A quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer dollars has been spent by the Australian government trying to keep the original price of the country’s submarine project with France hidden from public view.
The Department of Defense and the French military company Naval Group have accumulated legal fees totaling $ 247,875 from government-funded lawyers in an attempt to keep the initial price offered by the French company a secret.
The Franco-Australian nuclear submarine program has been shrouded in controversy since Scott Morrison abruptly canceled the deal in September after securing a better deal with the US and UK through AUKUS.
When then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull first announced the Naval Group project in 2016, he described it as worth around $ 50 billion.
By the time the French contract was shredded by Mr Morrison in 2021, the Commonwealth placed the total planned costs closer to $ 90 billion.
If the project had been successful, it would have been the largest defense market in Australian history.
But Independent Senator Rex Patrick told NCA NewsWire he believed the initial cost of the submarine program provided by Naval Group was only a fraction of that price.
“I think the initial price is far from $ 50 billion or $ 90 billion. I think it’s somewhere in the order of $ 20 billion to $ 25 billion, ”he said.
“It is outrageous that the government has spent this amount of money to keep something secret which the Independent Information Commissioner said was essentially using taxpayers’ money to cover up politically embarrassing information.”
In 2020, Australia’s Information Commissioner ordered Defense to release details of Naval Group’s initial price estimate for the submarine deal.
But the Defense appealed against the Commissioner’s decision, bringing it before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, joined by Naval Group.
In a question on the notice released Tuesday, the Defense revealed that court proceedings for the appeal had totaled nearly $ 250,000 – paid for entirely with taxpayer dollars.
Defense legal costs have reached $ 50,000 and Naval Group legal costs have now reached $ 197,000.
Senator Patrick said it was inexcusable to charge taxpayers for legal fees from a private foreign-invested company.
“The naval group has requested to be associated with the proceedings. They were not an original part of it, ”said Senator Patrick.
“And they continued to spend four times what the Commonwealth spent on the same legal matter.”
“I guess it’s easy to do if it’s not your money.”
The Defense Ministry has been contacted for comment.