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Fears SEA 5000 could end up on Defence’s shame list

hmas ballarat and warramunga
HMAS Ballarat and Warramunga, two of the Anzac-class frigates to be replaced by the SEA 5000 project. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

While the Senate continues its push for information and correspondence between Defence, ASC, Austal and the three Future Frigate tenderers, fears are mounting the project may end up on the Projects of Concern list.

South Australian senator Alex Gallacher said Defence's history with limited tender projects is troubling, noting all six projects on the concern list are a result of limited tenders.

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"If you look at the Projects of Concern, they are all limited tender projects," Gallacher told the Senate.

Gallacher supported senator Nick Xenophon and senator Kim Carr's motion for Defence to table the requested correspondence relating to the $35 billion limited tender project, rejecting Minister for Defence Marise Payne's claims that release of any information and correspondence would be damaging to the active tender and Australia's international reputation.

"What we’re asking for here is more clarity, more transparency, more openness about the expenditure of billions of dollars of tax payers money because we do not want to end up in another project of concern," said Gallacher.

"The oneSKY project, which Defence is a huge partner in, it ended up with one preferred tenderer at a cost deemed not to be value for money by the Commonwealth. So, that is the outcome of $400 million plus of Defence's expenditure."

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The current Projects of Concern list includes:

  • CN10: Collins Class Submarine Sustainment
  • AIR 9000 Phase 2,4 & 6: MRH90 Multi-Role Helicopters
  • SEA 4000 Phase 3: Air Warfare Destroyer
  • JP 2008 Phase 3F: Australian Defence Satellite Communication Capability Terrestrial Enhancement
  • AIR 5431 Phase 1: Deployable Defence Air Traffic Management and Control System
  • AIR 5431 Phase 3: Civil Military Air Traffic Management System

Since the last PoC summit, two projects – Mulwala Redevelopment Project (JP 2086 Phase 1) and Direct Fire Support Weapons (LAND 40 Phase 2)  have come off the list, but have since been replaced by projects AIR 5431 Phase 1 and Phase 3.

Defence's worst offender is the MRH90 Multi-Role Helicopters project, which has been on the list since November 2011. Defence is anticipating that the project will be delivered in 2019, five years later than originally planned.

The AIR 5431 projects move to the concern list leaves AIR projects making up half the list, a damning sign for the the department's aviation projects, with Project AIR 87 Phase 2, although not on the list, also facing ongoing scrutiny. The Tiger fleet was recently grounded after the manufacturer declared an unsafe condition for all Tiger versions across the globe.

Fears SEA 5000 could end up on Defence’s shame list
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