Australia confident subs deal would survive under Trump

Australia is confident nuclear-powered submarines will be delivered and an AUKUS security pact can outlast a potential Trump administration.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said he believed the partnership would survive any change in government because of the ā€œstrong bipartisan support over the long termā€.

ā€œThe US representative made it clear that they are supporting this not out of charity, but because they support it ā€¦ because itā€™s in the interests of the United States,ā€ he said.

The three-way deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States was struck in 2021.

Joe Biden signed the security pact on behalf of America.

There are concerns the agreement could be torpedoed under a Trump administration.

The US submarine production line is under sustained pressure, with Republicans threatening to sink the contract if it leaves the local navy high and dry.

Under the agreement, the US will sell up to five Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s, but the sales will be subject to approval.

Asked what the governmentā€™s plan was in the situation the US did not sell the submarines to Australia, Mr Conroy said he was confident in ā€œstrong supportā€ from the US government.

Mr Conroy could not say when an announcement would be made about the location of a submarine base on Australiaā€™s east coast.

In his speech, Mr Conroy trumpeted Laborā€™s ā€œstrong approachā€ to defence.

He said Australiaā€™s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS was a ā€œcritical elementā€ of the nationā€™s defence and national security policy.

ā€œSquarely in the tradition of responsible, reforming Labor governments who take defence seriously,ā€ he said.

The minister likened the strategic environment to the 1930s in the lead up to World War II, indicating Australia might need to increase its defence spending.

ā€œThe lesson from that era is that we cannot afford to be under-invested in defence,ā€ he said.

Mr Conroy described arguments favouring conventionally powered boats over nuclear propulsion as misguided.

The governmentā€™s strategy for the nationā€™s defence industry will be released next year ā€“ a timeline criticised by the coalition.

Defending the $368 billion price tag for the submarines, Mr Conroy pointed to the trillions of dollars the government was projected to spend on social services in later decades.

Legislation putting in place trade controls relating to the AUKUS deal has been approved by the Labor caucus.

Similar laws need to be passed by the US Congress.

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Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)

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