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(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

The Liberal Party-linked Perth shipbuilder Austal is in trouble. The company, chaired by long-time Liberal Party donor and supporter John Rothwell, built eight Cape Class patrol boats for what is now the Australian Border Force so badly that the Department of Home Affairs resisted making a final payment for them, prompting a savage 2018 national audit office review of the half-billion-dollar contract.

That report was so serious it prompted what passes for the Commonwealth integrity body, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), to stir into action and launch a high-powered investigation into the relationship between Home Affairs officials and Austal, which desperately needed payments from the government.

Austal is also under investigation by both the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and US authorities: in Australia over market disclosures in 2015 and 2016, and in the US over "a number of areas of the group’s US operations" relating to its US naval contract. The SEC investigation led to its Mobile, Alabama facility being raided by federal agents last year.