Australian government plans to spend 50 billion Australian dollars (US$39.39 billion) on powerful new submarines, has become a political football at home, reports Reuters.
The opposition said it wanted to invite Sweden to join Germany, France and Japan in submitting tenders for submarine fleet, as part of a proposal to end political gridlock on the project.
The Government has rejected a Labor proposal to further open up the submarine tender process as "complete fantasy" and a "mirage".
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dismissed the Labor plan warning the nation could be left without any operational vessels. He also reminded Labor it had six years in government from late 2007 to make a decision about replacing the Collins class fleet.
Under Labor’s plan, there would be an open tender process involving submarine builders from France, Germany, Japan and Sweden with the winning vessel chosen by the end of 2016 and constructed in Australia.
While the government has not publicly detailed its tender process, it had excluded Sweden, which worked with Australia to build the six ageing Collins-class vessels that are being replaced, citing its lack of recent experience.
The government’s competitive acquisition process involves France, Germany and Japan with a decision made by the end of 2015. Subs could be built overseas or in Australia.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said that would place Australia’s security at risk. “We are not going to engage in your fantasy,” he told Labor MPs.
Now the government will appoint an expert advisory panel to ensure accountability for the first phase of the $50 billion future submarine project. The panel will oversee the “competitive evaluation process” between companies from Germany and France and the Government of Japan.
Industry representatives questioned the move and many wondered how the evaluation process could possibly be fair when Japan was being dealt with on a government-to-government basis while the German and French builders were on a commercial level.