Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pledge to allow local ship builders to attempt to secure the project to build the next generation submarines have increased confusion surrounding the issue.
The West Australian reports that, in the lead up to this week’s unsuccessful leadership spill motion, Abbott met South Australian Liberal Senator Sean Edwards (who wants the submarines made locally), in an attempt to secure his vote.
The two reached an agreement on the issue which Edwards said he was happy with. But what they agreed is not exactly clear.
“I’ve been in discussions surrounding the ability of Australian ship builders to be involved in an open, competitive tender which has been, up until today, something which the Government has been somewhat reserved on,” Edwards said after the discussion with Abbott.
But it seems that Abbott only promised a ‘competitive evaluation process’, not ‘an open competitive tender’.
According to the West Australian, sources within defence say they don’t know a competitive evaluation process is.
Former senior Defence official Andrew Podger told the SMH that the term was vague and that a tender is a more rigorous method of choosing who wins military hardware contracts.
"What we need to do is see a much clearer process, which ensures both the capability we want is met and the most efficient approach is taken," he said.
Meanwhile, as the ABC reports, the fight to have the work done locally continues. Shipyard workers have flown to Canberra to demand that the government stick to its pre-election promise and have the submarines built in Adelaide.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's assistant national secretary Glenn Thompson said the workers plan to lobby Liberal MPs and attend Parliamentary Question Time.
"Christopher Pyne, like other South Australians and other Liberals in ship building electorates, needs to stand up," Thompson said.
"If they can't get the message that… [if] they don't take steps to secure our Defence capability, our sovereign capability, they are going to be taught a harsh lesson from the electorate."