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Nuclear submarines must be ‘subject to rigorous parliamentary review’: Senator Rex Patrick

South Australian senator Rex Patrick called on the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee to open an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s recent submarine announcement.

South Australian senator Rex Patrick called on the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee to open an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s recent submarine announcement.

“This is a very big strategic decision with long-term national security, geopolitical, and economic consequences that must be the subject to rigorous and wide-ranging scrutiny,” Senator Patrick said.

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“In these circumstances the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee should open an immediate inquiry to ensure that all the angles, including alternative conventionally-powered submarine procurement options, are fully explored and understood. The committee should produce an initial report prior to the federal election.

“I’ve been a strong critic of the French submarine deal. The delays and cost overruns are huge and unacceptable.

“But we have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly.

“There are huge uncertainties about this announcement – including the selection of a US or British submarine, numbers, cost and schedule of acquisition and delivery.

“The proposed initial US-UK-Australia joint study to be undertaken over the next 18 months is a prudent step and will mean that further decisions will take place after Australia’s election.”

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As reported by Defence Connect, the key points of the details are as follows:

  • Australia is expected to become the only non-nuclear nation to possess nuclear submarine capabilities;
  • Australia, UK and US expected to undertake knowledge sharing to enable the Royal Australian Navy to attain a nuclear powered fleet, the first time such knowledge sharing has taken place in over six decades;
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the submarines will be built in Adelaide, Australia;
  • Creation of new “trilateral security dialogue” with Australia, UK and US;
  • Naval Group expressed their disappointment with the decision, defending the capabilities of the Attack Class Submarine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia plans to build a fleet of nuclear submarines with the support of the US and UK, which the PM confirmed alongside his UK and US counterparts in a press conference this morning.

The once-in-a-generation technology sharing and support agreement forms part of a new “trilateral security partnership” between the countries dubbed AUKUS.

Although, Senator Patrick outlined that the current proposal will prove difficult for the Australian Defence Force and Commonwealth government without a domestic nuclear power capability.

“Either way there would be nuclear reactors sitting on hard-stands at Osborne and moored in the Port River,” he said.

“Acquiring, operating and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet without a domestic nuclear power industry is a challenge that must not be underestimated.

“The nuclear safety and non-proliferation safeguards issues are unquestionably complex and likely to be controversial.

“This proposed project would also most likely require new treaty level agreements with the United States and/or the United Kingdom, requiring congressional and parliamentary approval.

“There are many significant issues that will need to be properly considered and I fear that they haven’t yet.

“The Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee will need to undertake a wide ranging and rigorous inquiry to inform government, opposition, the Parliament and most importantly the Australian people before the next election.”

[Related: Australia goes nuclear – Australia to obtain nuclear submarines as part of new global alliance]

[Join the Defence Connect Messaging Service: https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/live-updates]

Nuclear submarines must be ‘subject to rigorous parliamentary review’: Senator Rex Patrick
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