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Coalition suppressed auditor's finding that $1.3bn Thales arms deal could have cost half with US
Exclusive: French group asked attorney general to use extraordinary powers to black out sections of report that criticised the deal
The Coalition suppressed the auditor general’s finding that Australia could have paid half the amount for its new $1.3bn combat vehicle fleet after pressure from a multinational arms manufacturer, documents reveal.
Documents obtained by Guardian Australia reveal that Thales, a French multinational arms company, was “aggrieved” at auditor general Grant Hehir’s finding that Australia could have saved hundreds of millions of dollars had it gone to the United States to buy its new fleet of light protected army vehicles, instead of buying 1,100 of Thales’s locally built Hawkeis.
Thales approached the attorney general, Christian Porter, in January and asked him to use extraordinary and largely unprecedented powers to black out sections of the auditor general’s report.
The arms manufacturer wanted six paragraphs in particular struck from the report, according to court documents it filed in a separate federal court action to block the report’s release.
Those six paragraphs found that Australia could have got a similar vehicle for half the price through the US joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) program, according to Thales’ court documents. Australia had considered joining the JLTV program but pulled out and decided on a locally built option after what the auditor general described as “extensive lobbying” from Thales and the defence industry.
Thales wanted the six-paragraph cost-comparison between its Hawkei vehicle and the JLTV stripped from the report because it would impact its “marketability”.