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Australia's sovereign naval shipbuilding capability: interim report

Future submarine program: Ringing of bells, wringing of hands
Government contracts Submarines Defence expenditure Government accountability Defence Australia

The Senate Economics References Committee resolved to produce this interim report as it has become increasingly concerned about the status of the Future Submarine Program (FSP) and at the Department of Defence's lack of responsiveness in terms of providing information on that project and others that fall under the scope of this inquiry.

As described by former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the FSP is the largest and most complex defence acquisition Australia has ever undertaken. Media reports that the Commonwealth government is now considering a 'Plan B'—that is, cancelling the agreement with Naval Group and engaging a new submarine builder is, to the committee, a loudly–ringing alarm bell on the status of this long-term, multi-billion dollar acquisition. Accordingly, the committee feels compelled to share its findings and views with the Australian people through this report.

At the same time, the committee has also become increasingly frustrated by the Department of Defence's lack of responsiveness to its requests for information. The committee now feels that Defence has impeded its work in examining Australia's sovereign naval shipbuilding program—an inquiry authorised by the Australian Senate. This is not only an affront to the committee but a contempt of the Parliament and, by extension, the Australian people. The committee has now raised a Matter of Privilege through the President of Senate regarding the Department's continued obstructionism.

This report consists of three chapters: this introductory chapter; a second examining the FSP with the third critically examining Defence accountability and transparency. Although there are only four recommendations, the message of this report is clear—the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Defence must cease obfuscating and inform the Parliament, and thus the Australia people, on the true status of the Future Submarine Project.

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