Home » Aukus ‘the Single Biggest Leap’ In Defence Capability: Albanese

Aukus ‘the Single Biggest Leap’ In Defence Capability: Albanese

Australia must cement a far-reaching alliance on nuclear-powered submarines to ensure its security at a time of profound uncertainty in the region, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will declare in a speech on Wednesday defending the $100 billion pact with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Taking on critics who say the deal will weaken Australian sovereignty, the prime minister will preview an unclassified version of the government’s defence review by positioning the AUKUS alliance as a crucial step that is much larger than the submarine proposal to be revealed within weeks.

But he will pledge to develop more local defence manufacturing to avoid relying on foreign allies to deliver the ships, submarines and weapons needed to defend the country, promising to reveal the major details before the May 9 budget.

He will also emphasise the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions using the government’s proposed safeguard mechanism as an essential way to build trust with regional neighbours, a clear signal to the Greens to pass the package in the Senate because of the link between energy security and national security.

The new message, to be delivered in an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, sets the scene for a cascade of defence announcements including the choice of an AUKUS submarine, the release of unclassified elements of the Defence Strategic Review and the details in the budget about how the nation can sustain the cost.

“With the right investments in our capability and sovereignty, our defence force can be made ready for future challenges,” he says, according to a draft of his speech.

“These investments include announcing, through AUKUS, the optimal pathway by which Australia will operate our nuclear-powered submarines.

“This will be the single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history. Yet AUKUS is about much more than nuclear submarines, or even technological interoperability. AUKUS is about the future.

“It further formalises the common values and the shared interest that our three nations have in preserving peace and upholding the rules and institutions that secure our region and our world.”

Albanese will warn of “potential aggressors” but refer to China only in terms of the stabilising of the bilateral relationship since the election, a contrast with several years of trade sanctions and “wolf warrior” rhetoric from Chinese diplomats during the previous government.

He will emphasise, however, the strength of Australian relations with the Quad partners – the United States, Japan and India – ahead of a summit of the four leaders in Sydney, tipped to be held before the end of June.

Former prime minister Paul Keating has described AUKUS as a “surrender” of Australian control of its own military, while Malcolm Turnbull has warned that it will sacrifice Australian independence and Australian National University professor Hugh White has written on the rising power of China to one day push the US out of Asia.

“Almost completely overlooked in Australia is the fact that nuclear-powered submarines to be acquired from the US will not be able to be operated or maintained without the supervision of the US Navy,” Turnbull said in January.

Defence Minister Richard Marles noted earlier this month that almost all of Australia’s high-end defence capability was developed with allies and that the new submarines would be no exception.

The plan to buy eight nuclear submarines under the AUKUS alliance, announced by former prime minister Scott Morrison in September 2021 and kept by Albanese since the election, is expected to add more than $100 billion to the nation’s defence bill.

“Australia has long understood that partnerships and alliances are key to our security – that’s still true today,” Albanese says in the speech.

“But we recognise that pursuing and defending our sovereign interests and contributing to regional stability requires us to build our sovereign defence capability, including advanced manufacturing.”

The Defence Strategic Review, led by former chief of defence force Sir Angus Houston and former defence minister Stephen Smith – now the high commissioner in London – was prepared in several stages including an interim report late last year and the final version delivered last week.

“I can confirm today that before the budget in May, we will be releasing an unclassified version of the report as well as providing our formal response,” Albanese says.

The budget is emerging as a difficult test on defence spending when Labor must fund growing programs such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and deliver promises on childcare subsidies and aged care while finding vast amounts of money for ships, aircraft and weapons.

Albanese has signalled that he wants defence spending to rise beyond 2 per cent of GDP and hints at this in his speech, saying: “I can promise all Australians that our government will ensure that Defence has the resources it needs to defend our nation and deter potential aggressors.”

He also warns of cybersecurity threats in his speech and says he will convene a roundtable on the subject with Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil next week.

Albanese and Energy Minister Chris Bowen are seeking a deal with the Greens on the safeguard mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are positioning the issue as a test of energy security in contrast to the Greens’ demand for a ban on new gas and coal projects.

“Energy security is national security – and Australia can be a renewable energy superpower,” he says in the draft speech. He cites the safeguard mechanism as part of this, in the context of improving strategic relations with Pacific Island nations when they expect action from Australia on climate change.

source: watoday