Loose lips sink ships! Submarine Sophie Mirabella a security risk

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Former Liberal Party minister and Indi candidate Sophie Mirabella's loose lips are a security risk for Australia, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

[Read Part One: Sophie Mirabella's fistful of dollars]

SUCCESSIVE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENTS daily bed hops with local and international corporations, institutions and individuals whose soiled sheets are linked to bribery, corruption and murder.

Whilst it is great that our new subs will be built in Adelaide and forged with Australia steel, there are some aspects of this secretive deal that warrants closer scrutiny.


The media periscope justifiably surfaced over revelations that NSW Trade Minister Stuart Ayres, partner of Defence Minister Marise Payne, failed to secure a requested meeting in France with Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS) before the successful bidder for the $50 billion submarine contract was revealed.

Minister Payne has denied any intervention in this matter.

When Turnbull made his announcement at the ASC base, there seemed to be little sign of the high visibility Sophie Mirabella; perhaps she was playing peekaboo behind a bollard. Or ordered to stay out of the gaze of the media and Instagram.

The PM, in the company of Payne, Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Navy Chief Tim Barrett told the assembled:

I am proud ...to announce that Australia’s future fleet of submarines, our future submarines, twelve regionally superior submarines will be built here at Osborne in South Australia.

The submarine project alone will see Australian workers building Australian submarines with Australian steel, here where we stand today, for decades into the future...

The French tender pipped those of the Japanese and the Germans. But given Mirabella's role as an ASC director and her notorious loose lips, one can imagine Ms Mirabella sharing sushi and sauerkraut, saki and slivovitz, and commiserating with the two losing bidders and, in a similar fit of pique as on Sky, blurting out why they lost out on anchoring the contract.

There's also the questionable conduct of DCNS itself that seems to be largely ignored by the Australian Government and most media alike.


You see, the French Government owns the majority of DCNS and the rest is owned by the notorious Thales.

But wait, there's more. The French Government, I understand, also owns more than a quarter of Thales.

Thales has a well catalogued and international history of corruption and bribery allegations.

Do we not care about due diligence, corporate social responsibility and the criminal history of business partners?

No. That's for losers, bleeding hearts, refugee advocates and people who care.

We're not talking ancient history here. And we're talking ugly stuff. Big time.


We're talking about the likes of DCNS/Thales, its squalid misconduct, middle man Abdul Razak Baginda, Malaysia's scandal-ridden Prime Minister Najib Razak — and the brutal murder of Baginda's shared mistress, Atlantuya Shaariibuu whose tiny body was blown into nothingness by blockbuster powerful C-4 explosives, normally used to anihiliate buildings not single mothers.

Only weeks ago, French prosecutors launched investigations into whether Prime Minister Najib Razak, when defence minister, received bribes from the former president of Thales International Asia, Bernard Baiocco via alleged middle-man Baginda to secure a $1.2 billion 2002 contract to build two submarines.

The UK Financial Times reported:

The French arms deal generated intrigue in Malaysia because of the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a young Mongolian woman who had a relationship with Mr Baginda. Civil society groups and Mr Najib’s opponents alleged a link between the killing and the submarine deal. Both Mr Najib and Mr Baginda, who was cleared of involvement in Ms Altantuya’s murder at a 2008 trial, deny there is any connection.

The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed — following a report by news agency AFP — that Mr Baiocco had been placed under formal investigation on suspicion of “bribery of foreign public officials” and “complicity in misuse of corporate assets”.

The inquiry relates to the sale of the pair of Scorpene-class attack submarines from a joint venture between Thales and fellow defence company DCN, now called DCNS. Thales and DCNS both declined to comment on the French inquiry.

Of course they did.


Here's what Four Corners and Linton Besser have to say about Razak and Thales. Linton and cameraman Louie Eroglu were recently arrested in Malaysia after trying to question Prime Minister Razak about Thales and allegations of kickbacks:

Accusations against Prime Minister Najib date back almost a decade.

The first scandal was in 2002, when Najib Razak was defence minister overseeing a $1 billion submarine deal between Malaysia and France. It embroiled some of Najib's closest confidants in allegations of kickbacks, cover-ups and another murder.

French authorities have indicted the former head of French arms firm Thales. They acted after an investigation by Malaysian anti-corruption campaigner Cynthia Gabriel into a US$108 million commission paid to a Malaysian company.

