Billions wasted on abandoned French submarine deal pale against cost of AUKUS

June 15, 2022
Anti-AUKUS protest in Sydney last December. Photo: Peter Boyle

When Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on June 11 that an $830 million compensation settlement had been paid for the previous government breaking the contract for French Attack class submarines, he said the $3.4 billion already spent on the program was “an extraordinary waste”.

But an even bigger waste is about to be made on the AUKUS deal to buy eight nuclear-powered submarines at an estimated cost of $170 billion.

On top of that, another $10 billion is to be spent on building a base for these nuclear-powered submarines.

That’s just an estimate. Australia’s Defence Department acquisition contracts are consistently revised upwards by a significant amount according to an analysis of AusTender data reported at Michael West Media. The price of contract amendments outstripped even the contracts themselves in 2020!

If the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine turns out anything like Australia’s contract for Lockheed Martin’s barely operational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the final cost could be far greater.

In his article “King of Lemons: Australia swindled by Lockheed Martin and its Joint Strike Fighter”, investigative journalist Brian Toohey described how an initial $16 billion off-the-plan contract blew out. This was largely through astronomical operating costs and ongoing design problems that meant that the F-35 was “fully mission capable for only 31.6% of the time”.

Griffith University researcher Peter Layton revealed recently that the costs of keeping the F-35s in the air were still blowing out and some of the planes that Australia bought were already “too old to be upgraded” and effectively obsolete.

If the cost blowout for a $16 billion deal for 72 dud F-35s proved to be, in Layton’s words, “eye-wateringly expensive”, imagine the potential blowouts for a $170 billion nuclear-powered submarine deal!

Now, even a report funded by the notoriously pro-war and arms-industry funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), The Cost of Defence, warns of the danger of a blowout in military expenditure, especially around “megaprojects” like the AUKUS deal.

The report by Dr Marcus Hellyer noted that Australia’s military expenditure rose by 130% in real terms since 2001 and is now running at more than $133 million a day. These “megaprojects” take up a growing share of the costs, he said, yet are “regardless of their benefits... problematic — and increasingly so”.

It also conceded that greater military spending does not have popular support, and in 2021, polling showed that “a majority of Australians (57%) felt that Australia should remain neutral in the event of a conflict between China and the US”.

The arms manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank.

However, the criminal irresponsibility of these deals is all the greater because of the climate emergency.

Green Left argues that the billions being wasted on purchasing expensive offensive arms that further embroil the country in future imperial aggressions around the world should be spent on addressing the climate emergency and the urgent social needs such as public health, housing and education.

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