AUKUS – is it more about marketing than delivery?

 

The big question about AUKUS has always been whether there’s less to this mega project than meets the eye – that it’s more about marketing than delivery.

With an eye-watering price tag of $368 billion we are asked to accept an awful lot about it as an act of faith.

We run the risk of passing a piece of legislation that – while it looks beneficial on the surface – makes matters worse.

The measures in this bill are expected to provide a net benefit to the Australian economy of $614 million over a 10-year period.

But to get a piece of the pie, Australian companies will have to sign up to incredibly rigid restrictions and then hope the Americans give them the contracts.

In recent days we have seen the Pentagon playing in to concerns about whether AUKUS can ever deliver what Scott Morrison promised and the current Prime Minister rushed to accept for fear of being wedged in the leadup to the last election. In reality, the Pentagon has proposed a budget that would see just one nuclear submarine off the production line
next year, compared with the figure of 2.3 the US Navy says would be needed to ensure that enough subs are produced to meet Washington’s AUKUS commitments as well as to meet its own requirements.

No wonder doubts persist not just about the financial, but also the strategic wisdom to the AUKUS initiative.

Not for the first time, we are being asked to vote on legislation drafted before a parliamentary inquiry – on this occasion by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee – was completed.  And it’s not done yet – there will be additional consulation with stakeholders and addiitonal changes to the legislation. I look forward to seeing what the government proposes and whether any changes fully address stakeholder concern.

Link to Hansard for transcript of full speech: AUKUS Defence Amendments Bills speech – Federation Chamber, 19 March 2024

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