From the Four Corners transcript:

CYNTHIA GABRIEL, ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGNER: It wasn't just this payment that was of question: ah, it was a couple of other payments as well that were made that seemed murky and seemed very shady; that did not have very clear, um, ah, reasons for why, ah, the payments were made.

LINTON BESSER: The middleman in the submarines deal was a senior adviser and friend to the prime minister. His name is Razak Baginda.

CYNTHIA GABRIEL: We don't know who he is, apart from him being a close associate and friend of, ah, Najib.

Ah, so I think today we are not certain if he was actually on a formal contract with the Defence Ministry, or whether he was just negotiating a very large multi-million dollar contract, only because he was the friend of Najib Razak.

TERENCE GOMEZ: The allegation is that kickbacks were given to the middle-men who negotiated the deal in France. That is the allegation. That allegation now has to be investigated properly.

LINTON BESSER: What thrust the corruption scandal into the global spotlight was another murder. This time, the victim was a 28-year-old model from Mongolia named Altantuya Shaariibuu. She worked as a translator.

It's also been alleged she was having an affair with Najib, something he's always denied.

But his adviser, Razak Baginda, was sleeping with her.

CYNTHIA GABRIEL: He did admit that they were having a romantic relationship for a while. And then the events that led to her death suggested that he was trying to get rid of her.

LINTON BESSER: The model, Altantuya, wanted a cut of the money from the submarine deal.

CYNTHIA GABRIEL: Interestingly, ah, her father had said that Altantuya had left a note to say that she was coming to Malaysia to pick up her share of the commission, which amounted to s- to about US$100,000.

LINTON BESSER: On October the 19th, 2006, Altantuya Sharibuu went to Baginda's house to demand money.

She was kidnapped by two Special Forces policemen. She was driven into the jungle and shot twice in the head.

Then they attached military-grade explosives to her body and detonated them.

CYNTHIA GABRIEL: Altantuya was brutally murdered in 2006. Her body was blown up by C-4 explosives. And it was really, er, shocking because these explosives are normally used to bring down buildings - it's that powerful - not to, ah, blow up a body.

Here is the Four Corners program entire that implicates PM Razak and Thales:

Other journalists have placed their lives in jeopardy trying to bring this story to the world.

Australian based Al Jazeera journalist Mary Ann Jolley, was deported from Malaysia because of her award-winning documentary for 101 East: Murder in Malaysia.


Once again, as we discussed in Part One, none of this is histrionic conjecture. It is evidence based.

How can we trust that the tender process to build our subs is untainted by bribes and corruption?

Curiously, in the announcement about Thales wnning the contract, neither the PM nor his official press release actually mentions ASC (now ASC Pty Ltd) by name or acronym.

Why not? Well, it's about spin and diversion.

That sin of omission about the Commission has peeved many.

Especially since SA shipbuilders/workers have consistently lobbied, rallied and recently marched in protest, pleading with successive governments to save the industry, build ships here and prevent jobs going offshore.

Was the omission designed to divert attention from union dissent? If so, silly move. Since the Coalition could be seen to be listening to the workers and acknowledging their talents and capabilities.

Could it be that, if the ASC had been cited, it would inevitably have led to media and other sticky beaks to look beyond the press release to Google the company?

If so, they would discover that in 2014, barely hours ago in dogfish years and a year after Mirabella's appointment, the then minister for defence David Johnston announced his disgust with the ASC, declaring he wouldn't trust them even to build a canoe!

Mind you, he might have been having a veiled go at Mirabella.

Journalists worthy of their ration of salted beef would check up on the ASC board and rightly be alarmed to find Mirabella's name among the list — and all the yuk about Indi.


The Indi campaign was characterised by dirty tricks with reports of McGowan's billboards being defaced or stolen.

IA makes no imputation whatever that Ms Mirabella was involved in any of this.

There is still lingering discomfort about another 2013 campaign incident.

The AEC first mysteriously lost and then found a box of first preference votes that it had apparently mislabelled.

As it transpired, Independent Cathy McGowan won the seat of Indi by a mere 400 plus votes, enough to get the former President of Australian Women in Agriculture over the line.

Given this close margin, it is perplexing that Mirabella did not call for an overall recount.

The Australian reported her as saying:

"Despite the closeness of the count I have decided not to seek a recount. I unreservedly accept the decision of the democratic process."

