Doorstop Interview, Osborne SA

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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22 March 2024

SUBJECTS: Announcement of AUKUS build and sustainment partners

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PREMIER, PETER MALINAUSKAS: Well good morning. It is fantastic to be here at Osborne on a really significant day for the state of South Australia and an important one for the nation at large. It is an absolute privilege to be here this morning with so many important guests and dignitaries. Let me start, of course, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. It’s a privilege to have him here today along with Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles and Caroline Kennedy. They’ll all be saying a few words in just a moment. But I’m also very grateful to be here with my good friend Penny Wong, of course the Foreign Minister our nation, along with David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. To have such esteemed guests here today is very much a representation of the fact that Adelaide is at the heartbeat of our nation’s defence effort. Adelaide is the home of one of the most sophisticated sovereign shipbuilding exercises we have seen anywhere in the world, and it’s only set to grow here. The AUKUS relationship represented by Secretary Cameron and Shapps and Ambassador Kennedy and Penny and Richard is something that our nation really simply must do, and South Australia can make a defining contribution to our national security in that regard. 

When we think about the opportunity before us, it’s hard not to get excited. But today we really start to see rubber hit the road with BAE being announced as a consortium partner with ASC to build the most complex machines ever built in human history right here in South Australia. And often when we talk about it we think about the jobs and the big numbers and so forth. But in actual fact, it’s not the volume of work that is going to be undertaken here as part of this exercise; it’s the importance of the work. The chance to dramatically improve the economic complexity not just of South Australia but our country as a whole. But in doing so, actually contribute to the security of our nation. Yesterday we had the labour force statistics released and we saw that South Australia now leads the nation as the best performing economy in our country. So this enterprise, this national endeavour, is not a case of what the commonwealth can do for South Australia but, rather, what South Australia can build for our nation. To that end, this partnership, the AUKUS partnership, the State and Federal Government partnership, is something we’re exceptionally excited about. I’d like to congratulate ASC and BAE on winning this project. Now we can hit the ground running, start employing people, building the skills academy that will literally transform the lives of thousands of South Australians. So we’re exceptionally excited about it. It’s a proud day for our state. It’s an important one for our country, and I’d just like to invite Defence Secretary Shapps to say a few words followed by Ambassador Kennedy along with the Deputy Prime Minister. 

UK SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE, GRANT SHAPPS: Well, good morning. It’s great to be here in Adelaide for such an auspicious moment in time because as everybody realises, we’re living in a more dangerous time. The world is perhaps going through a trickier period. I described it previously as going from a post-war to a pre-war era, but not because we want to be at war; in fact, we want exactly the opposite. And that is why AUKUS is so important. It gives us the opportunity to work globally with the United States, with Great Britain and with Australia to build these extraordinary machines that Peter was just telling us about – the AUKUS - the SSN-AUKUS sub. Not something that you would normally see done between three different friends, three different partners. A completely new approach to thinking about not just building a submarine but our global security as well. 

So this announcement today is extremely important and it’s going to mean that, as you just heard, there are jobs provided both here but also at home in the United Kingdom as well as we come together, as we pool our best people, our best brains, our best ideas together to build these nuclear-powered submarines that will be so important in terms of particularly ensuring that there’s freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific and, of course, through our contributions in our SSNs in other parts of the world as well. And we know these are difficult times. We’ve seen what happens when waterways are challenged, when that freedom of navigation is limited, and we know that it’s important not to allow for that to go unchallenged. And, again, that is why no matter where you are – whether it’s in the Indo-Pacific, whether it’s in the South China Sea, the Red Sea or in the North Atlantic – it is absolutely vital that that freedom of navigation is continued now and forever into the future. And that is why this enormous commitment by all three countries working together in AUKUS is so critically important. 

Now, there are other strands to AUKUS. There’s the pillar II, which will be about other technologies. The thing which I think is perhaps most evident and most obvious is the building of these new submarines. And we’re delighted to be doing that in close partnership with our friends here in Australia but also, of course, with our US partners. And I’m pleased now to introduce Ambassador Kennedy to speak. 

UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA, CAROLINE KENNEDY: Thank you. It’s an honour to represent the United States here with the senior leaders of our two closest allies – the United Kingdom and Australia – and to be here with all the people in this shipyard who are going to be part of this incredible workforce of the future. It’s been an historic year. We were in San Diego just last March and now we’re here to announce the beginning of this new era for AUKUS, building submarines here in Australia. 

So, there is so much to come, but this has been a really historic year in the contributions to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and we start now and build. So it’s an honour to work- to be present here today. 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, thank you. It is a very significant day to be announcing that ASC and BAE will form a joint venture to build Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines right here at the Osborne naval shipyard. And, in addition, ASC will do the sustainment of the nuclear-powered submarines under the Submarine Rotational Force West in Western Australia. These are big foundational decisions which demonstrate that the pathway to Australia acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine capability under the banner of AUKUS is happening. And the result of that right here is going to be the most advanced manufacturing in the nation and one of the most advanced manufacturing production lines in the world. When it’s up and running four to 5,000 people will be involved here at the Osborne naval shipyard in building Australia’s future nuclear-powered‑ submarines. And when you add that to the building of the Hunter class frigates here in Adelaide, this shipyard when it’s up and running will have 7,000 people building Australia’s navy. And I want to thank all of those who are present here today for the work that you’ve done. What is ahead is an exciting but an enduring future. People can look to what we are doing here knowing they can start their career and finish their career building Australia’s future navy. 

Can I thank ASC, can I thank BAE for all the work you’ve done to getting us to this point. I would like to acknowledge Charles Woodburn who’s here today, the global head of BAE, but particularly I want to acknowledge our AUKUS partners – Grant and David who are here representing the United Kingdom, Ambassador Kennedy representing the United States. The AUKUS banner has been so important in terms of enabling Australia to make a giant leap in our military capability. That’s what our future nuclear-powered submarine capability will be. And in a difficult world, having that capability is fundamental to keeping Australians safe. 


JOURNALIST: How much will Australia take part in the design of the future SSN-AUKUS? And are you confident you can keep it within the stated budgets that are already nearing decline? 

MARLES: Well, I don’t accept the last part of that question. I mean, we are confident about both the time frame and the budgets associated with delivering this. The design of SSN-AUKUS is going to be, well, really in many respects a trilateral design between all three countries. But we will be working closely with the UK. And it’s important to understand that the class of submarines that will be produced here will be jointly run by Australia and the United Kingdom. There will be a production line in Barrow in the UK, which will be producing the same class of submarine for the Royal Navy for the UK, and that’s really important because having two production lines amongst friends enables us to share risk, gain experience from each other not just in the building of the submarines but in the operation of them. And so this is very much a joint activity the whole way through, beginning with design. 

JOURNALIST: How many SSN-AUKUS subs will be built here at Osborne? 

MARLES: Well, this is going to be an enduring capability. I think that’s the important point to make. It’s not a specific number; this is forever. There is no country in the world which has obtained the capability to build nuclear-powered submarines who’s then turned that capability off. And that’s what people need to understand we are doing here at Osborne in having the first of the nuclear-powered submarines roll off the production line in the early 2040s. On a drum beat thereafter every few years we will see submarines being produced here on an enduring basis. 

JOURNALIST: Minister, some quite prominent critics have said submarines will never – nuclear-powered submarines will never be built here. What’s the significance of today’s announcements in answering those critics? 

MARLES: Well, I mean, there will always be critics and there have kind of been critics from day one. But I think what you can see from what we have done today but not just today – the steps we have taken in establishing the Australian Submarine Agency, the legislation that we put through our Parliament, the legislation that we’ve seen go through the United States Congress – the three governments involved here are working at a pace to make this happen. This is going to happen. And we need it to happen from an Australian point of view. 

Our submarines and having long-range capable submarines are the single most important military platform that we can bring to bear. And that will not have the capability in the future as it even has today unless we move to having them being nuclear-powered. And so we are utterly committed to walking down that path. And the reason we have confidence about this despite all the commentary that you might hear is that there is a bipartisan position on this in Australia, but there is in the UK and there is in the United States as well. And that’s what we need to make sure that this is something which is delivered not just this year and next but this decade and next, because this is an enduring project which is going to transform Australia’s military capability. Thank you.



Deputy Prime Minister’s Office: | 02 6277 7800

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