AUKUS as much about as jobs as it is national security, Albanese says

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Barrow-in-Furness, England: Anthony Albanese says Australia’s contentious new joint nuclear submarine program with allies Britain and the United States is as much about providing domestic jobs and economic prosperity as it about national security.

The Australian prime minister, in the UK ahead of King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday, spoke after joining Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, to tour the BAE Systems shipyard in Cumbria, where nuclear submarines will be built as part of the AUKUS agreement announced earlier this year alongside US President Joe Biden and UK counterpart Rishi Sunak.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has toured the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, England where the United Kingdom’s first AUKUS submarine will be built.Credit: Jenny Magee

The pair spoke to staff and apprentices at the shipyard, where Australians will train to build the SSN-AUKUS submarines as part of the historic $368 billion program. The core of defence techonolgy sharing alliance is for America and Britain to help Australia build at least eight nuclear-powered—but not nuclear-armed—attack submarines.

Albanese told reports the AUKUS pact – where the new model will be built at Osborne shipyard in Adelaide by the 2040s – was not just about common interests between Australia, the UK and the US to uphold the international rule of law, but about “jobs and more jobs”.

“It’s about something more than our national security, it’s about jobs and economic prosperity,” he said.

Albanese said Australian workers would be involved in exchanges with Britain and vice versa and insisted that his government had been upfront and transparent about the costs of the project and that the new submarine workforce would bring to South Australia a huge benefit, which would be similar to the car industry that drove Australia’s post-war economy.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was joined on the visit by Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.Credit: Jenny Magee

Wallace joked with Albanese at the training facility that he was worried that Australia would “steal our workers” while also expressing his belief the first of the new class of subs would be designed and ready in the 2030s “to see off threats that are approaching us”.

Wallace said the bulk of the design of the next generation submarine would be finished in three to four years and insisted the project would remain on a tight timetable to avoid any backup of submarine orders.

He warned that cost blowouts would be inevitable because the submarine project would take 20 to 30 years, adding it was impossible to predict an accurate price because of so many uncertainties about future costs and inflation.

“We are confident we can deliver, we need to ensure there is no backup in the queue, it is in my interests as well as Australia’s interests that we are on time and on budget; we need the services of the submarines too,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with workers on his tour of the BAE Systems shipyard.Credit: Jenny Magee

These submarines will protect the Euro-Atlantic region for decades to come and with their interoperable submarine design, will ensure mutual compatibility with our Australian and US allies alongside supporting jobs across the UK and demonstrating the experience and skill which embodies British industry.”

Albanese spoke to local apprentices Maddison Baillie, 16, and Jacob Gillibrand, 17, who showed him how to bend a metal pipe at 90 degrees using a vice.

“That’s pretty good, that’s a success,” he said inspecting his work.

He went on to test the connectivity electrical cables and asked worker Stuart Porter, 39, an apprentice electrician, how he ended up in the job. He told him he used to be a teacher but swapped careers to come an apprentice electrician at BAE.

“What made you do that? The fact this has given you more career opportunities, that’s fantastic, I love it,” Albanese told him.

Apprentice electrician Nicole Baker, 18, told him: “I’m a local from Barrow, my dad does this, but not for BAE, and I wanted to do the same as him,” she said.

Albanese confirmed that the Australian government would “purchase three or more” submarines from the US to ensure there would be no capability gap before the AUKUS submarine is ready.

The US would be on rotation in the region in 2023, while the UK subs would undertake the rotation from 2026.

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