Australian government defends partnership with Naval Group

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It was time ! After several weeks of relentless attacks on the Shortfin Barracuda program, the Australian government has finally given the explanations necessary to put an end to the degradation of the program image in the country's public opinion. In particular, in a statement co-signed by military, political and technical authorities related to the program, Canberra formally denied any risk on program execution, as well as any deadlock in the current negotiations with Naval Group.

The Australian authorities' statement was effective and factual:

  • Concerning I'cost increase, the figures advanced from the passage of $ 50 billion to $ 80 billion do not constitute an increase in the bill, but a different perimeter what is used to determine contract expenses. For now, no variation in costs did not appear in the program.
  • Concerning the $ 400m whose expenses have not been justified, this is a misinterpretation of the conclusions of the report issued by the Australian National Audit Office. In an approach of very precise risk management, certain planned expenses have not yet been recorded, appearing from then on as “not justified” in the report, but in no way means that they are not justified and planned in the program.
  • Concerning 9 months late mentioned regularly, it is simply inaccurate. To date, to meet the quality and risk management requirements, the main concern of the Australian authorities in this program, a delay has indeed been taken with respect to the initial planning. But this delay is only 5 weeks. And according to the authorities, it does not influence compliance with the deadlines set by the program.
  • Finally, concerning the possible impasse in which would be today the talks between Naval Group and the Australian authorities, presented as " toxiques By some journalists, it does not exist. The program is executed with precision, and negotiations between industry and authorities are taking place unhindered et according to the agenda planned.

So was it all just a storm in a glass of water? On the contrary, this crisis, visibly manipulated by a few people who are keen to see this program fail, clearly shows that today, public opinion is a decisive stake in the execution of a major defense program, especially when 'it represents investments as heavy as that of the Australian Shortfin Barracuda program. In this case, it is not so much the few journalists and politicians who tried to harm the program which must be blamed, but indeed the lack of communication of the Australian authorities as of the industrialists vis-à-vis this program towards the public opinion of the country.

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Shortfin Barracuda pumpjet Defense Analysis | Australia | Defense institutional communication
Naval Group has many arguments to promote vis-à-vis Australian public opinion, whether economic or technological, such as the pumpjet here, which reduces noise emissions from the submarine's propeller.

Because if the denial brought by the Australian authorities is widely taken up by the specialized defense press, it is much less so in the news media, and almost not on social networks. In other words, the damage is done. And now, public opinion, and therefore the Australian political class, is split vis-à-vis this program. This means that if the legislative elections of 2022 were to be anticipated, which is common in Australia, the opposition to the ruling coalition, and in particular the Labor party which today is neck and neck in the polls with this same coalition, might well be tempted to make it an electoral issue by trying to federate public opinion around its cancellation. This is precisely what happened in India in late 2018 and early 2019 during the legislative election campaign, when opposition to N. Modi's party instrumentalised the contract relating to the acquisition of 36 Rafale to France to try to achieve victory. He didn't succeed, of course, but what would have happened if the majority had changed?

If any threat to the Sea 1000 program seems beautiful and well ruled out now, this episode must be precisely analyzed by French manufacturers, so that they modify their perception of the role of public opinion in the acquisition and execution of contracts. defense today, especially in Western democracies. Because, in the end, it is not to a government that submarines, planes or tanks are sold, but to the populations of each of the acquiring countries. A paradigm that would avoid many worries and setbacks for French manufacturers if they agreed to implement it ...

Atelier Rafale Defense Analysis | Australia | Defense institutional communication
A similar crisis was exploited in India against Prime Minister N. Modi over the contract for the acquisition of 36 Rafale by India.

Regardless, in Australia, government statements do not mark the end of this episode. It is now necessary, for Naval Group and its partners, to win back the hearts of Australians, by methodically explaining how the program was carried out, and by presenting an objective and rewarding image of it. Without encroaching on the prerogatives of government communication, and for a very modest investment, the French group could thus not only protect itself from any form of “relapse”, but also acquire know-how that is most useful for future programs. Will this alert have been able to overcome the strong conservatisms that remain in France on this subject? We will probably see it very soon….

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