Australia Disappointment after WA fails to snag submarine defence maintenance contract
Senator Rex Patrick welcomes scrapping of French submarine deal, Naval Group slams decision as 'major disappointment'
Former-submariner-turned-senator Rex Patrick says a decision to make nuclear-powered submarines in Australia had to happen, but will come at a short-term cost for Adelaide shipbuilders who could face another "valley of death".The submarine plan was revealed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning, as he announced a new partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS).
The WA Premier has slammed a Federal Government decision not to allow Western Australia to share in a multi-billion dollar defence submarine maintenance contract.
The WA Government had been pushing to share maintenance and upgrade responsibilities for Collins class submarines with South Australia.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the full cycle docking (FCD) contract would remain in Adelaide.
Premier Mark McGowan said it was not a decision made in the national interest.
Why nuclear submarines offer key edge for Australian navy
A nuclear submarine fleet will offer Australia key military advantages as it faces a shifting security environment in the Indo-Pacific region, a security expert says. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told nine.com.au today's announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Australia will join a new defence pact with the UK and US was "very good news".The security agreement - proposed as the AUKUS alliance - will also see Australia acquire its first fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The new vessels, however, will not carry nuclear weapons.
"We are so disappointed, so disappointed," he told Parliament.
"The submarines are based in Western Australia. The crews are based here and live here, the industry is here.
"The shipbuilding and repair industries are stronger here and they are internationally competitive."
Mr McGowan argued South Australia was already receiving a significant amount of defence contract work.
He said the state government had already spent millions on the local defence industry, include a TAFE campaign to guide young workers to defence careers.
"We have invested as a state, over successive governments, hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions of dollars into the Henderson shipbuilding precinct," he said.
Decision made on nuclear-powered subs
The final decision came on the FCD contract came as it was revealed Australia would build, which have agreed to share their technology.
Australia beats drums of war with nuclear submarine pivot
This deal is clearly designed to send a message to China, and it's a sign of where Australia's national security policies lie for the foreseeable future.The deal marks the start of AUKUS, a new partnership with two of our oldest allies. It also brings plenty of firsts for Australia: we will be the first country without a domestic nuclear program to have a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. And aside from the United Kingdom, we’re the only country which will have access to the United States’ nuclear submarine technology.
The fleet would also be built in Adelaide.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said WA would benefit from a number of current and future defence projects, including the construction of vessels.
Mr Morrison said more WA jobs were tied to the current building schedule than there would have been with FCD.
"There will be a lot of ships built in Western Australia by Western Australians and they'll equally be putting their shoulder to the wheel to that national task," he said.
Meanwhile, the WA Chamber of Commerce said the news FCD would not be relocated to WA was disappointing, describing it as a setback for defence industry businesses.
Nuclear subs faster and more discreet
Submarine Institute of Australia executive director David Nicholls said the nuclear powered submarine announcement was "stupendous news" in terms of national defence capabilities.
"We can get a submarine that's much faster with more endurance out in an area of interest to us much more quickly than we can with a conventionally powered submarine," he told ABC Radio.
Australia to be left 'strategically naked' for 20 years under nuclear submarine deal, Rudd says
Former prime ministers on both sides of politics are calling for a rapid acceleration in the building of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, with claims Australia will otherwise be left "strategically naked" for the next two decades.In a deal struck with the UK and US, Australia will gain access to nuclear technology to help switch to nuclear-powered submarines.
"In a nuclear submarine, there is no limitation on the fuel and it can get there quicker and stay there longer."
Mr Nicholls said conventional submarines were at greater risk of detection because they had to surface to induct air, exhaust fumes and recharge batteries.
Shock amongst anti-nuclear campaigners
Veteran WA anti-nuclear campaigner Jo Vallentine said she was shocked to learn of the announcement from the Prime Minister.
"We need to discuss this as a nation, this is a huge change in alignment," she said.
"We have resisted the nuclear industry generally, and now he has just said unilaterally, 'yes, we will go along with that'.
"If a submarine is nuclear powered, it can also be nuclear armed."
The government said while the submarines would be powered by nuclear reactors, they would not be armed with nuclear weapons.
Ms Vallentine said it drew Australia closer to the United States, potentially against China.
"Is that really where we want to be? It's very very dangerous for Australia to go down that path," she said.
Ms Vallentine suggested the submarines would likely travel near Brisbane and Perth, which she said could put the cities at risk.
Australian nuclear submarines can test China's 'weak spot' .
Australia's new nuclear submarine fleet is set to prove a test for China in an area of naval warfare the rising superpower lags the West. While China has been rapidly modernising and expanding its navy, it remains behind the US in anti-submarine capability, defence expert Marcus Hellyer says."The US has a significant advantage over China in submarine development," Dr Hellyer, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said."Chinese submarines are at least a generation behind American ones."Also in anti-submarine warfare, the US and other western nations have traditionally led China.