If the AEC had made a error in one instance, could it not have made others?

Also, how do we know the said box of votes had not been interfered with? Where is the chain of custody evidence? 


Last month, two of McGowan's campaign volunteers, Maggie McGowan her niece, now a North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) lawyer and Sophie Fuchsen were cleared of giving false or misleading information (involving the addresses of both women) to the Australian Electoral Commission prior to the last Federal election.

Why did the process take so long? Convenient timing?

At their absolution, defence lawyer Rob Stary made no secret of his annoyance, reportedly saying:

"The original complainant, whoever it was that initiated it, was quite scurrilous and unfortunately we'll never discover it as a matter of privilege."

He continued:

"... the case was a terrible waste of Australian Federal Police and prosecution resources."

So it was.

Mirabella denied she initiated the complaint.

During the campaign, an anti-marriage equality pamphlet was circulated in Indi. McGowan supports SSM equality. Mirabella does not.

Mirabella denied having anything to do with the document and asserted her belief that marriage was a definition needed to describe a relationship between a man and a woman

"... developed for the creation and raising of children."


Mirabella had presumed she was as earthed in Indi as a Mallee root. Silly Sozza.

She did not reckon on the coherent and endearing grassroots community-based campaign by Team McGowan, a salutory lesson to those in power who take their constituents for granted.

Electors tapped into the burgeoning international distaste of "ordinary people" for old irrelevant parties, some mired in corruption, outrageous expenses lurks and perks, grasping for power at any cost; dominated by self interest and preservation of the "party" rather than policy and the greater good of the people.

Thus the farmer and Churchill Fellow doomed Mirabella to suffer the ignominy of being the sole Liberal incumbent to lose a seat in the 2013 Federal Election.

Mere days before Mirabella's brain snap on the telly, news of another shocking incident emerged.

Under the unambiguous headline of 'Out of my way!' the Bennalla Ensign's editor Libby Price, published the astonishing news that at the opening of a new wing at Cooinda Village, by Federal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, assistant minister for health and aged care, Sophie Mirabella

...took exception to the current Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, asking to have her photo taken with the said Mr Wyatt in front of the plaque commemorating the opening.

Mrs Mirabella very publicly pushed Ms McGowan out of the way to obstruct the photo being taken.

Not a good look.

Mirabella has denied she pushed McGowan


Libby Price stands by her story.

There is much about Sophie Mirabella nee Panapoulos that summons the political fragrance of the former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, metaphorically cut down by the rotors on the chopper she hired and improperly billed to the taxpayer. Now, I'm getting sentimental...


Remember Sophie's 2006 unsame sex wedding to Greg Mirabella? If you can, you probably weren't there.

Difficult to tell whom is the actual bride and groom in this photo, so you guess! Anyhow, we can say for certain that two of those pictured initially claimed the wedding on parliamentary expenses. You guess! Post answers to President Zuma. (Photo by Rebecca Hallas via smh.com.au)

Few people are aware that the happy event was actually a special sitting of Parliament, really a sort of Coalition Coachella, a Liberal Party lovefest; an orgy of the body politic.

Therefore their wedding could be claimed on parliamentary expenses. How good izzat!

But it wasn't until years later, that this little misunderstanding was rectified and monies repaid to the people.

Never before have so few owed so much to so many.

Writing in The Conversation in 2013 Michelle Grattan did a sweep on Coalition expenses and pointed out that:

Tony Abbott was one of several MPs at the Mirabellas' nuptials in 2006. He claimed more than $1000 of public money for travel expenses which, as controversy swirls about Coalition politicians billing the taxpayers for attending weddings, he has just paid back.


The battle for Indi 2016 is not solely a contest between McGowan and Mirabella. There are other candidates of course.

But Indi has become a grassroots touchstone for both what is right and what is wrong with old diseased political parties, their entrenched cronyism and sense of entitlement.

We are not well served by our politicians and all around us, once robust services have decayed and been allowed to rot, starved of funds and staff. Time and again, transgressions and even criminal activity goes unchecked and unchallenged.

Increasingly, legislation deprives us of small and greater freedoms, including freedom of speech and the right to call out corruption wherever it festers.

As more "ordinary" people enter politics, hopefully, there will be less lemming-like ridiculous party bloc voting. 

It's all up for offer, and if they think otherwise ... tell 'em they're dreaming.

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