TONY Abbott has launched a strident defence of the decision not to put Australia’s future submarine project to an open tender, warning it would allow Russian and North Korean companies to make a bid.Mr Abbott has been under fire to explain how Australia will spend billions of dollars to build a new submarine fleet after senior ministers failed to explain how the current “competitive evaluation process” worked.
Labor has accused Mr Abbott of using the project, worth at least $20 billion, as a bargaining chip to secure votes after South Australian Senator Sean Edwards said the Prime Minister promised him an “open, competitive tender” the day before Monday’s leadership spill.
Speaking in the electorate of Hume earlier today, Mr Abbott said there was “quite a difference” between an open tender and a competitive evaluation process.
In question time, Mr Abbott went a step further when pressed by Bill Shorten about what commitment he gave Senator Edwards to secure his vote. He also blasted Labor for expressing scepticism about the prospect of Japanese involvement in the project while also pushing for a competitive tender process.
“They want an open tender. Now they don’t understand the difference between an open tender and an evaluation process, a competitive evaluation process. You know about an open tender? Anyone can compete,” Mr Abbott said.
“What the Leader of the Opposition wants, he wants anyone to be able to compete to provide Australia’s next generation submarines. He might want the Russians to compete. The Putin class subs.
“First of all he attacks the Japanese in some bout of antediluvian xenophobia, he says we can’t possibly have Japanese involvement in the submarine contract, look at what happened in Sydney Harbour. Now he says we’ve got to have an open tender. Well, we could have Kim Jong Ill submarines.”