Australia has marked one year since it entered into a trilateral security partnership with the United Kingdom and United States but an announcement about the delivery of new submarines is still several months away.
In September last year then prime minister Scott Morrison joined his British counterpart Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden to announce the AUKUS alliance to “help deliver the security and stability our region needs”.
The new partnership meant Australia scrapped a $90 billion submarine deal with the French, in favour of acquiring nuclear powered submarines through AUKUS.
Defence Minister Richard Marles was asked by Englishheadline Australia’s Tom Connell on Friday about the best case scenario for when the new submarines would be in the water.
“Well time is of the essence, so it’s been a big factor in all of our considerations. I think the truth is that what we inherited from the former government was a schedule of really not getting the successor submarine until the 2040s,” Mr Marles said.
“If that were to occur that definitely would open up a capability gap when you consider the Collins (class) was due to come out of the water in the mid-2020s.
“We need to make sure that between this moment and whenever the future submarine goes into the water we do have an evolving submarine capability so trying to get these as soon as possible has been a really key part of it.
“I’m not in a position to give you a sense of that now but it has been a major factor in the way in which we have tried to go about working out what is the ultimate solution here.”
But Mr Marles said Australia was “on track” to make an announcement early next year about the nuclear submarine program, with the final designs and delivery timelines still under consideration.
“We can see the optimal pathway taking shape, it’s not really possible for me to give you more than that,” the Defence Minister said.
“But we do feel we’re getting there and we’re on track to be able to make this announcement at the beginning of next year.”
Shadow defence minister Andrew Hastie, in a speech in the United States overnight, said Australia needed to move at “warp speed” with its submarine program.
“We need America’s strength and partnership and AUKUS is a great start. Our decision to acquire nuclear powered submarines was both bold and historic,” Mr Hastie said.
“It is a powerful signal that we are going to take responsibility for ourselves and the security of our neighbours. We need to move, though, at warp speed.
“Time is not on our side. America’s industrial might and dynamism is critical to delivering those submarines, not in 20 years, but within the next decade, ideally sooner.”