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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

SUBJECT/S: Submarine announcements, Law Reform commission report, Kevin Rudd

HOST, PETER STEFANOVIC: So, Australia will hand over almost $5 billion to the UK's Rolls-Royce to build nuclear reactors for future AUKUS submarines. The funds will be paid out over the next decade and match a similar commitment made to the United States. Australian submarine builder ASC will be announced as a partner in the joint venture alongside the UK's BAE system. So, on that note, let's bring in the deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister Richard Marles. So, we've got this big announcement today. Minister, good morning. Good to see you. By the way, $5 billion as a down payment. That is not insignificant. So, what do we get for it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think that the fundamental answer to that is we get the nuclear reactors which will go in to the submarines that are going to be built right here at the Osborne Naval shipyard. I mean, a year ago, Pete, we made the point that we will need to see an expansion of the industrial base, both in the US and the UK. And there's been a talk about both of those actually in the media in recent times for the UK, specifically, because the nuclear reactors will be built in Britain, not here, and they're sealed nuclear reactors which will be then brought here and placed in the submarines. That facility, which is operated by Rolls Royce in Derby, needs to be expanded to produce those reactors at a faster rate. I was actually there last year and they're already readying themselves to build the Australian reactors there. Indeed, there are parts being made right now, as we speak, which will be on that very first submarine that rolls off the production line here in the early two thousand and forty s. And so it's important that we're making our contribution to that. But let me also say that the place where we will be spending the most money in terms of industrial uplift is right here in Australia. Over through the 2050s, we'll spend something like $30 billion in improving our and building up our industrial base here so that we can build nuclear powered submarines here at Osborne.

STEFANOVIC: So, I mean, we're paying the UK to do our nuclear work for us. Why not just reverse your nuclear policy and do it here?

MARLES: Look, we're not in a position to be able to build nuclear reactors. We could be, though, if you went down that path, we certainly wouldn't be getting our submarines in the time frame that we need them. There is a facility in the UK right now which is building reactors for the British fleet. What we're doing is seeing an expansion of that. And that is the quickest way and the most cost effective way in which we can get those nuclear reactors into our own nuclear-powered submarines that we will be building here through the. What we need to do is to get this capability into service as quickly as possible. And that's been at the heart of all the decisions that we've been making around acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine capability.

STEFANOVIC: There are already fears of delays out of the US, Minister, amidst efforts to trim its own submarine output. Has the timeline for the delivery of our submarines changed at all?

MARLES: No, it hasn't. And I know there's been commentary about this over the last few weeks, but the fact that the UK and the US industrial bases are stretched is something we understood a year ago. Which is precisely why, when we announced AUKUS, we also announced that we would be making a contribution to those industrial bases so that they could expand and uplift in a way which would enable us to do what we need to do to acquire the nuclear powered submarine capability in Australia. So, this is exactly how we imagined it would be, both in terms of seeing the uplift in the UK for those nuclear reactors, but also seeing the uplift in America so that we can see those first Virginias transferred to Australia in the early 2030s. But I think that in today's announcement, in announcing that ASC and BAE are going to form a joint venture here to build Australia's nuclear powered submarines, what you see is another fundamentally important step forward in the pathway to Australia acquiring these submarines. It ensures that this will be happening on time. And ultimately, right here at Osborne, we're going to see 4,000 people working on building Australia's nuclear powered submarines. It will be the most high tech manufacturing that is done in this country, one of the most high tech manufacturing production lines in the world. It's great in terms of us getting our capability. It's great for Australian defence industry.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, a few other quick topics. Richard, I'm not sure you can answer this one quickly, actually, but on religious discrimination, will you be adopting the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission and removing that contentious section 38 from the Sex Discrimination act?

MARLES: Look, we've got the Law Reform Commission's report. We'll obviously work through all of that. I think the important point to make here is, as we walk forward in terms of reform in this space, we need to do so with consensus. The Attorney-General has done a great job in talking with stakeholders across the community, including religious schools, and he will continue to do that in respect of this report. But we really need to be walking forward as one. And that's not only across the community, that's within the parliament as well. And so our focus is on building consensus around these reforms. And we will take this report, we'll look at it, but we'll continue to talk to schools about it.

STEFANOVIC: So, doesn't it stand to reason, though, that the point of a religious school would be questioned if it can't operate under its own ethos?

MARLES: Look, obviously we understand that point, and these are difficult issues, and it does require working through. And that's why we've been talking with the religious schools about their perspective in relation to all this. We will continue to do that in respect of this report from the Law Reform commission. But I emphasise again, to walk down this path, we need to do so with consensus within the community, but also within the parliament.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, final one here, Minister. We've got some old vision of K. Rudd. He's having a go at Donald Trump again. This is becoming very awkward stuff.

MARLES: Kevin is doing a great job representing Australia's interests in the United States and across the political spectrum. In December, we saw groundbreaking legislation passed by the US Congress which underpins what we're doing here today in terms of the AUKUS announcements, legislation which saw the passage of those Virginias to Australia in the future. He was leading that work and he was doing that with Democrats and with Republicans. He won support across the political spectrum for that legislation. And we're really confident that AUKUS enjoys the support across the American political spectrum, and we're really confident about the way in which Kevin can advocate on behalf of Australia, Democrats and Republicans alike.

STEFANOVIC: Richard Marles, good to have you, as always, on a busy morning for you. Thank you. We'll talk to you again soon. 


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