- The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Leader of the Opposition
- The Hon Andrew Hastie MP, Shadow Minister for Defence
Tuesday 14 March 2023
The Coalition welcomes the Government’s announcement of the next step in the AUKUS partnership established by the Coalition Government in 2021.
The concept of AUKUS was first conceived by Prime Minister Morrison in 2019 with the development process commenced in 2020. Today’s announcement is an endorsement of the Coalition’s decision to pursue the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines. It affirms the Coalition’s defence and national security strategy by enshrining the AUKUS partnership as the centrepiece of our nation’s defence. The AUKUS partnership will play a vital role in sustaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region for generations to come.
The Coalition will continue to seek further details regarding the Prime Minister’s announcement today, but will provide bipartisan support for the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines, which will radically transform Australia’s ability to defend ourselves and uphold our shared interests in preserving stability and peace for all nations in our region.
We firmly believe that the AUKUS endeavour is too important to fail.
AUKUS is a multi-generational nation-building task, commenced by the Coalition 18-months ago. Today represents the continuation of that task, as our country commences development of the SSN AUKUS.
AUKUS would not be possible, if the Coalition had not demonstrated Australia’s commitment to boosting our sovereign shipbuilding capabilities to our allies by commissioning the domestic build and upgrade of more than 70 vessels, and increased Defence spending to over 2% of GDP, from its low ebb under Labor in 2013 of 1.56%.
While the purchase of the Virginia Class vessels from the United States is a solution which we have advocated for some time, we call on the Government to guarantee that this decision will result in no net job losses in South Australia or Western Australia in the short or medium term.
But we must be under no illusion that the pathway presented to us by the Albanese Government is high risk and the Government must provide surety that the risks in operating three classes of submarines is a feat which can be managed.
The Coalition is calling on the Government to have a frank and honest conversation with Australians about the significant investment this decision represents to the national budget, and defence spending. This includes being upfront about what defence capabilities are being cut by $3 billion over the next four years to offset our contribution to US and UK submarine production.
The Coalition also acknowledges that this agreement remains true to Australia’s commitments to not acquire nuclear weapons and our obligations as a signatory to the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty, and remains consistent with our position to nuclear non-proliferation. We welcome all three nations’ deep commitment to upholding leadership on global non-proliferation.