PM doubles down on AUKUS, sounds warning on environment in key national security address

Peter Dutton's noticeable absence is not a good sign for the NSW government, says Anthony Albanese.

Peter Dutton's noticeable absence is not a good sign for the NSW government, says Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will reiterate the importance of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine defence pact and warn that a climate change bill at the centre of a dispute with the Greens is critical to national security in a press club address on Wednesday.

In a major speech on national security and his first press club address of 2023, Mr Albanese will paint a broad brush picture of the state of Australian national security and its economic, diplomatic and environmental dimensions.

He will assert the security pact with America and Britain to deliver nuclear submarines is at the cornerstone of the government’s defence policy.

“This will be the single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history,” Mr Albanese will say of AUKUS.

But the PM will note that the cost of living, energy security and the economy all determine national security.

He will name the bill to enact the government’s emissions reduction targets as critical to Australia’s alliances and national security.

‘Safeguard mechanism’ in doubt

The future of the so-called “safeguard mechanism”, intended to make Australia’s largest industrial polluters cut their emissions, is in doubt.

The Coalition is opposed to it and the Greens say they will pass it unamended only if new coal mines are also banned.

Reviewing the state of Australian security policy, Mr Albanese will hail the end of an era marked by the “hurried announcement” and “political conflict” to one focused on rebuilding Australia’s relationships and its regional standing and influence.

“[Australia is] back at the table; as a supporter of the rules-based order, as a constructive member of multilateral forums and as a trusted partner for regional co-operation and bilateral negotiations,” Mr Albanese will say.

The government’s commitment to cut emissions, he says, has been key to restoring Australia’s relations.

“Meaningful action on climate change is our environmental responsibility. It is central to our diplomatic strategy and it represents a transformative economic opportunity.”

Mr Albanese will say that the plan to cut emissions, at the centre of negotiations with the Greens, is also a key part of Australia’s economic and national security.

“Energy security is national security – and Australia can be a renewable energy superpower,” he will say.

Public negotiations over the bill have reached a sharp point in recent days as senior Labor ministers warn the Greens not to imperil the passage of reform.

AUKUS ‘about the future’

In the wide-ranging speech, the PM will also double down on the AUKUS security pact that will involve replacing Australia’s current fleet of submarines with a nuclear-powered fleet to be provided by the US.

“AUKUS is about much more than nuclear submarines,” Mr Albanese will say.

“AUKUS is about the future.

“It further formalises the common values and the shared interest that our three nations have in preserving peace and upholding the rules and institutions that secure our region and our world,” Mr Albanese will say.

The government would also announce, via AUKUS, “the optimal pathway by which Australia will operate our nuclear-powered submarines”.

The pact has been criticised, including by former Labor prime minister Paul Keating and by others who say it will leave a gap in Australia’s defence capability while the new submarines come online.

Mr Albanese says the government will release a declassified version of the Defence Strategic Review it received earlier this month. It is an assessment of the suitability of current defence forces for the nation’s security needs.

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