The AUKUS agreement will have a “transformative” impact on Australia’s industrial base, Australia’s outgoing ambassador to the United States has argued.
Speaking to Englishheadline Australia’s Andrew Clennell, Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos said the AUKUS agreement was about much more than acquiring nuclear submarines.
“This is a whole of nation effort, this is about being aspirational and ambitious about what we can do as a nation,” Ambassador Sinodinos said.
“It’s quite a complex and sophisticated operation…Not just on the submarine side but what’s called pillar two, the advanced capabilities – technologies, critical and emerging technologies, that will lay the basis for future industries.
While the acquisition of nuclear submarines has dominated the headlines in relation to AUKUS, the agreement also includes a provision for the three countries to “develop and provide joint advanced military capabilities to promote security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”
This includes greater information sharing and innovation work on the development of quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, advanced cyber capabilities, electronic warfare capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities, and autonomous undersea capabilities.
According to Mr Sinodinos, who finishes his tenure as Ambassador in the coming days, the “spillover benefits” this will have for the rest of Australia’s industry are “incalculable.”
“Don’t underestimate the impact AUKUS will have on our capacity to integrate our industrial bases, our capacity to share information, to share technology, and create common platforms. This is the way of the future…. in that sense this is quite a path-breaking agreement.”
“This development, if we come at this as a whole of nation effort, can be really transformative for our industrial base.”
Ambassador Sinodinos said he was “bowled over” by the scale of the ambition when he was brought into negotiations that eventually led to the AUKUS agreement.
“The nuclear navy at first were quite skeptical, they wanted to work out whether we had the capability to undertake what they call the nuclear stewardship – because they maintain such very high standards of safety and performance,” he said.
“But once we engaged the strategic side, the White House, they saw the strategic benefits of this.
“They said to us afterwards, this is a multi-decadal commitment, we are bound together – in one case they said forever.”
The Ambassador said that President Biden had spend a lot of time thinking about the issue during 2021, because of his strong nuclear non-proliferation credentials, “but once he was convinced this was the right thing to do strategically, he really embraced it.”
“In the last few days he’s been making all sorts of calls to congresspeople, he’s spoken with other leaders, he’s all in now. And we saw that enthusiasm in San Diego,” the Ambassador said.
Ambassador Sinodinos was also asked whether he had any concerns about Kevin Rudd’s ability to fill the role of US ambassador, given past comments where the former Labor prime minister said AUKUS was Scott Morrison trying to make himself look “important and hairy chested.”
Mr Rudd also told SBS French that he was “concerned about the long-term impact” AUKUS would have on the Australian sovereignty.
“As an ally of the US, you don’t end up agreeing with them on every element of strategy. Sometimes our American friends get it wrong,” Mr Rudd said in 2021.
But Ambassador Sinodinos, who was chief of staff to prime minister John Howard before serving as a Liberal Senator for NSW, said he was excited about what Mr Rudd would be able to achieve.
“Kevin accepts that as ambassador he’s here to talking on behalf of country and on behalf of the government he represents. Just as I’ve been doing this under both liberal and Labor governments.
“He’ll be working day and night once he’s the ambassador here to implement the AUKUS agreement… and I think he can be very effective in doing that.”
“He’s got a great network himself which I think we can really leverage in this town, in Washington DC. And he also brings his China knowledge, which is so extensive, so I’m quite excited by what that can mean in terms of what we can do in Washington and our effectiveness.”