustrated many in his Party by going beyond the normal prime ministerial role. This is in terms of Abbott going over the heads of his former Defence Minister and perhaps his current Defence Minister Kevin Andrews in unilaterally(?) selecting a specific high cost weapons system - the Soryu submarine. If Abbott is doing this to please the US, and/or to build a special relationship with like-minded conservative politician Abe, then Abbott might want to reconsider. A proper tender for the future submarine is needed.

The future submarine (Soryu or not) may be with Australia for 45 years (selection, production, then in-service) perhaps long after Abbott and Abe are forgotten.

Abbott's support for the Soryu has always been opposed by most in his own Party, by many in the Australian Navy and probably most defence civilians in Canberra and Adelaide. With Abbott's decline the Soryu's chances of selection has declined. If or when Abbott is removed by his Party from the Prime Ministerial position it is not clear whether Abbott's policy of "buy Soryu and build in Japan" will be maintained.

Japan may not always be an ally but even a problem for Australia - as has happened before. At a minimum Japan may want Australia to join Japan in armed confrontation against China. Abe and new Defence Minister Nakatani are a rightwing departure from Japan's usual pacifist defence policies. They may change the defence complexion of Japan - not necessarily in line with Australian interests.

Abbott may have a conservative ally and loyal supporter in new Defence Minister Kevin Andrews. However Kevin Andrews is too new to the Defence portfolio, with no track record on defence issues, to have his own base of power to support a Soryu purchase - yet. Like earlier Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson Andrews may make a good Defence Minister in the near future.

There is powerful support in Abbott's own Party, the Navy and the Defence Department for the build of part or all of the future submarine in Australia. Germany's TKMS, France's DCNS and Sweden's Saab have made strong bids that support "Build in Australia." This means that if Abbott goes these other bids may win. Japan may need to be flexible enough to counter with a genuine "part or fully build in Australia".

No commentators or politicians are recognising the early January 2015 "Manufacture Soryu submarine steel in Australia" offer as genuine "Build in Australia". This is partly because this Australian steel will just be thrown on Japan's existing submarine steel stockpile. No-one expects Japan to be dependent on Australia for strategically vital submarine steel.


Details on Prime Minister Abbott's latest political mistake, particularly in not consulting his Party, are:

MELBOURNE Australia - "Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday he stood by his controversial decision to award Britain's Prince Philip a knighthood and was taking the firestorm of criticism "on the chin".  Several ministers [also called "frontbenchers"] have walked away from Mr Abbott's appointment of the nonagenarian Duke of Edinburgh to the ranks of the Order of Australia, MPs on all sides have mocked the move and the media condemned it severely."

The Australian, a major newspaper from Rupert Murdoch's powerful media empire, ran a highly critical editorial asking: "Tony Abbott is in office but is he prime minister?" http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/tony-abbott-is-in-office-but-is-he-prime-minister/story-e6frg71x-1227198890579 
"The decision to turn a distant duke into a knight Down Under suggests a prime minister who is tone deaf or, worse, complacent in his power to push through a personal preference indifferent to the fact that it is bound to enrage and bewilder many," it said."


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