Tony Abbott promises open tender for submarine project

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has changed his mind and decided
to allow local shipbuilders to bid build Australia’s next generation submarines.

The Adelaide Advertiser reports that, in the lead up to this
morning’s leadership spill motion (which he survived by 61-39), Abbott promised
South Australian Senator Sean Edwards that Government owned shipbuilder ASC
would be allowed to tender for the work.

Edwards had said that his support for Abbott as PM would
depend on the acceptance of local bids for the $20 – $40 billion project.

And he wasn’t the
only South Australian to put such pressure on Abbott. MP Matt Williams also
made it known that his support depended on allowing local bidders to vie for
the submarine work.

“I’m very pleased with the decision of the Prime Minister
and when he rang me today with this very good news — it now commits the
Government to a full and open tender — and this should lead to hat throwing, to
punching the air,” Edwards said.

Before the last Federal election, the government pledged
that the submarines would be built locally. However, it later became clear that
Japan was the favourite to win the work. In December, Treasurer Joe Hockey said there would be no open tender because of a lack of time.

Not everybody is pleased with the latest about-turn.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the change of heart was
not about saving the jobs of local shipbuilding workers, but about saving Tony
Abbott’s job as Prime Minister.

And, as the ABC reports, South Australia’s Defence Minister
Martin Hamilton-Smith said the decision does not go far enough and the work may
still go overseas.

“Nothing short of adhering to the promise that was made
to South Australians prior to the federal election that there would be 12
submarines built in Australia, based in Adelaide, will do,” Hamilton-Smith
said.

“That was the promise the Coalition made, that’s the
promise that should be kept.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who has also been a vocal
critic of the government’s policy, told the ABC, “If the Prime Minister
was genuine about the subs being built in Australia he could have, should have,
announced that there would be a competitive process culminating with a build
right here in Australia.”

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