AUKUS is now a core part of Australia’s national security strategy, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“AUKUS is about much more than nuclear submarines or even technological inter-operability,” he said. “AUKUS is about the future. It further formalises the common values and the shared interest that our three nations have in preserving peace and upholding the rules and institutions that secure our region and our world.”
Albanese also referred to the upcoming March announcement on how Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS, calling it the “single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history.” He said the move offered Australia a whole-of-nation opportunity for jobs, industries, and expertise in science, technology, and cyber.
Sen. James Paterson, the shadow minister for cyber and countering foreign interference, welcomed the prime minister’s speech, calling it a “signature achievement” of the Coalition while it was in office. He said that it was important to build upon it, accelerate it and deliver it faster due to the deteriorating strategic environment.
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, also spoke to the U.S. Armed Services congressional committee about the importance of AUKUS. He said that it was necessary to put efforts towards Australia to have a long reach of a nuclear submarine force, as it would “change the balance of power in the Indian Ocean.”
Meanwhile, deterrence policy expert Melanie W. Sisson told Congress that alliances and regional diplomatic engagements like AUKUS were key to countering the Chinese Communist Party. She said it was a demonstration to the Chinese regime of the commitment of regional neighbours towards “certain standards and expectations of behaviour” by governments.
The prime minister also said that Australians can expect the defence budget to increase once the 2022 Defence Force Review is released. The review was undertaken by former defence chief Sir Angus Houston and former defence minister Stephen Smith, and it called for an increase in defence spending.
In addition, the Labor government has continued ongoing work by the previous government by moving to better equip the ADF with Defence Minister Richard Marles announcing a purchase of new guided weapons systems for the navy and army. The Naval Strike Missile (NSM) systems will be employed on the Hobart Class destroyers and Anzac Class frigates, while the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) will enable the army to acquire land-based, long-range surface-to-surface launchers, missiles, and training rockets. The systems are scheduled to be put in rotation in 2024, and 2026-7 respectively.