Leading article Australia

Shorten Barracuda

30 April 2016

9:00 AM

30 April 2016

9:00 AM

Australia’s newly commissioned Shortfin Barracuda submarines may as well be referred to as the Shorten Barracudas, because it is largely thanks to the success of the leader of the opposition in spooking the government that they are being built at all. Costing $50 billion that the taxpayer doesn’t have, this latest extravagance is a huge victory for the ‘progressive’ politics of protectionism and pork-barrelling, not to mention union greed and muscle. It is more than fitting that it is a French company that won the bidding, for this latest grand projet – announced only days before the most important federal budget in a decade – confirms what has been feared for some time: we are hurtling down the European economic path and no political leader or party has les couilles to stop us.

Artificial job creation on an hitherto unimaginable scale is now the order of the day, and what a sad day for our future prosperity it is. Remember, it is only eighteen months ago that former Defence Minister David Johnston commented on the (lack of) expertise that Australia’s own submarine builders possess, opining that even a canoe would be beyond their modest capabilities. Whether he was accurate in his assessment or not, it beggars belief that this same crowd is now supposedly at the vanguard of our ‘innovative’ agenda for future technologies, jobs and growth, worthy of partnering with the best in the world. The reality is that a couple of thousand jobs will be secured over a decade or so, at a cost of many millions of dollars to the taxpayer for each and every one of them, while the bulk of the brainpower stays in and emanates from France. On top of which, some estimates put the cost of doing the builds in South Australia as adding a 30 per cent premium to the entire deal. In other words, anywhere between 5 and 15 billion dollars is being blown not on equipping the subs themselves but on the careers of a handful of assembly workers in Adelaide and other marginal seats. No doubt, the EBAs signed between the sub builders and their unions are typically cushy affairs. The tragedy is that this supposedly free-marketeering Liberal government had neither the wit nor the willpower to insist that if the taxpayer must splurge billions on propping up a second-tier industry in South Australia, then the unions be kept well out of the arrangement, or, at the very least, far more productive and flexible EBAs be renegotiated to insure taxpayers get the maximum return on every dollar they so generously contribute.

After all, it is only a little over two years ago that the Abbott government refused to waste taxpayers millions bailing out Holden, Qantas and SPC Ardmona on the correct grounds that it was preferable for these industries to live or die on their own two feet. Two of them, Qantas and SPC, thrived accordingly in a textbook example of genuine – as opposed to theoretical – innovation. Ironically, it was then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull who eagerly pointed out that the Abbott government’s tough free market line would force big business to recognise that the Coalition was ‘not going to be rushing in and writing out cheques and providing guarantees… I think business will be recalibrating and saying “Gosh, these guys actually mean what they say”. And that’s good, because we do.’

Not anymore. Now, sounding more like Arthur Scargill or some Gaulois-smoking Marseilles mayor, Mr Turnbull was loudly boasting our new subs will be ‘built in Australia, with Australian jobs, Australian steel, Australian expertise’. Whoopee.

The one and only criteria for selecting the submarines should have been providing the very, very best military equipment to suit our needs for the very best price for the taxpayer.

The success of the Shorten opposition, combined with the antics of the wily Nick Xenophon and others, means the taxpayer is squandering millions of dollars to artificially protect a handful of jobs (and seats). Yet again, Australia’s economy is being torpedoed by Euro-style progressive socialism.

In praise of Gaia

The delicious irony is, of course, that the planet is indeed getting greener – despite the very best efforts of the Greens (and all the other eco-warriors of the Left).

According to a report published last week in Nature Climate Change, an area the size of two Australian continents worth of plant life has been created by the fertilising effect of increased CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere, ‘fundamentally chang(ing) the cycling of water and carbon.’ Yep, since about 1982 it appears Gaia has been hellbent on putting at least half of that evil ‘anthropogenic warming’ to good use, creating an abundance of new plant life, leading to a warmer, wetter, greener planet.

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  • Sue Smith

    Instead of blaming politicians for pork-barrelling, why not look at the electorate and it’s cargo cult mentality and expectations. Now THAT would make interesting reading.