France lobbies Australia for helicopters

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Any decision to scrap the fleet of Taipan helicopters early would be made in Australia’s best interests, Defense Secretary Richard Marles said.

Australia is looking at whether multirole helicopters should be scrapped ten years earlier than originally planned.

The French government has an interest in Airbus, the manufacturer of Taipan, and is lobbying the government not to cancel the program.

Mr Marles said his French colleague Sébastien Lecornu raised the issue with him during their meeting in September.

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“France is advocating on behalf of their defense industry in a completely respectful manner and you would expect that and it is completely appropriate,” Marles said on Wednesday.

“We’ve been completely clear and candid and honest with the French and they know that, and I think they appreciate that.”

The former Morrison government announced it would scrap the nearly 50 Taipan helicopters and replace them with the American Black Hawks.

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met French President Emmanuel Macron in July and Australia hopes to host the president later in the year.

Mr Albanese has said the government is working on a “reset” of relations with France after tensions escalated when Morrison’s government canceled a $90 billion submarine contract.

Mr Marles said he was confident that relations with France were moving forward.

But he said Australia would continue to assess all of its options to ensure they are cost-effective and fit for purpose.

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“We have to make sure we have the best possible capacity, but it has to be value for money,” he said.

Mr Marles has embarked on a defense stance review to determine what needs to be done to bridge the capacity gaps until Australia is able to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The review will be handed over in March.

-MONKEY