February 1, 2015

Balance of Power Senator Lambie AND Limited Submarine Competition?


Balance of Power Senator Lambie

See February 1, 2015 revisions in Red.

The intervention on January 30, 2015 (see ABC article) of Australian Senator Jacqui Lambie in favour of Build the Future Submarine in Australia is of major significance. On that date Senator Lambie and Senator Nick Xenophon visited ASC in Adelaide, South Australia. The significance of the visit and statements by Lambie and Xenophon have been basically ignored by the international submarine industry and commentariat.

Senator Lambie does not tick all the superficial boxes considered important in the industry. She is not a tall, alpha male in a suit, with long experience as a senior politician or a retired senior military commander. She is relatively new to the Australian Parliament and rose to the rank of Corporal in the Army Reserve (however a certain German, who became powerful, rose to Corporal 100 years ago :)

Independent Senator Lambie, however, is one of the major holders of the balance of power in the Australian Federal Parliament with a record of threatening to block - or actually blocking - major $Billion dollar bills (also called "legislation"). Lambie, with other Senators, could potentially block or hinder the Abbott Government's pro-Soryu policy. 

Balance of power comes by way of the governing Liberal/National Coalition not having a majority of seats in the Australian Parliament’s Upper House – the Senate. There are 76 Senators, including:
Liberal/National Coalition - 33 seats
Australian Labor Party the main opposition party - 25 seats
The Minor Parties are:
Greens (who often vote with Labor) - 10 seats
Palmer United Party 2 seats
Liberal Democrats – 1 seat
Family First Party – 1 seat
The Independents are:
John Madigan – 1 seat
Nick Xenophon – 1 seat, and
Jacqui Lambie – 1 seat.

The Coalition requires 6 non-Coalition Senators to pass bills. Labor and the Greens regularly vote against the Coalition. This often leaves a Balance of Power situation where the governing Coalition needs 4 Senators from the other Minor Parties and/or Independents to vote with the Coalition. 

Jacqui Lambie has been the most recent Senator to become an Independent and she is the most unpredictable Senator.

Before voting the Coalition Government often has to "horse trade" on issues to avoid the embarrassing situation of having legislation blocked in the Senate because there are too many Senator votes against the Coalition's piece of legislation.

Senator Lambie is highly principled and represents Australia's smallest State, Tasmania. She might  expect some components for any new submarine would be made in Tasmania.

Senator Nick Xenophon from the submarine building and sustainment State of South Australia is coordinating efforts with Senator Lambie to potentially threaten to block any Submarine Made in Japan moves.

They admit they are coordinating efforts because Prime Minister Abbott's power is declining - making more amenable to the idea of Build in Australia. They recognise the major push for Soryu Made in Japan comes from Abbott's parliamentary office not Defence Minister Andrews' office.

The fall of the Coalition State Government in Queensland on the night of January 31, 2015 has further weakened Abbott's position.

Limited Submarine Competition

Separately in the ABC article is the prediction that: The Abbott government "is expected to announce a limited competition for the new generation submarine project involving firms from Japan, Germany and France in a matter of weeks." 

A limited competition is quite possible, but given a submarine purchase may cost $20+ Billions, the competition and the bids (or re-bids) from Japan, Germany and France would probably be long and comprehensive. The "competition" may also be used by Abbott and Andrews as a false exercise in "due diligence" to confirm that the current choice - the Soryu - has "won" the "competition". Choice of the Soryu, after all, is heavily about alliances - about alliance obligations to the US and by extension Japan - not only about the usual tender technical parameteres.


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