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Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: [email protected]





IMAGE COURTESY OF NAVAL GROUP

"WHITE ELEPHANTS OF THE SEA: THE FRENCH-AUSTRALIAN SUBMARINE AGREEMENT"

NEWS REPORT BY DR BINOY KAMPMARK 

GLOBAL NEWS ARUBA

The Australian Navy has made an agreement to purchase a dozen submarines from France, but the deal isn't without complications,

IT WAS BORN in the insecure minds of megalomania and it may well die there. Australia’s desperate effort to add to the arms race component in the Asia-Pacific region, termed the SEA 1000 Future Submarine Program, is struggling for air. When the intergovernmental agreement to construct 12 Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A submarines was signed in 2016, the French military establishment could triumphantly claim that they had won a coup over rival arms manufacturers. 

In Paris, there was much gloating amongst those in the military establishment at having secured the ‘contract of the century’, as Les Echos termed it. Le Parisien’s editorial cherished it as an example of rare good news, relishing the prospect of a project that would produce thousands of jobs and be good for morale. (The resident naval astrologers suggested 4,000 jobs would be created in France alone.) The sagging fortunes of a socialist government had been boosted; as President François Hollande showed so convincingly, even a party of the centre-Left can connive and scheme with the military industrial complex and boost the killing industry. A “50-year marriage”, claimed French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, had been made. 

Australian negotiators and diplomats could also crow for similar reasons, having found a bidder from a competitive field to kit out the Australian navy with modern submarines. Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Industries were amongst them. The price tag, which is bound to grow, stands at $50 billion.

Other contenders had been baffled by the Australian tactics in the bidding game. Japan, for instance, had put forth an enticing offer of its own but seemed to rest in self-assured fashion on its laurels. This included an assumption that sensitive military technology should not find itself into foreign hands, meaning that Japanese manufacturers and builders would have full rein over the project. 

It was the French submarine company DCNS (now called Naval Group), with a locally directed, even aggressive, campaign which won out.

As an Australian Government announcement went in April 2016:

The decision was driven by DCNS’s ability to best meet all of the Australian Government requirements. These included superior sensor performance and stealth characteristics, as well as range and endurance similar to the Collins class submarine. The Government’s considerations also included cost, schedule, program execution, through-life support and Australian industry involvement.

DCNS Chairman and CEO Hervé Guillou initially praised the “strong teamwork between the French authorities, DCNS and our industrial partners”, speaking of a Franco-Australian alliance more than a century old. But business, whether it involves killing or not, is business and all parties want some return.

Pie-in-the-sky projections are now showing themselves to be just that. The marriage has yet to be given its heady consummation; final contracts including the Strategic Partnering Agreement remain outstanding as pens hover over the signature line. The problems started even before the partners could familiarise themselves in any genuinely intimate way. Questions of cost (the $50 billion figure a product of what has been termed a “cheeky” trick of accountancy) and whether Australia would have adequately skilled staff to mount the endeavour frothed to the surface. Delays are mounting. Gallic smugness and bureaucracy is facing Australia’s mildly incompetent “she’ll be right” attitude.

Last week, Australian Minister for Defence Christopher Pynehad to insist that the submarine project would be delivered on time and on budget. Gauge a minister’s connection to veracity with how vehemently he asserts truth — the more vehement, the less likely it is so.

o reporters, he claimed that a scurrilous suggestion had been making its way through the press corps:

There has never been a suggestion by the Commonwealth that there should be, or could be, a 25 per cent cost blow-out or a two-year delay, as part of the negotiations.

Other concerns have also developed bristling thorns. Intellectual property matters and warranty conditions (the Australians want lengthier terms, the French shorter), those niggles left aside in the initial fanfare, have proved troubling. This would be compounded in the event of any sale or merger of the French Naval Group behind the venture, a point that could jeopardise the government-to-government nature of the agreement. 

In September, Pyne, attempting to address such matters with characteristic lack of conviction, tweeted that:

‘Negotiation of strategic partnering agreement is continuing & we will ensure we end up with an equitable & enduring agreement to deliver the capability our servicemen & women need, and get the best deal for Australian taxpayer.’

NEWS REPORT BY DR BINOY KAMPMARK CONTACT : [email protected] 


DR BINOY KAMPMARK:

" Banking has become the crime made good. "

It has, over the decades, achieved such standing that officials do not so much go to gaol for appalling exploitation and poor judgment, as occupy the next, highly remunerated job. Provided the bank is large enough, the tax payer’s wallet is always open to absorbing losses made privately.

