Icebreaker contract not so bad: department

Federal bureaucrats have rejected the findings of an audit that Australia’s new $1.


9 billion Antarctic icebreaker isn’t good value for money.

The contract to build a replacement for the Aurora Australis – which is chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division – was awarded to a Dutch company, with the new ship to be built in Romania.

An audit published in March found the environment department’s tender process largely non-competitive after one of the two competing companies withdrew before the contract was awarded.

It also found the cost of operating the new icebreaker would be significantly higher over the 34-year contract than what the government pays now to lease the Aurora Australis.

But department head Gordon de Brouwer told senators on Tuesday the figures the auditor used weren’t comparable, with some taking into account fuel and insurance costs and others not.

“We reject the ANAO report,” he told the Senate committee hearing.

“We’ll take the learnings from it but we reject … that it’s not value for money.”

The department has not investigated options for terminating the contract and starting the tender process afresh.

West Australian Liberal senator Linda Reynolds told the officials she was very disappointed to see the work go offshore.

“We already have the capability in Western Australia to fabricate that ship,” she told them.

“Defence have shifted focus to Australia-first and they’re finding we’ve got the capability to do more than perhaps government departments in Canberra thought we did.”

Officials said the bulk of the $1.9 billion would be spent on operations and maintenance over 30 years, which would support Tasmanian businesses.