SA senators' concerns about sub zero budget responsibility may put $200bn French deal on ice

October 02, 2018

Conservative Party leader and South Australian crossbench senator Cory Bernardi has sided with three other SA crossbenchers in airing concerns about the $200 billion federal government deal to build Shortfin Barracuda submarines with the French government.

Senator Bernardi said the project risked becoming a white elephant, adding "The sensible option is to buy off-the-shelf submarines, have them manufactured in Australia as some of the designers have said they can be, and ensure they can be delivered on time and on budget."

The Conservative Party has maintained the need for fiscal responsibility across all levels of government as federal government debt clocks past $520 billion.

Already the delays on the signing of the submarine deal has led to speculation that Australia will have to refit the existing Collins-class submarines and operate them for another 30 years.

Respected Australian economics commentator Robert Gottliebsen also described the deal as a potential white elephant in today's The Australian newspaper, adding that "accepting the $220 billion plus French submarine proposal threatens to be the worst financial and defence decision in our history." Mr Gottliebsen notes the capital costs have risen from $50 billion to $90 billion before the project even starts and says the Australian commentary on the project is at odds with the French perspective.

The Adelaide Advertiser newspaper reports today that the 'strategic partnering agreement' between the French and Australian governments is making slow progress, with SA Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick saying negotiations had broken down.

Last month, Senator Bernardi told the Senate "The contractual arrangements that have seen the decision made to use the French tenderers for construction of our submarine project stink to high heaven." You can see Cory Bernardi's full contribution to the Senate about his submarine concerns in the embedded video below.

The French beat German and Japanese bids to build Australia's future submarine fleet, with local jobs a key marketing point from all three bidders. Now Defence minister, holder of the sometime marginal South Australian seat of Sturt - and controversial 'Black Hand' Liberal leader - Christopher Pyne was criticised during the negotiations as being the one whose 'job' the future submarine deal was designed to save.

Mr Gottliebsen signed off "Please, Christopher Pyne, act in the interests of the nation and not your immediate political needs."

News Limited subscribers can read Peter Jean's full report in The Advertiser here.

To read Robert Gottliebsen's full opinion piece in The Australian today, click here.

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