Subs pledge could sink Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

February 11, 2015 4:30 pm

has admitted good government might have had “a bit of a
holiday” amid the Liberal leadership turmoil, but insists it’s now on
track.
However, a fresh controversy has erupted over the Prime
Minister’s promise to backbenchers concerned that the contract to build
’s next generation of submarines might go overseas.
And
more than a dozen coalition MPs spoke out about the Government’s
direction at a joint party room meeting yesterday, querying policies
ranging from defence pay to the Medicare co-payment.
“I was given a very strong message in no uncertain terms yesterday,” Abbott told the meeting.
Labor leader Bill Shorten used question time to ask the Prime Minister about his new direction.
“The
Prime Minister has promised good government starts today. If good
government starts today, what on earth has it been doing for the past
521 days?” he said.

 Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo / AP

Abbott said good government “might have had a bit of a holiday last week”, but had started again.
The coalition is banking on a families package, featuring new childcare support arrangements, to regain public support.
However,
Abbott told coalition MPs the Government would impose “firm clamps” on
new spending in the May budget to bring debt under control.
Health
Minister Sussan Ley said at the meeting that “co-payment” had become a
dirty word in the community. But she said negotiations would continue
with doctors on the revised Medicare policy.
One MP said the Defence force pay rise of 1.5 per cent had been a “mistake” that had caused electoral damage in Queensland.
The
Labor opposition has focused on mixed messages from the Government over
how it will select the next generation of submarines.
South
Australian Liberal senator Sean Edwards said on Sunday the Prime
Minister had assured him there would be a “full and open tender process”
to replace the Collins’ class subs.
Edwards interpreted that to
mean Adelaide-based shipbuilder ASC could bid for the project, which
many expect to go to Japanese contractors.
It is understood the
promise stopped Edwards voting with South Australian colleagues for a
Liberal leadership spill yesterday, which was defeated 61-39.
At a
media conference at the Adelaide shipyards yesterday, Defence Minister
Kevin Andrews said it would be a “competitive evaluation process”, but
would not use the term tender.
Shorten later asked Abbott in Parliament whether he would commit to a “full and open tender process”.
Abbott said “one way or another” Australia would have a bigger submarine fleet and that would mean more jobs in South Australia.

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