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Anywhere but WA: Minister Conroy says sub base options still open

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy has given more insight into ongoing location selection for an AUKUS submarine base on the east coast of Australia.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy has given more insight into ongoing location selection for an AUKUS submarine base on the east coast of Australia.

Minister Conroy detailed the information at the Defence Connect DSR Summit held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on 3 May.

During the event, defence industry representatives gathered to discuss and explore the impact of the federal government’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR). The meeting was run with the support of principal partner Investment NSW and engagement partner Pyne & Partners.

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Former prime minister Scott Morrison had previously identified Port Kembla, Brisbane, and Newcastle as potential contenders for an AUKUS east coast base.

“I think it’s very clear that’s a decision that we inherited from the last government that we want to go back to first principles and make sure we get absolutely right,” Minister Conroy said during the DSR Summit earlier this week.

“It’s an important decision and it’s driven by a couple of factors. One (reason) was obviously the advantage of quicker transit times for our submarines using an east coast base.

“But also, secondly, is an advantage around recruiting (on the east coast).

“We do have recruitment challenges throughout the ADF, the Navy is the most challenged of all three services and the submarines are the most challenged (in recruiting for the Navy).

“Navy asking families to relocate to WA, as beautiful as it is, reduces the number of families prepared to do so.

“An east coast base has a strong strategic benefit around transit times, and we are looking at an industrial base on the east coast that is obviously very, very large, but also has recruitment and retention of naval families.”

Earlier this year Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite called a halt to speculation that Port Kembla will be the government’s preferred choice of nuclear submarine base on the east coast of Australia after local lobby groups advocated arguments for and against the location.

“The Navy base is something that we want to provide in the 2030s, so we can take our time to get it right and work with the New South Wales government and Queensland government to make sure that we’ve got the right location for it,” Minister Conroy said.

“We just want to take a bit of time to get it right and we’ve got a bit of time. There are a lot of things we have to get lined up for nuclear submarine before then.”

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