SA Subs in doubt: Bernardi

October 30, 2018

Australia may not build the planned full complement of 12 next generation submarines, the navy's program chief has revealed amid protracted - and at times fractious - negotiations with the French designer.

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi says he's not surprised at the news given the involvement of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne.

In an interview with The Australian Financial Review, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut has defended the project against claims of a cost blow-out and rejected suggestions that taxpayers were paying too much with the project's $50 billion price tag.

But as revealed by the Financial Review in August, a stalemate had emerged over key aspects of the contract, including warranty periods for defects and the implications for technology transfer if Naval Group – which is effectively majority-owned by the French government – should ever be sold.

Admiral Sammut said, "What we've done is we've left ourselves flexibility for the number of submarines that we may order at any one time."

Critics of the French choice and the headline $50 billion have complained cheaper options were available. German bidder TKMS claimed it could build 12 submarines for $20 billion, while Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick claimed recently that 20 modified off-the-shelf submarines would cost $20 billion.

Senator Bernardi has told Paul Murray Live on Sky News that Defence Minister Christopher Pyne's assurance that all is well with the project doesn't convince him.

To read Andrew Tillett's full article, click here.

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