Topics: AUKUS

09:15AM AEDT
Tuesday, 14 March 2023


Stacey Lee: Simon Birmingham is a Liberal Senator for South Australia and the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister. Good morning, Simon Birmingham.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, good to be with you.


Stacey Lee: Do you believe this timeline?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I think there are still some questions to be answered around different budget implications, some of the questions that David was asking about the implications of operating multiple platforms of submarines at the same time, but we are very pleased to see that this Government has delivered within the timeline that we set for the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force to report and for a response to that and to see AUKUS taking on the next steps and we want to see transparency around the investment of dollars, including the investment of dollars in the US and/or UK and what that means and whether that creates any opportunities for Australian and South Australian defence industries and we want to see transparency around what the profile in terms of jobs in South Australia will look like, noting that our aspiration had been to see the first nuclear-powered submarine built in the 2030s – that’s now pushed out to the early 2040s but we continue to give bipartisan support to what, overall, is a necessary investment in Australia’s defence capability and in our defence industrial capability.


David Bevan: So how soon do you think we’re going to get these thousands of jobs?


Simon Birmingham: Well, David, I’ll be looking closely at the details of today’s announcement to fully understand that. There is investment in the shipyards at Osborne to be undertaken and that’ll be important. That’s consistent, if you like, with the type of investment that we made in Osborne South to establish what are some of the most advanced shipbuilding facilities that BAE are now operating in to build the Hunter-class frigates and Australia can expect to see something similar occur but we also need certainty and clarity, as you were asking before, around the life-of-type extension of the Collins class – will that apply to all six Collins-class boats and, if not, then what are the implications of that for shipbuilding workforce at Osborne and, in particular, what are the implications for ASC: does it have a role in the build of the new SSN-AUKUS or is its future uncertain in that regard; and questions around the sustainment of the new Virginia-class boats that we’ll be purchasing from the US: where will that sustainment occur and is there a role for Adelaide within the sustainment of those boats?


Stacey Lee: Well, we’ll put some of those questions to Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong very soon but, before you leave us, Simon Birmingham, often these big defence announcements do have bipartisan support. Is this a plan that the Liberal Party will commit to sticking to if you get back into government at a federal level?


Simon Birmingham: Absolutely, Stacey. This was our plan. AUKUS was something that we initiated and we were very proud to sign that deal. We took what was an incredibly difficult decision to decide to go down the path of getting nuclear-powered submarines for Australia and that meant that we had to step away from work that was already underway and do so at significant cost but we did so because the changed advice to government about operating within our region, where submarines could operate and the detectability of those submarines, meant that, if Australia were to have the same capabilities in the future from our submarine fleet as we do today with the Collins class, then we needed to make the change from diesel-powered submarines to nuclear-powered submarines – it’s a big change, it’s a vast undertaking, it puts us as one of only seven nations in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, but it’s necessary for Australia to secure the stability and the peace of our region, as we’ve helped to do so for the last few decades.


Stacey Lee: Okay, Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you, my pleasure.


Stacey Lee: South Australian Liberal Senator and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister.