‘An absolute priority’: Albanese promises AUKUS will mean jobs for Australia

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised the AUKUS pact on nuclear-powered submarines will deliver a significant injection of jobs for Australia, amid concerns the decision to buy up to five boats from the United States will come at the expense of domestic manufacturing.

Albanese, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will unveil the details of the submarine agreement aboard the USS Missouri submarine in San Diego on Monday (US time).

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the agreement would deliver a big injection of jobs to Australia.

Alex Ellinghausen

The deal, which is largely aimed at deterring China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, will include Australia buying between three and five Virginia-class submarines from the US in the 2030s. A new class of boats with British designs and American technology would then start being built in the years afterwards, but it is unclear how many of these will be built in Australia.

Minutes before jetting off from Delhi on Saturday at the end of his state visit to India, Albanese sought to counter concerns that the decision not to build all the submarines in Adelaide, as promised by former prime minister Scott Morrison, would mean there wouldn’t be a massive injection of jobs into the country.

“This is about jobs … and Adelaide in particular will be a big beneficiary of this announcement, as well as Western Australia in particular,” he said.

“This is about building up our capacity. And when you talk about the issue of manufacturing submarines in Australia, that’s an absolute priority for us. That will be seen as part of the announcement.”

Labor’s traditional union allies have said they have deep concerns about Australia’s plan to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and fear the AUKUS pact will not deliver the promised bonanza of Australian manufacturing jobs.

Albanese confirmed he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed the details of the submarine agreement and said briefings with other countries were “taking place as appropriate”.

“We’re taking appropriate action. I can confirm that I briefed Prime Minister Modi one on one. I treated him with the respect that he deserves,” he said.

Asked whether he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron this week, Albanese said: “We deal diplomatically with other countries in an appropriate way … we will treat our partners and our friends with the respect that it deserves.”

Macron accused Morrison of lying to him in 2021 after the announcement of the AUKUS deal, which resulted in Australia dumping a $90 billion agreement with France to build conventionally powered submarines.

A French official told Agence France-Presse on Saturday that they still believed AUKUS was a mistake. “Regarding Australia, it was treason,” the unnamed official said.

The AUKUS agreement is now likely to cost Australia up to $170 billion, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Albanese, who has committed to spending whatever is “necessary to keep our country secure”, said he realised the importance of taking the Australian people with him on the cost of AUKUS.

“Australia faces real challenges,” he said. “We have said very clearly and explicitly that there are major pressures on expenditure – not just in defence, but in other areas as well.”

While Australia is unlikely to receive the first submarine from the US until 2032, that would still be years before it has the capacity to build its own nuclear-powered vessels.

The deal is likely to include Australian workers visiting US submarine shipyards over the next five years to observe and receive training on how to develop a nuclear submarine industry.

The next-generation submarine to be built using British designs and American technology, the successor to the UK’s Astute class, is scheduled to begin arriving in the 2040s, with the aim being for Australia to begin building up its own workforce capacity.

The nuclear reactor would not be built in Australia, but would instead be provided by the US or Britain.

Congressman Joe Courtney, co-chair of the so-called AUKUS caucus in Washington, said the agreement would be a big injection to the American shipbuilding industry.

“This is great news for our submarine shipbuilders in eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia and the nationwide supply chain that supports them,” he said on Twitter.

“It’s especially critical for our ability to make the first pillar of AUKUS a success.”

Australia decided to dump the French program in 2021 and build nuclear boats under the AUKUS compact out of a growing willingness to operate its submarines further from home to deter the actions of Beijing.

China has increased military spending by 7 per cent this year to about $300 billion, which includes an expansion of its own nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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