by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Nov 26, 2014
Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston Wednesday backtracked on comments in which he said a government shipbuilding firm could not be trusted to "build a canoe", amid calls that he be sacked.
The outburst from the normally sedate minister in the Senate late Tuesday prompted demands for his dismissal from cabinet, and forced the prime minister to publicly defend the firm.
Johnston said his remarks about the ASC, formerly the Australian Submarine Corporation, were not intended to offend but highlight the difficulties successive governments had faced in establishing a world class submarine capability.
In a heated debate he said the ASC, which maintains the nation's Collins Class submarines, was Aus$350 million (US$299 million) over budget on a project to build three Air Warfare Destroyer warships and that this figure could balloon further.
"You wonder why I'm worried about ASC and what they're delivering to the Australian taxpayer? You wonder why I wouldn't trust them to build a canoe?" he said.
The comments come amid debate about whether Australia's next generation of submarines should be built by the ASC in Adelaide or brought in from overseas, with Japan a possible alternative.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott moved to limit a growing backlash, saying the ASC played a vital role in supporting the Royal Australian Navy.
"Whilst ASC has had challenges meeting the government's cost and schedule expectations of the Air Warfare Destroyer programme, we are working closely with ASC on a reform strategy to improve shipyard performance and productivity," he said in a statement.
"It is early days, but the government is confident that ASC and its partners will successfully turn the corner on this important build."
Johnston Wednesday said his comments had been a "rhetorical flourish".
"Regrettably, in rhetorical flourish, I did express my frustrations in the past performance of ASC," he said.
"I, of course, was directing my remarks at a legacy of issues and not the workers in ASC whom I consider to be world class."
But opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten said the minister should be sacked, saying he had trashed the reputation of local submarine makers.
"He is a disgrace," added opposition Senate leader Penny Wong. "This is a man who has insulted thousands of hard working Australians."
Naval Warfare in the 21st Century
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|