Figures such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia Chairman Catherine Livingstone have found themselves explaining to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry that finding clean executives in the banking sector is a task doomed to futility. 

There is no Garden of Eden here, with banking kind long fallen to vice, breach and predation. Specifically asked about the appointment of Matt Comyn as CEO to replace Ian Narev, Livingstone was grim:

“To find an external person globally at that level who has not been involved in some regulatory event is almost impossible. And I don’t meant that as a joke.” 

The Royal Commission has unearthed the rotten-to-the-core centre of banking philosophy, but some remain impervious, even above, the all-looming zeitgeist. A tactic in the employ of those executives and managers found deep in the cultural malaise is one of spreading the muck and hoping as little of it as possible sticks to them. Responsibility, in some cases, is also shifted and deferred with amoral facility. 

Former head of retail banking at the CBA Comyn was ready to provide a tidily brutal illustration of this animal operation in action. Under the now customary sight of grilling by counsel for the Commission, Comyn dumped on Narev, whose job as CEO he took over from. It was the wily Iago-like Narev, claimed Comyn, who insisted that others should not advocate for customers. Pipe down, look the other way as Narev would have the final say.

The Commision hearings on November 26 further served to illustrate the galactic distance between banking official and swindled customer — with a bare note of acknowledgement about the dampening rot. National Australia Bank’s chief executive Andrew Thorburn was a picture of this.

He spoke of laying the “bait” for bank employees as part of a sales culture, an effort to “incentivise” profit-making:

 “They stepped over the line. That’s their own decision.  I’m not excusing that.” 

Pure is Thorburn.

In a manner designed to be soothing, but laced with cynical adjustment, Thorburn claimed that

“now we’ve got a variable reward scheme where it’s annual, it’s centralised, it’s based on achieving a number of things across four or five key result areas, it’s deferred, it’s deferred for the longer term for executives.” 

The trust of customers, he admitted, had not been earned; the technical and legal aspects of the transactions were obfuscating, burying bankster conduct in a dense thicket. 

But even as Thorburn was being brought back to the issue as to whether the structure of remuneration at the NAB was, in fact, a source of distortion and desperation in hoodwinking customers, he would describe that: 

“at the end of the year if [the staff had] done well they could get an incentive payment but that’s not what’s driving them through the 

year.” 

It was – and here, a moan of disbelief should have been registered – "professionalism".

NAB Chairman Ken Henry was similarly guarded, wary of letting any beams of illumination to enter his view on banking operations. Of interest to senior counsel Rowena Orr QC, was the issue of “fees for no service” — a scandal of extortion and looting that has pride of place in Australia’s banking culture. 

Despite a formal breach notification being made to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regarding the charging of $2 million in fees of some 12,000 customers without service, internal documentation from 2015 remained moot on the issue as to whether the NAB might have broken legal regulations.

Pressed Orr: "Surely someone within your business at that point, was thinking about whether this conduct contravened the law, and, if so, how it contravened the law?” 

“Yes,” came Henry’s monosyllabic delivery.

“Surely those were matters that the chief risk officer should have reported to the risk committee?”  ​​​​​​​

“Perhaps,” came the deadpan response. 

Not content with the air of probability, Orr did not get any clearer answer. 

“I probably can’t explain it to you.”

For Henry, the vague floating of a suggestion that a breach of law had transpired was hardly anything to get worked up over.  A chief risk officer need not mention potential contraventions of the law in any assessment. The practice, whether “a sensible [one] or not” would involve a referral of breaches to ASIC. A discussion between the banking staff and the body would follow. 

Henry was sounding positively like former U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, famed for his attempts at "mangling language" in the name of covering possible scenarios: ASIC may say, well, yes. Or it might say no. Or it might say there’s another breach we’re worried about.

A careful consideration of Henry’s approach to questioning was, as with his colleague Thorburn, to paste over possible banking culpability and accountability by shifting the assessment to a flawed ASIC:

“It has – it has typically been the case that those matters – or work on those matters has taken place after discussions with ASIC, rather than before discussions with ASIC.” 

Why bother with an internal review of the foul stables if others can do that for you, even if weak in their punitive regime? 

While ASIC comes out as a fangless entity (CBA executives going so far as to be embarrassed by soft penalties on their scheme denying insurance payments to ill and dying policy holders), Henry and company have done much to earn the further ire of banking customers.  The grotesquery of it continues to fascinate like tattered road kill, even as the banksters seek to break free.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Freelance Journalist

Global News Aruba

Contact: [email protected] 

Follow on Twitter @bkampmark.

Email:  [email protected]