Australia expresses concern over attack-class submarine programme

Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has expressed her “frustration” with the French company chosen to build the nation’s new fleet of submarines.

Naval Group, then known as DCNS, was in 2016 awarded a contract to build a fleet of 12 new attack-class submarines at a cost of about 50 billion Australian dollars ($39.5 billion), which has since blown out to about 90 billion Australian dollars ($70.4 billion), Xinhua reported.

Naval Group promised that 60 per cent of the contract value would be spent on Australian suppliers. However, the company has not yet committed to that figure in a formal deal with the government, prompting concerns, according to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s report on Wednesday.

Reynolds was set to meet with the global chief executive of Naval Group, Pierre Eric Pommellet, on Wednesday after he completed two weeks of quarantine but on Wednesday morning announced she was taking medical leave on the advice of her cardiologist.

Prior to taking leave she told Parliament that she was frustrated with the slow progress of negotiations with the French company.

“I am frustrated and I’m very disappointed that Naval Group have not yet been able to finalize this contract with Defence, but it will not be done at the expense of Australian jobs, and Australian industry,” Reynolds said on Tuesday.

Despite tense talks, both the Department of Defence and Naval Group have insisted that the project remains on track.