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Albanese ready for new dawn on defence, as Rudd reveals government anxiety

A letter has landed on the desk of PM Anthony Albanese.

A letter has landed on the desk of PM Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP

— Updated

Anthony Albanese is unveiling key details about the future of Australia’s defence force in America as his predecessor reveals the government’s anxiety about tensions between China and the US.

The Royal Australian Navy will acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines as part of a technology-sharing pact with the US and the UK that will make Australia only the seventh in the world to have such a capability.

The cost to taxpayers will come in at an eye-watering $268-$368 billion over the next three decades.

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

The Prime Minister met his British counterpart Rishi Sunak on Monday and told reporters he was ready for a “new dawn” in defence policy.

Another trilateral meeting, including US President Joe Biden, at 8am on Tuesday AEST will detail Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines from Britain and America

“Tomorrow will be a very big day,” Mr Albanese said.

“AUKUS has been a lot of hard work. But it is in the three countries’ interests. The sum of the three is more than one plus one plus one in this case. And I think that the co-operation we’ve had is really exciting.”

 

Three-stage plan

Nuclear-powered submarines can travel further and with enhanced stealth, which backers of the policy say will be necessary to provide a deterrent as Chinese power continues to rise in the region.

Under a three-stage plan canvassed in leaks to foreign newspapers, American nuclear-propelled submarines will begin rotating through Australian stations in Western Australia and New South Wales from 2027 onwards.

Australia will purchase Virginia-class nuclear-powered boats from America, possibly second-hand models, from 2032.

And British-designed boats fitted with American weapons systems will be built in South Australia to an expected completion date some time in the next decade.

The government projects that the deal will create about 20,000 Australian jobs over the next three decades including for scientists, project managers and trades workers.

The government’s incoming Ambassador to Washington, former PM Kevin Rudd, has meanwhile given a sobering assessment of his priorities in that job.

Mr Rudd said he had taken on the Washington role at the request of Mr Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, and said they shared the same concerns about Beijing’s hardening posture towards the western world.

‘Dangerous times’

“Their anxiety, like mine, is this has been starting to become dangerous,” Mr Rudd said in an appearance on CNN.

“The government in Canberra is about dealing with the granularity of deterrence, dealing with the granularity of mechanisms to reduce the risk of crisis, conflict and war by accident, as well as the roles and responsibility of allies.

“I think we’re living in dangerous times, my friend, really dangerous times. And I think it’s time for all hands to the pump.”

Mr Rudd said that Chinese-American relations had fallen a long way since Barack Obama and Xi Jinping met in the California sunshine a decade ago.

“The balance of power between these two countries has really changed,” he said.

“The narrowing of the gap between China and the US and military capabilities, but also in aggregate economic size has actually caused China [to…] project its own interests and values in a way in which it didn’t see as possible before.”

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