Friday, February 13, 2015

Pressure mounting for Aussie subs to be built in Australia, not Japan or elsewhere

Mina Pollman, The Diplomat, Feb 13

On Monday morning, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott barely survived a motion for a leadership spill by 61 to 39 votes. Resentment against Abbott's premiership had been brewing for a long time, thanks to his position on co-payments for doctor's visits and the decision to cut funding for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Tensions finally boiled over with his Australia Day "Knightmare" fiasco and the Labor party's victory in Queensland's state elections last week (technically, the Electoral Commission of Queensland is still tallying the final votes, but it appears that Labor will form a coalition government with an independent member there).
Reports indicate that Abbott only survived the spill by compromising on the process of determining which company would produce Australia's next generation of submarines. Abbott promised South Australian Liberal Senator Sean Edwards that Adelaide companies would be allowed to bid for future submarine contracts, a step back for a potential deal with Japan.
Confusion over the future submarine deal only deepened when Senator Edwards said Abbott had promised him a "full and open tender," while Abbott insisted he had only promised a "competitive evaluation process." During parliamentary question time on Wednesday, Abbott attacked the idea of an open tender process: "Do you know about an open tender? Anyone can compete. What the leader of the opposition wants - he wants anyone to be able to compete to provide Australia's next generation of submarines. We could have Kim Jong-il submarines, Vladimir Putin submarines." Abbott also accused the opposition of "antediluvian xenophobia" for questioning the wisdom of having Japan involved in the submarine project.

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