Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Good government comes to Adelaide … Day 1

submarine plans

That’s how Adelaide’s InDaily website began its coverage of this morning’s attempt by the Coalition government to rescue Tony Abbott from his latest captain’s choice.
Before the party room vote on a split, the Prime Minister courted South Australian MPs with what one of them, Sean Edwards, described this way:
“I’m very pleased with the decision of the prime minister and when he rang me today with this very good news – it now commits the government to a full and open tender – and this should lead to hat throwing, to punching the air.”
Mr Abbott certainly did not move before the vote to qualify the interpretation that the Adelaide Advertiser put on the vote: Prime Minister Tony Abbott promises South Australia chance to tender for Future Submarines project to win leadership votes.
But clarification was clearly thought necessary now that day one of good government (or is it day two?) has come around. Defence Minister Kevin Andrew was dispatched to the headquarters of the Australian Submarine Corporation to put a little spin on things.
Which resulated in this:
In a bizarre morning media conference at Adelaide shipbuilder ASC, Andrews was flanked by a gaggle of Liberal MPs – including Sean Edwards, Andrew Southcott, Matt Williams, David Fawcett and Rowan Ramsey as well as state colleagues Steven Marshall and Dan van Holst Pellekaan – but effectively said nothing about his plans, or how they’ve changed since last week.
“We’ve decided that in relation to the future submarines program, we’ll have a competitive evaluation process,” he said.
“That will mean there’s an opportunity for anybody who can meet the requirements important to the program to have a part in that.”
But he refused to elaborate, saying: “I’m not going to get into the sorts of definitions and ‘what’s a definition’, all I’m saying as minister is this is the approach we’re taking.”
“I’m not a commentator. What I’m doing is saying to you and everyone who may be listening to me now is the process we’re going to undertake is going to be a competitive evaluation process; there are criteria which will be spelled out in more detail as we progress through them,” Andrews said.
Asked about the distinction between a tender process and an “evaluation process”, Andrews said: “I’ll use the words I choose to use – what we’re doing is a competitive evaluation process.”
Quite what means goodness knows. Probably that the next lot of submarines will be built in Japan but the government will try and find a few bits and pieces that can be built by the Adelaide lot that the predecessor of Kevin Andrews would not trust to build a canoe.
A surer way of ensuring that Christopher Pyne loses his SA seat could not be invented and I suppose that’s something.
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