Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485
The Hon Pat Conroy MP
Minister for Defence Industry
Minister for International Development and the Pacific
16 March 2023
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's fantastic to be here at HMAS Stirling, Fleet Base West. I'm here today with my Ministerial colleagues: Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, Minister for Defence Personnel, Matt Keogh. I'm also here with Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead who has headed our Task Force which has been at the centre of negotiating the AUKUS arrangement, which we announced on Tuesday.
The announcements on Tuesday places Western Australia, places Rockingham, places this point right here, at the focus of AUKUS. Behind us, you can see the home of Australia's submarine capability. This is the home of our Collins class submarines. Behind me is the place on which we will evolve the operational capability to run nuclear-powered submarines in the future. And that is going to begin with an increased tempo of visits by American and British submarines to Australia, here at HMAS Stirling, where we will be able to get much greater experience in handling nuclear powered submarines.
Behind us you have the USS Asheville. I think Minister Keogh had the opportunity to go on the sea voyage yesterday on the USS Asheville, but it is one of a number of submarines which we will now see visiting HMAS Stirling in the lead up to the establishment of the forward rotation of US and British submarines operating from here in 2027.
All of this represents a huge economic opportunity for Western Australia. We will see the investment of $1 billion into the Western Australian economy over the next four years, $8 billion over the coming decade, the creation of over 3,500 jobs – 3,000 jobs in construction, but an ongoing 500 jobs in sustainment activities for submarines going into the future. And that's a huge economic benefit for this state. It represents high-skilled jobs and high-tech industry which contributes to the technological capability of the Western Australian economy. But what this also highlights is the degree to which Western Australia is contributing to our nation acquiring this profoundly important capability for our country, such that we can hand a much more self-reliant nation to our children and to our grandchildren. With those comments, I'll hand over to Minister Conroy.
PAT CONROY, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY: Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister, and as we've discussed before with this announcement, the announcement about the Optimal Pathway forward represents the most significant industrial undertaking this country has ever attempted. Greater than the Snowy Hydro Scheme, on par with establishing an Australian automotive industry. Around 20,000 jobs will be created, including 3,500 jobs in the great state of Western Australia.
Importantly, those job figures don't include the supply chain jobs. They are direct jobs building the submarine yards, building infrastructure, working on direct sustainment and construction of submarines. It doesn't include the tier two and tier three supply chain jobs which we know will come as well. So that 20,000 jobs figure is very conservative. Importantly, $1 billion is invested in Western Australia over the next four years, and $8 billion over the decade that will drive that jobs growth.
We also announced as part of this project that we will be investing $6 billion over the next four years to uplift Australian industry to start the training of the workforce, to invest in the infrastructure and to build the capacity of Australian companies including companies in this great state to supply parts, not just for our submarines, but the supply chains for the US and UK submarine construction industries. $6 billion over the next four years, $30 billion over the life of the program, dedicated to improving workforce training, and skills capacity. And importantly, we'll be training thousands of Australians for these jobs. A young person starting an apprenticeship this year, or a university degree, could work their entire life on these projects, such is the scale and extent of this nation-building undertaking. And my final message to the people of this state is that work on this project starts right now. This is not off in the never-never, work starts right now building the infrastructure to deliver the rotational presence, to build the infrastructure for the Australian-based Virginia class submarines, and then build the infrastructure for SSN-AUKUS. So it's a great day, it's a great week, for the economy of Australia.
MATT KEOGH, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL: Thanks Deputy Prime Minister and thanks Pat. It's great to be down here with both of you today at HMAS Stirling, with the USS Asheville here as well, which I had the great opportunity of sailing on yesterday, not just seeing the capability of it as a vessel but also meeting its crew and understanding the great skill and asset that they are, the training opportunity that will be available to our own submariners as they ramp up their involvement in crew swaps and having engagement themselves on American and then UK submarines as part of the frequent visits that we'll be kicking off from this year with the Americans a bit later with the UK, and of course, turning into the forward rotational forces that will be coming here with the submarines before we take on our own sovereign capability.
The interoperability of our crews is the most important part. We know that our personnel are our most important capability and they're vital to making sure that this project is a success. Seeing the way in which that they can work together and have already been working together and training together has been a huge success. And it's great to see that occurring and to be able to see it upfront yesterday as part of that visit.
Of course, it's not just about the personnel here in Western Australia that will get that opportunity, but also the infrastructure investment which we can see behind us. We're already building out great infrastructure here at HMAS Stirling with another $8 billion investment over the decades to come. 3,000 people to be directly employed in that construction. But importantly also, an additional 500 people in that sustainment operation to work with those forward rotational submarines coming from the US, the UK; the thousands of other people that will be involved in those supply chains, and the training opportunities that will be coming for so many Australians across Western Australia, across the country, to be part of this nation-building opportunity that is this AUKUS plan that is starting to unfold as we speak.
It's a great opportunity for Australia. It's about strengthening our national security. It's about providing that stability in our region and ensuring that we are a country that makes things here in Australia and builds our sovereign capability not just in equipment, but in our personnel and across our industry as well.
REPORTER: Deputy Prime Minister, some people have unkindly called this the ‘Frankenstein project’, to start off with US subs, then there's a British-designed, Australian built one. Wouldn't it have not been better just to stick with one type of sub?
MARLES: What we're doing is evolving a capability from where we are today, operating six electric diesel submarines to a point in the 2050s where we want to be operating eight nuclear-powered submarines. What we inherited as a government was a lost decade from the former government as Australia was in and out of the deal with Japan, and then in and out of a deal with France. Which meant that we needed to come to terms with a looming capability gap over the 2030s as the diesel-electric submarine capability will be a diminishing capability over that period of time. And what we've announced on Tuesday I think meets all of those challenges.
This will see an evolving capability. This will provide from now through to 2027 and beyond the opportunity to grow a submariner workforce here in Western Australia, and to gain familiarity in working with nuclear-powered submarines. The provision of Virginia class submarines from the early 2030s is a huge breakthrough. And we are deeply grateful to our partners in the United States and the UK for that happening. Because that does allow us to be operating an Australian flagged nuclear-powered submarine from the early 2030s. And we are very comfortable with our ability to evolve through those Virginia class submarines to a point where we are manufacturing our own submarines, in tandem with the United Kingdom.
REPORTER: One more question. By the end of the 2030s we'll have three Virginia class submarines. Is that really enough of a deterrent to China, if China is the threat? Just three subs?
MARLES: Well, the point I want to make, right now the Collins class submarines are a really formidable capability and they do an enormous service for our country. And it's important that people understand that. But the point that we're making is that as we evolve through the 2030s, diesel-electric technology is going to become increasingly redundant, which is why we need to supplement it and ultimately replace it with nuclear-powered submarines. Now, we do feel comfortable that what, the path we've now put the country on will avoid any diminution in submarine capability. In other words, we will grow that capability over the course of this decade and the next as we get to the 2040s when we're manufacturing our own.