In the face of a national revolt over outsourcing of key government functions to consultants, Defence has handed another big four consultant, Ernst & Young, an $8.4 million contract to design Australia’s nuclear submarine regulator. This is despite its deep involvement with the nuclear power industry (including with the company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster) and recent reporting uncovering conflict of interests in the energy sector.
EY has long and deep ties to the nuclear industry, repeatedly advocating for an expanded nuclear industry and working with major nuclear power companies, including NuScale Power Corporation, China General Nuclear Power Co as well as TEPCO, acting as its long-term auditor, during and since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
EY is already under investigation for undisclosed conflicts of interest with the NSW government already investigating its contract with EY to develop a Future of Gas Statement while EY was also working with gas giant Santos.
The Greens are calling for the Albanese government to cancel the contract and bring this core work of government back into the public service.
Greens Senator and Defence Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“It’s genuinely unbelievable that in the middle of a national scandal about outsourcing core government functions to the big four consultants, Defence has gifted an $8.5 million contract to one of them to design a new national nuclear regulator.
“It was always wrong to have Defence in control of its own regulator for the AUKUS nuclear submarines and now we can see how they have hand picked a pro-nuclear consultant to design the whole thing.
“This wasn’t an open tender at all, Defence chose Ernst and Young from a large panel without going to market or, it seems, even considering serious conflicts of interest.
“No one can have any comfort in a nuclear regulatory body designed by a hand picked consultant with so many obvious conflicts of interest.
“Ernst and Young has deep conflicts of interest here, as it repeatedly pushes for an expanded global nuclear energy industry and through its role as the ongoing auditor of TEPCO, the Japanese energy giant responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“In its Australian operations Ernst and Young is already under investigation by the NSW government over conflicts of interest related to the gas industry, but none of this seems to trouble Defence.
“International nuclear energy standards make it clear that nuclear regulators must be structurally and functionally independent which means the nuclear submarine regulator should never have sat with Defence in the first place.
“This contract needs to be torn up and then this core duty of government, designing a nuclear oversight agency, needs to be done by an independent government agency not by a hired gun from the big four,” Senator Shoebridge said.