I have confidence in defence contracting – Richard Marles


Defence minister Richard Marles has expressed his confidence in the defence procurement function following scathing criticism from the Auditor General of probity issues in a long-term contract for the supply of explosives and munitions.

An official sought champagne and eventually went to work for the contractor, French group Thales, over a contract worth $1.2 billion, and later took a job with the company.

Interviewed by journalist David Speers on ABC’s Insiders programme, Marles was asked ‘how on earth does this sort of unethical behaviour occur?’

Marles, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said the incident occurred between 2016 and 2020, and had now been referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Marles said: “I don’t think that there is a systemic issue within Defence in relation to the way in which defence contracts are managed.

“But the way in which we ensure that we never have a systemic issue is to make sure that we jump on individual cases.

“And that’s why, with the concern that we have about this set of circumstances, we’ve referred it to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.”

Marles said that of all areas of the government, defence contracting was the space in which you really have the greatest exposure to working with the private sector.

“The defence industry is a critical partner in delivering defence capability and that’s why it’s really important that this happens in a way which is completely robust, which people have total confidence in.

“And it’s why, having seen these circumstances, we wanted this to be referred for the NACC as quickly as possible.”

Marles said there was considerable oversight in relation to acquisitions and the government would consider the outcomes of the NACC investigation.

Speers: “What about Thales, though? I mean, it takes two to tango on something like this. Should Defence be doing business with Thales?”

Marles: “Well, I mean, Thales are a very important company in terms of the contribution that they provide to the Australian Defence Force.

“They provide a whole lot of capabilities, for example, both Bushmasters and Hawkei, along with a number of the munitions, which is what this particular contract was a part of.

“…Thales is a very important company for Australian defence capability, but there is a process here which needs to run that we are very keen for it to run and we need to see what the outcome of that process is.”

Further reading:
Defence acquisition audit – I accept standards not met, Air Marshal Leon Phillips

Picture: Richard Mrles

Share this Story

Stay Informed

Go to Top