Richard Mrles won’t rule out ready-made submarine stopgap

Defence Minister Richard Marles has not ruled out buying ready-made nuclear submarines to plug the gap in Australia’s defence capabilities, as he sought to reassure Australian-based industries that Australians would still have a role building the future fleet.

Questioned after a defence round table in Adelaide about off-the-shelf submarines, Marles said Australia was still working out how to deal with any capability gap. Former defence minister Peter Dutton recently revealed he planned to buy two US-made submarines.

“There is a process that we’re obviously going through in terms of working out exactly which option we pursue, trying to work out how soon we can get that option, and understanding what capability gap might arise and how we might deal with that,” he said.

Defence Minister Richard Marles has assured local defence manufacturers of “continuity” under Labor.

Defence Minister Richard Marles has assured local defence manufacturers of “continuity” under Labor.Credit:James Brickwood

“But whichever way you cut it, the building industry in this state, around submarine capability, is going to be fundamentally important to getting that capability and getting it quickly.”

Nuclear submarines secured under the AUKUS deal were vital for the country’s clout in diplomacy and trade, Marles said, while insisting that Labor would preserve local jobs following the scrapping of the French submarine deal in 2021.

Marles said the South Australian defence industry was fundamental to boosting Australia’s military muscle while the government searches for stop=gap solutions until the nuclear-propelled submarines pledged under the US and UK agreement were operation late next decade.

The defence industry is “totally central” to how Australia is “taken seriously in the world”, Marles said on Thursday following a meeting of 21 manufacturers, including Austal, Boeing and BAE Systems.

“Submarines really matter and having the capability in respect of submarines going forward really matters, and to do that we are going to have to go down the path of nuclear propulsion, and AUKUS is the mechanism which is going to deliver that for the country.”

One of Australia’s conventionally powered Collins class submarines.

One of Australia’s conventionally powered Collins class submarines.Credit:Defence Department

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