Last month, the Australian government’s decision to drop a $ 90 billion French submarine deal sparked an uproar. Paris called the debacle a “stab in the back” and withdrew Ambassador Thebault.
With diplomatic relations still very delicate, IB turned to someone who can help explain possible problems.
Australian insurer Simon Garske (pictured) is construction manager for Agile Underwriting Services. He describes himself as a Francophile and lived in Paris for several years with his family.
How did Garske, now based in Sydney, react to the disaster of the sub-deal?
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“My heart sank when I heard the news. The French had great respect for the Australians and this agreement on submarines only reinforced that, ”he said.
Garske fondly remembers his stay in France.
“It was truly an amazing time!” he said, remembering the three years he spent with his family in the village of Croissy-Sur Seine, on the outskirts of Paris.
He also remembers the work meetings.
“When I spoke French I had a strong accent and they instantly assumed I was English or American. An Australian was the last person they expected to meet at a meeting or insurance function. When it became clear that I was an Australian, the atmosphere was going to completely change and lighten up, ”he said.
Garske said France is a very proud nation of engineers.
“Australians think of France for its champagne and bread, but it has a deep tradition of engineering. The universities of engineering and mathematics are the most prestigious and the most difficult to access.
He said that many regional areas in France would have contributed to the construction of the submarines.
“There was a certainty that it would have been ten years of work for them,” Garske said.
Underwriter Agile said he was following the progress of the French submarine deal from afar, including reports of cultural clashes and misunderstandings from Australians working on the project in France.
“Mundane things for us, like lunch breaks and your vacations, eating anything in France is an occasion and something you do in company. It is almost unheard of to have lunch at your desk, ”he said.
Garske confirmed the experience of many Australians who have lived in France. The working day and public holidays are approached very differently.
“Executives in France would spend extremely long hours at work every day – far longer than the average working day here. So it’s your hard-earned right to take four weeks off during the summer. I think it’s even a law, ”he said.
There are other areas of cultural difference.
“Then there’s the importance of hierarchy, the apparent love for paperwork and bureaucracy and the way meetings are conducted. There is plenty of room for a cultural “faux pas” – French for faux pas!
He said he was not surprised by reports of cultural clashes involving the submarine project.
“I just assumed that the relationship would be smoothed out as the two nations learn more about the respective cultures,” he said.
As a construction underwriter in France, Garske has participated in many major projects under construction in the French-speaking world.
“New metro tunnels, renovations of historic castles, mining projects in Africa, major infrastructure in French Pacific territories,” he said.
Garske said construction projects in Paris were always difficult.
“You didn’t know what you would find underground. Their city was a great quarry – where do you think the beautiful white Lutetian limestone buildings of Paris came from? Thousands of years of habitation have been built, ”he said.
During his years in the French capital, he learned to appreciate the local approach to construction insurance.
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“I also took out the very French insurance product, decennale, or insurance against inherent defects (IDI), as we say in English. This is compulsory insurance for construction projects and it has provided 10 years of defect coverage. It was very complicated, it is France after all, but extremely valuable for home and apartment owners to rectify major flaws long after the builder has left the scene, ”he said.
Garske said some Australian state governments are considering introducing a similar type of liability coverage here following issues with low-quality apartment buildings.
“This is something that I strongly support and that I will be watching closely,” he said.