Sydney, Australia, Sep 29 (EFE).- Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned Wednesday that the controversial cancellation of a multi-billion dollar contract with France for the construction of twelve conventional submarines in Australia has will lead to a loss of jobs in the country.
The suspension of that mega-contract with French company Naval Group came after the announcement in mid-September of a defense agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), which includes the development of nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra.
“There will be a lot of Australian businesses that are going to lose their contracts, investments will be compromised, jobs will be lost, expertise will be lost,” Turnbull, who awarded that contract to France in 2016, stressed.
In a letter dated Sep. 23, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said it was “disappointed with the ‘abrupt and brutal’ termination of Naval Group Australia’s (NGA) contract with the government, which has put thousands of jobs at risk.”
It also urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to consult with Australian workers “to make sure we do not outsource the nation’s defense capability at the expense of Australian shipbuilding manufacturing jobs.”
Sixty percent of the $66 billion contract for the 12 diesel-electric powered submarines, which included technology transfer, was to be spent in Australia.
Despite the diplomatic crisis with France that the cancellation triggered, the Australian government has defended the decision, arguing that the new submarines are more in line with the strategic and deterrent needs in the Indo-Pacific and does not involve the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.
However, issues such as the cost of the eight nuclear-powered submarines that will be delivered from 2040, eight years after the planned delivery by the French, and how the project will be implemented in terms of the recruitment of workers in Australia, a country that does not have a nuclear industry, remains to be clarified.
“There is an alarming lack of detail available regarding this new arrangement and its impact on the critical naval shipbuilding workforce and industry,” the ACTU said in its letter.
The unions also questioned the country’s sovereign capability to manage the future submarines that use highly-enriched uranium and whose technology will not be transferred. EFE