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Opposition pledges review of major Defence projects

Opposition pledges review of major Defence projects

The federal Labor opposition has pledged to deliver a “frank assessment” of Australia’s defence capabilities and procurement strategy if elected to government.

The federal Labor opposition has pledged to deliver a “frank assessment” of Australia’s defence capabilities and procurement strategy if elected to government.

In an address to the Lowy Institute on Thursday (10 March), Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese outlined his defence and national security priorities ahead of the upcoming federal election.

Albanese reiterated support for AUKUS and the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines promised as part of the agreement, and also backed the government’s plan to expand the Australian Defence Force by 30 per cent over the next 18 years to 2040.

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However, Albanese expressed concern over delivery timelines and program delays associated with a range of major Defence projects, including the Hunter Class frigate program.

He conceded that while he cannot make commitments in the absence of expert advice, a potential Albanese government would review Defence’s procurement portfolio.

“What I can say is that it will be incumbent on us to deliver a frank assessment of our capabilities and pipeline on arrival in government,” he said.

Albanese revealed this would include:

  • considerations of whether Tomahawk missiles can be fitted to the Collins Class submarines;
  • reviewing progress of the Future Frigates project;
  • exploring potential upgrades to weapons on the Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels or through additional Hobart Class air warfare destroyers; and
  • advancing Australia’s strike weapons procurement program.

A prospective Albanese government has also pledged to strengthen ties with regional partners, including Japan, India, Singapore via both the Quad and ASEAN.

Albanese went on to stress that a Labor government would retain a strong stance on China.

“The search for false distinctions between the government and opposition on China is not in Australia’s national interest, as both current and former leaders of our security and intelligence agencies as stated so clearly,” he said.

“We have the same position on the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and human rights abuses against Uighurs and Tibetans.”

The Opposition Leader said national security would be the first priority of his government, if elected later this year.

An Albanese government, he said, would also invest in broader efforts to build national resilience, with a focus on cyber security, energy security, economic security, and environmental security.

“This is my vision, my commitment,” he said.

“An Australia stronger in the world. An Australia united at home.

“A resilient, self-reliant and secure Australia.”

[Related: PM unveils $38bn ADF enhancement plan]

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