5 June 2015

Jim McDowell, Chairman of Total and prominent South Australian defence industry figure, has been appointed part of a high-level panel overseeing the controversial contest for the $20 billion-plus project to build Australia’s future submarines.

Jim will be part of the small group and former US Navy Secretary Professor Don Winter is expected to head it.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, who has been in Japan inspecting submarine shipyards and meeting officials, is expected to reveal the panel of about five when he returns.

He flagged the expert panel but revealed no further details in February, when announcing France, Germany and Japan would compete for the project.

Jim is a highly respected defence figure, who was part of the five-member Government-commissioned Defence Department review which in April issued recommendations, including axing 1650 civilian public servants.

As well as the Chairman at Total, Jim is also Chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, a board member of Adelaide communication and electronics firm Codan and, more recently, was BAE Systems Saudi Arabia’s Chief Executive Officer. The Defence White Paper, to be released next month, is expected to recommend that eight submarines are built.

Adelaide-based ASC is being considered as a building partner by all three bidders, although there is speculation Prime Minister Tony Abbott has an understanding that Japan will be handed the deal.

SA Liberal backbenchers, including Hindmarsh MP Matt Williams and Senator David Fawcett, have been pushing the case for an Australian build and defending the competitive evaluation process.

“I am continuing to meet and engage with key members of the Government mounting the case for future defence shipbuilding projects like the future frigates and submarines,” Mr Williams said.