That sinking feeling: Smith, subs and national security
The Minister's job is to ensure we have "the ability to conduct independent military operations in the defence of Australia by way of controlling the air and sea approaches to Australia, and denying an adversary the ability to operate, without disruption, in our immediate neighbourhood".
For that reason, the Government's 2009 Defence White Paper stated that one of its main priorities was "a significant focus on enhancing our maritime capabilities".
"And at the centre of that wish list are 12 new submarines to be built in South Australia in Australia's biggest ever defence project. To me, this seems particularly ambitious; especially without looking at the alternatives. The existing six Collins class submarines, ordered by a previous Labor government, have been disappointing from the start. It is not obvious why Labor wants to risk a repeat of that experience. The Navy has struggled to even have enough crew, submarines have been too regularly out of service and in the Minister's own words (ABC TV July 20, 2011),"There are longstanding maintenance and sustainment difficulties with our Collins class submarines". And now he says he can't start on the new project until he knows how long the existing submarines will last."
"The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has recently been quoted as saying that the wish list for military hardware is already a long way behind schedule."
"Nuclear propulsion instead of diesel does not mean Australian submarines would carry nuclear weapons. Nuclear powered boats can travel further and faster so whilst 12 boats are needed if using diesel propulsion, some lesser number may be more than adequate with nuclear propulsion. All these cost differences need to be examined. Servicing a nuclear reactor would mean that we would have to have an arrangement with the US for maintenance as we do not have substantial nuclear technology in Australia. A joint submarine base with the US in Australia would be good for Australia.
And there is no rational reason for us to be too shy about a nuclear-powered ship when, as the White Paper says, Australia has been relying on the nuclear deterrent for years and, under successive governments, has acknowledged the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the US alliance."
"Of course, if we are to build the submarines ourselves it will end up as an open cheque book and the cost will escalate. In the White Paper, the Government says that all purchases should be subject to the principle "that military-off-the-shelf and commercial-off-the-shelf solutions to Defence's capability requirements will be the benchmark against which a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of the military effects and schedule aspects of all proposals will be undertaken". But this will not apply to the biggest ever defence project where the estimates are anywhere between $36 billion and $70 billion.
From the same people who gave Australia pink batts and school halls, there is every reason to have misgivings about how this project will be developed. If it ends up with cosy union deals, like the desalination plant in Victoria, the cost to the taxpayer could be astronomical and the boats might end up no better than the Collins'.
It would be in everybody's interest, including his own, if Minister Smith was a lot more open about the critical decisions yet to be taken on this project so vital to Australia's long term security."
Peter Reith was a senior cabinet minister in the Australian government from 1996 to 2001 and then a director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2003 to 2009.
25 Oct 2011 11:54:21am
This whole matter is now antic after 24 year.
The Collin's submarine deal in Feb 1987 was controversial from day one as Sweden wanted to build them in Sweden.(During a time when Sovjet's own subs got stuck upon the Swedish beaches)
The last negotiation was held at Wooloomooloo in Sydney onboard the Swedish HMS Carlscrona early February 1987. The last day during a lunch onboard I suggested the Swedish high shooters to walk down after lunch and present a new proposal and make it to a joint business and build them in Australia. That was the reason why Kockums finally was selected.(recorded)
But now to the point! Submarines is not the future. Just look up in the sky and imagine the new ''submarines'' will be up there in the air, and not under water. If you can't imagine them you will see Chine's 'floating' nuclear ships up there anyhow.
Stop playing this old Peek-a-Boo game in Space Time!