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‘Face the future’: Albanese reveals details of $368 billion AUKUS deal

Albanese unveils historic AUKUS details

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British PM Rishi Sunak has hailed the AUKUS agreement as the most significant defence partnership in generations, as he joined Anthony Albanese and Joe Biden in Tuesday’s announcement.

The three leaders met in San Diego aboard the USS Missouri battleship for the historic announcement.

Australia will command a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines within the next three decades under a fast-tracked plan that will cost up to $368 billion.

Prime Minister Albanese said the announcement marked a new chapter in the relationship between the three nations. Australia, the US and Britain had begun a friendship built “on our shared values… for a peaceful and prosperous future”.

AUKUS was the “biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in all of its history”, Mr Albanese said.

“Already, today, Australians are upskilling on nuclear technology and stewardship alongside their British and American counterparts,” he said.

The US President confirmed the US would send three Virginia-class submarines to Australia, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed.

Mr Biden said the ultimate was go was a new design – dubbed the SSN-Aukus – that would combine British submarines and design with US technology

“I want to be clear to everyone from the outset,” Mr Biden said.

“These subs are not nuclear-armed, but nuclear-powered.

“Australia is a proud non-nuclear weapon state and is committed to stay that way.”

Mr Sunak said Tuesday’s announcement had followed a speech by then US president John F Kennedy in San Diego, which spoke of a higher purpose – freedom, peace and security.

“Today we stand together united by that same purpose and to fulfil it we must forge the same kinds of new relationships to meet new kinds of challenges,” he said.

“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilising behaviour of Iran and North Korea – all threaten to create a world codefined by danger, disorder and division”.

Mr Sunak said he would Go further to strengthen resilience.

“For the first time, the United Kingdom will move away from the baseline commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence to a new ambition of 2.5 per cent, putting beyond doubt that the UK is, and will remain, one of the world’s leading defence powers.”

He said AUKUS was the most “significant multilateral military defence partnership in generations”.

AUKUS laid out

Under the deal finally confirmed on Tuesday, Canberra will acquire three US Virginia-class nuclear submarines as a stop-gap from approximately 2033 before a new SSN AUKUS-class hybrid vessel arrives in Australian waters a decade later.

The cost to taxpayers of the trilateral deal with the US and Britain will come in at an eye-watering $268-$368 billion over the coming three decades.

The plan will take $9 billion from the budget’s bottom line across the next four years and $50-58 billion within a decade.

The annual cost will then be about 0.15 per cent of GDP until the mid-2050s. But there are already warnings about the accuracy of the forecasts due to the unpredictability of inflation in three decades’ time.

An American submarine for Australia will roll off the production line every three years before the new AUKUS class will be built at a similar rate from 2042. The sale will need approval from Congress.

Australia’s current Collins-class submarines are due to come out of service in the late 2030s.

The plan ensures Australia will always have a baseline fleet of six submarines and have the option to buy an additional two Virginia-class submarines should there be any delays.

The nuclear-powered submarines can stay at sea for as long as the crew have food, extending Australia’s capability from the weeks the Collins class can remain underwater.

Britain will construct and use the first AUKUS submarine from the late 2030s and acquire an estimated eight to 12 of the same type.

The British design was favoured over the American one, with the Virginia class set to stop production in the mid-2040s and Australia requiring a continuing solution.

It’ll take an estimated 100 to 110 people to crew the new AUKUS class, significantly higher than the 60 it takes to command Australia’s Collins submarines.

Four American nuclear-powered submarines and one UK vessel will begin rotating through Western Australian naval bases from as early as 2027 to boost Australia’s ability to operate its own vessels in the 2030s and 2040s.

Increased visits from US and UK nuclear submarines will also begin from next year.

Shipbuilders in Adelaide and Western Australia will join those in America and Britain in helping construct the new submarines, with shipyard upgrades to begin this year.

Radioactive waste will be managed in Australia, which has drawn protests from environmental campaigners.

Mr Albanese said the partnership was about strengthening national security and stability in the region.

“For more than a century, brave citizens from our three countries have been part of a shared tradition of service in the cause of peace and sacrifice in the name of freedom,” he said.

“While we respect and honour the past, through AUKUS, we turn ourselves to face the future.”

Mr Biden said the agreement was a testament to the strong ties between the three nations.

“As we stand at the inflection point in history … the United States can ask for no better partners in the Indo-Pacific, where so much of our shared future will be written,” he said.

-with AAP

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