Defence Minister Marise Payne says she did not try to organise a meeting between a French shipbuilder and her partner, a New South Wales minister, just a week before the company was awarded the $50 billion contract to build Australia’s next generation submarines.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ms Payne announced DCNS was the successful bidder to build the 12 new submarines, beating tenders from Germany and Japan.
The federal government had started what it described as a “competitive evaluation process” (CEP) in February last year to consider bids for the program.
The ABC has confirmed Senator Payne’s partner, the NSW Trade Minister Stuart Ayres, sought a meeting with DCNS while on a trade mission to France last week.
“Unfortunately schedules did not align and a meeting never took place,” Mr Ayres said in a statement.
“Since becoming Trade Minister, I have engaged with Japanese at the request of the Premier and German industry representatives to promote NSW industry opportunities as part of the CEP.
“I congratulate DCNS on winning the bid and look forward to discussing with them opportunities for NSW businesses to participate in the future submarine program.”
Ms Payne told the ABC’s Lateline program she did not intervene to ensure the meeting went ahead.
“I understand that that is part of a series of meetings that any trade minister from Australia, from any state in the Commonwealth frankly, would endeavour to have with participants in the CEP,” she said
“The meeting didn’t proceed, I understand from his statement, due to times not merging with the appropriate program that he had.
“I in no way approached Defence or engaged with Defence on this matter.”
She said her understanding was the meeting had been requested as part of the normal work of government.
“I think clearly certain individuals might be trying to make mischief, but I am very happy to make those assurances,” Ms Payne said.