Christopher Pyne confident “we are going to be reconciled with France” – .

Christopher Pyne confident “we are going to be reconciled with France” – .

While the French “won fair and square” in their bid for a conventional submarine, the National Security Committee showed previously unanticipated agility and changed course, writes Christopher Pyne.

There is not much that Dennis Richardson has not seen in the field of foreign affairs, defense and security in the past fifty years. Literally, Richardson was a forty-nine-year-old civil servant working for coalition and Labor governments and prime ministers of both shades for much of that time.

Richardson has served as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Secretary of the Department of Defense and Australian Ambassador to Washington DC. Prior to that, he advised the Prime Minister on security matters.

If you haven’t seen the American TV show, Myth hunters, you should. If its production is sometimes rudimentary (unlike Global concentration), it is perhaps because a large part is filmed on the spot and not in staged situations. However, as a show, it explodes myths that have often been cast aside for generations.

This week on Global concentration on Sky News, Richardson and I are doing something similar with some of the myths surrounding the Australian government’s acquisition of nuclear submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

Specifically, we address three lingering myths propagated by the less well-informed media, usually by some of the “old-timers” of the Australian Defense Force, who often still fight battles they fought in the Department of Defense ago. years.

First, the United States government was appalled when the Turnbull government announced that the French, through Naval Group, were the successful bidder for the $ 50 billion conventional submarine contract that the department was competing for. of the defense. Wrong.

Second, that the Australian government had a nuclear powered submarine option in 2015-16 that it could have chosen but decided not to. Absurdity.

Third, that the next-generation submarine announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister of Defense Peter Dutton, Minister of Finance Simon Birmingham and Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne in September can be delivered earlier than the twenty-year deadline allocated to the project. . It would be great, but it is quite impossible.

In 2015-2016, the Ministry of Defense conducted a competitive evaluation process for a conventional submarine between bids from Japan, Germany and France. The French won fair and square. We hired an American advisory team and they agreed with the end result.

Richardson confirms that he asked Americans about the possibility of a nuclear-powered submarine alternative in the mid-1920s and their response?

“I asked the Americans, they were quite convinced that without a nuclear industry it would be very difficult for Australia to acquire a nuclear powered submarine, and they would not be able to provide one.”

There is no ambiguity there.

The theory that Australia can simply buy an “off-the-shelf” nuclear-powered submarine from the United States or the United Kingdom and, in this way, have an Australian nuclear-powered submarine in operation within six coming years rather than over a twenty-year period the framework is far from the beam.

At Global concentration this Sunday, Richardson drills a hole directly in the mainsail of this idea:

“If we were to say that we’re going to have a nuclear powered submarine in the water for the next seven to eight years, the Americans and the British would say, ‘Well if you’re going to be that stupid you’re on. yours’. “

There is no possibility of quickly acquiring a nuclear powered submarine. It will take at least seven to eight years, if not more, to train Australians in the management of the nuclear reactor that will supply power to the propulsion system of the Next Generation submarine.

Regardless of this rather considerable obstacle, the American and British shipyards that build their submarines are fully engaged. It would be extremely unlikely, especially in the current global strategic environment, for either to suspend their own programs in order to build submarines for the Australian government.

It is much more likely that the submarines will be built in Adelaide when we are ready to do so. The twenty-year timeframe seems realistic.

Finally, Richardson and I go through the reaction of the French to the end of the conventional submarine project.

As he says “if New Zealand was ready to repair relations with France after the Rainbow Warrior and the nuclear tests in the South Pacific, in time, France will be ready to mend its relations with us”.

France is an Indo-Pacific power. It has territories, soldiers and citizens in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and elsewhere. We want it to be an Indo-Pacific power. We will reconcile with France.

Basically, Naval Group should take comfort in knowing that they have offered the best long-range conventional submarine in the world to the Australian Navy. They did not lose the contract for non-performance.

If the Australian Cabinet National Security Committee had the technology at our disposal in 2015-2016 that the United States has now provided to us through AUKUS, we would have taken it. But they didn’t.

This is now the case because circumstances in the Indo-Pacific have changed and the region is less secure now than it was then, as a result the NSC has shown agility. unforeseen and changed course.

The Honorable Christopher Pyne is a former Minister of Defense and a long-time member of the House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament.

Watch Global Focus with Christopher Pyne every Sunday at 5:30 p.m. AEDT on Sky News Australia.


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