Australian news, and some related international items

$10b plan for nuclear submarine base under fire over timing, potential site

$10b plan for nuclear submarine base under fire over timing, potential site, The Age, By David Crowe, March 7, 2022 . A federal plan for a $10 billion nuclear submarine base on Australia’s east coast has sparked Labor claims that the move is a ploy to get a headline while others say Sydney would be a better location than the official options of Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla.

Labor has backed the plan to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS alliance signed last year with the United Kingdom and United States but has demanded a briefing on the new base after being promised regular briefings last year.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick, a former submariner, also questioned the timing of the government move and said the Department of Defence had favoured Sydney in previous plans, questioning whether election factors had influenced the new proposal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the options for the new base in a speech to the Lowy Institute on Monday that said Defence had reviewed 19 potential sites and estimated a $10 billion cost for the base at one of the preferred east coast sites to add to an existing base near Perth.

While Defence Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday the government would bring forward a decision on whether to choose British or American nuclear submarines for construction in Australia, Mr Morrison said on Monday this did not mean an announcement before the election.

The timelines for the vast project suggest a decision on the east coast base should be made in 2023 and the first submarine would be in the water by around 2040.

Senator Patrick said a process to choose the new submarines began in 2009 but the government had failed to deliver since coming to power in 2013.

“We’re 13 years and $3 billion into a future submarine project and what do we have to show for it? We’ve got a study into getting a nuclear submarine and, now, a study into where we might put them,” he said.

“Call me cynical, but this is another Scott Morrison announcement designed to gloss over his government’s disgraceful national security failures that have left our country vulnerable.”

Senator Patrick gained documents from the Department of Defence under freedom of information law that showed the search for an east coast base canvassed locations including Jervis Bay on the south coast of NSW and Western Port Bay in Victoria as well as Sydney…….

Mr Patrick said Sydney should remain the leading option but appeared to be dropped for political reasons.

“The fact that Sydney is the only city in Australia with a nuclear reactor, and the experienced personnel that maintain and operate it, only strengthens Sydney’s case,” he said.

……………………… Labor candidate Alison Byrnes, who is aiming to replace sitting Labor MP Sharon Bird in the seat of Cunningham around Wollongong and Port Kembla, called for a full briefing from the government rather than being asked to respond to a government “drop” to the media.

With a decision not likely until 2023, critics of the government questioned the timing of Mr Morrison’s announcement and the need for a swift response to his proposal.

“The suggestion for a base for nuclear-powered submarines is just another ploy from the Prime Minister to get a headline without providing any detail of how this will be implemented or even when it will be delivered,” Labor defence spokesman Brendan O’Connor said.

“It seems like Scott Morrison is trying to divert attention from the fact the nuclear-powered submarines won’t come into effect for more than a decade, leaving Australia with a significant capability gap.

March 8, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war

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