Australian news, and some related international items

Morrison’s selected sites for nuclear submarine base were not the Defence Dept choices – and opposed by the local towns.

Coalition shortlist for nuclear submarines base were not in Defence’s top five in 2011 review, Hurst and Royce Kurmelovs. 8 Mar 22,  ‘We are not getting lumped with their mess’, Newcastle mayor says of prospect of basing nuclear fleet in city while Wollongong mayor also concerned.

The mayors of Newcastle and Wollongong have expressed unease at the Morrison government naming their cities as a potential base for nuclear-powered submarines, with one describing the Aukus plans as a “fantasy”.

Questions have also been raised about the government’s process for shortlisting Newcastle, Port Kembla in Wollongong and Brisbane for a new east coast base, given that a previous Defence review had not backed them as most-preferred sites.

The South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick, a former submariner, said Scott Morrison’s announcement on Monday was “thick with political fog” with an election looming, noting the final site would not be selected until 2023.

Patrick said: “Why pork barrel in one electorate when you can – for the same price – pork barrel in three?”

Morrison said the government had “provisioned more than $10bn to meet the facilities and infrastructure requirements” for the transition from Australia’s existing Collins-class submarines to the nuclear-powered submarines to be acquired under the Aukus pact with the UK and the US.

He said Defence had looked at 19 potential sites and narrowed them down to the three preferred locations. Defence would now discuss the plans further with state and local governments and “begin negotiations on what will be an enormous undertaking”.

The moves come amid continuing uncertainty about when the first of the nuclear-powered submarines will be operating. Morrison originally estimated it would be by about 2040 but the government now insists it may be sooner.

The new base – which the Coalition wants to build in either Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla – would “enable the regular visiting of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines”, Morrison said in a virtual address to the Lowy Institute.

However, the mayors of Newcastle and Wollongong both said they were not consulted about the decision. With both cities historically home to anti-war movements they expected considerable community opposition.

Both cities have passed official resolutions to make them nuclear-free zones.

There is also believed to be opposition to nuclear power, particularly where it is used to propel a weapon of war – although spent fuel rods from the Lucas Heights reactor have passed through Port Kembla on their way for processing in France.

Wollongong’s lord mayor, Gordon Bradbery, an independent, said he was waiting for more detail about the proposal before he would consult the local community.

“It’s not only nuclear power and nuclear-powered submarines, but it’s the location of a strategic defence asset and that would make anyone who gets this particular facility a target,” Bradbery said.

“International tensions now are playing on a lot of people’s minds and there would be concerns about our city as a location for nuclear-powered submarines.”

Bradbery said Wollongong city council had previously worked with Regional Development Australia to make a submission to the federal government to relocate naval activities from Garden Island in Sydney Harbour to Port Kembla, but this was for conventional submarines only.

“It just disappeared into the ether at the time,” Bradbery said. “Many suggested it was pie in the sky as the navy wasn’t keen on relocating from Garden Island.”

Newcastle’s Labor lord mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, said the city had no intention of giving up its nuclear-free status over a “fantasy”.

“The whole deal is a fantasy,” Nelmes said.

“This announcement, the Aukus decision and the absolutely hopeless way they have handled this submarine contract – we are not getting lumped with their mess.

“It is also typical of the federal government to have unilateral decision making where cities like Newcastle, which have been for many decades, a nuclear-free zone, would even be considered.”

But the Liberal premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, welcomed the inclusion of Port Kembla and Newcastle on the federal government’s shortlist , saying the world faced “very uncertain times”.

“Defence protection for our country is paramount and we have worked very closely with the federal government to identify these sites for our state,” Perrottet told the Nine Network.

A spokesperson for the Queensland Labor government said it was “yet to receive any detailed information from the commonwealth”.

Study found Port Kembla ‘impractical’

2011 Defence report ranked potential options for a new east coast home port for submarines. The top three options were in Sydney Harbour, followed by two options in Jervis Bay, south of Sydney.

“Newcastle has its strengths, but the slight edge that it has with respect to positive people factors is compromised by its isolation from any other naval infrastructure, its susceptibility to flooding, and its sometimes difficult harbour entrance,” the future submarine basing study said.

Newcastle Port was sixth on the list and the Port of Brisbane was eighth.

The report included the caveat that detailed costing and environmental impact analysis “may generate a different outcome”. It placed a priority on the proximity to fleet assets in Sydney.


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

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: