Press Conference - Canberra, ACT

16 Sep 2021
Canberra, ACT
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: G’day. I'm joined by the Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty and the Chief of Defence Force General Campbell. The relatively benign security environment that Australia has enjoyed over many decades in our region is behind us. We have entered, no doubt, a new era, with new challenges for Australia and for our partners and friends and countries right across our region. This challenge will require more of us in Australia, and all of us who share a common vision about peace and stability and security in our region, so all nations can enjoy the fellowship of our region, the trade and the opportunities for our peoples, so they can realise what they want for their countries, just as we want for our country. That's what we seek. That's what Australians and our friends have always sought.

Today, I announce a new partnership, a new agreement that I describe as a forever partnership. A forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends. A forever partnership that will enable Australia to protect our national security interests, to keep Australians safe, and to work with our partners across the region to achieve the stability and security of our region. This forever partnership that we have announced today is the single greatest initiative to achieve these goals since the ANZUS alliance itself. It is the single largest step we have been able to take to advance our defence capabilities in this country, not just at this point, but for the future.

It has been some time in the making, it is true to say. These types of forever partnerships don't happen overnight. It has been the product of great patience, of great determination, of a deep relationship forged between our nations and indeed the personal-level working relationships that we have been able to forge between leaders, between ministers, between our systems over an even longer period of time, led of course, by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the many missions that have been involved in around the world, but particularly in these countries.

It is a forever partnership that has been diligently pursued by my Government to enhance cooperation, to deepen our integration, to position Australia in the best and strongest way possible, and to contribute to the stability and security of our region, that will benefit all in our region, no exceptions.

As our first major initiative, it is as we have announced today, for Australia to achieve a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. Not a nuclear armed, a nuclear-powered. And to commence that build here in Australia in Adelaide within the decade. Nuclear submarines have clear advantages, greater endurance, they're faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity. These make nuclear submarines the desired substantial capability enhancement that Australia has needed. It helps us to build regional resilience as part of this first initiative. It is the first time this technology has ever been made available to Australia. And, indeed one other country has only been given access to this technology back in the late 50s, the United Kingdom from the United States. This is a one off, as the President in Washington has made very clear. This is a very special arrangement and a very important one for Australia.

Australia was not in a position at the time we took the decision back in 2016 to build and operate a nuclear-powered submarine. That wasn't on the table. It wasn't on the table for a range of reasons. So, the decision we have made to not continue with the Attack class submarine and to go down this path is not a change of mind, it's a change of need. The goal has remained the same, and Australians would expect me as Prime Minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe and to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can. And that is what I have done.

The developments that have occurred since 2016 do now make a nuclear-powered submarine fleet a feasible option for Australia, which is what I first tasked the Secretary of Defence to inquire into. We now have the support and expertise of the United States and the United Kingdom. Next generation nuclear-powered submarines will use reactors that do not need refuelling during the life of the boat. A civil nuclear power capability here in Australia is not required to pursue this new capability. These are game changing differences in the technology and the opportunity that Australia has, but there have also been game changing developments in the strategic circumstances of our region, which continue to accelerate at a pace even not envisaged as little as five years ago.

Contractual gates were built into the Attack class project necessarily. Those gates were there for a reason. Decisions have to be made before you proceed through those gates, and so, as we were looking towards that next gate, we have decided not to enter through it as part of the Attack class program, but instead now to pursue this path which gives us a far greater capability to meet the strategic needs.

I stress again, this is about propulsion. This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons. Australia has no interest in that. No plans for it, no policy for it, no contemplation of it. It's not on our agenda. And we will continue to meet all of our obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as our partners in this exercise will also do.

To ensure exacting standards are met, a new multi-agency taskforce has been stood up to manage our pathway to a nuclear-powered maritime submarine capability. Over the next 18 months, the taskforce will work with our American and British partners to ensure the full suite of requirements that underpin nuclear stewardship, including waste regulation, training facilities, basing, workforce, and our forestructure are in place. We take the stewardship responsibilities of this nuclear capability very seriously. It is a forever responsibility for a forever partnership.

And we don't come to this from a standing start here in Australia. Australia has a long history of safety and reliably operating nuclear reactors at Lucas Heights, not too far from my own home in the Sutherland Shire. We have built a world-class nuclear safety and regulatory capability, and we possess decades of experience of safely operating and sustaining submarines in addition.

Our acquisition of nuclear-powered submarine technology will though form part of a set of strategic deterrence capabilities. This is not the only thing we have to do. Our investment in defence will only increase in the future. The lift will only go up, it won't come back down. We will have to do more. We have invested more as a Government. We have increased our defence spending as a share of our economy to over 2 per cent ahead of time, and we will have to keep pressing forward, not just to meet these significant commitments we're entering into to develop this nuclear submarine capability, but the many other capabilities that will be necessary to ensure we keep Australians safe and we have a stable and secure region for the future.

Today I'm announcing, in addition to the acquisitions announced as part of the 2024 structure plan, that we will be enhancing our Long-Range strike capability, including Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to be fielded on the Royal Australian Navy Hobart class destroyers, and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (Extended Range) for our Royal Australian Air Force capabilities. And the Secretary of Defence and Chief of Defence Force can speak further to those. These capabilities will be coupled with our planned Life-of-Type Extension of Australia’s Collins class submarine fleet, which remains, I stress, one of the most capable conventional submarines in the world, and will enhance our ability to deter and respond to potential security challenges during the transition to a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

As I’ve noted, we will not be continuing with the Attack class submarine program and have advised Naval Group and of course, the Government of France and President Macron of that decision. I want to stress that France remains an incredibly important partner in the Pacific. There is few, if any other country around the world which understands the importance of the Pacific and has been as committed to the Pacific as France. These are matters that President Macron and I have discussed on many occasions. We share a deep passion for our Pacific family and a deep commitment to them, and I look forward and I hope to see us continue, once we move past what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France. I understand that. I respect it. But as a Prime Minister I must make decisions that are in Australia's national security interests. I know that France would do the same. And I know, ultimately, that will be understood and we'll be able to continue to work together for our many shared goals and aims, because fundamentally we share the same values, we share the same vision.

I acknowledge the uncertainty that this announcement will generate for those currently employed in the Attack class program, both in defence and industry. I know that you have worked tirelessly to deliver the Attack class program. In doing so, you have developed some of the most in-demand skills, not just in this country but anywhere in the world. You are vital to Australia's future in securing this new capability. What we have invested in you, what we have invested in the program with the Attack class to now, is an investment which is setting us up for what we go forward with as a country at this critical time. Your skills are in unprecedented demand because of the commitments the Government has made to embark on the largest regeneration of the Royal Australian Navy since World War II. We need you. We needed you. And we will still need you, and we will continue to enlist you in this great national effort to ensure the skills that have been developed are kept with this great national enterprise.

One of the key defence priorities of the Government has been to build our continuous naval shipbuilding program. This of course is enhanced by these decisions and will be further supported by the AUKUS partnership that will provide further capabilities into the future, some of which not yet even imagined.

In South Australia, we will, it will be continue to be the home for the Collins class submarine full-cycle docking. I know this is a decision that has been eagerly awaited in South Australia. I had made it very clear on my recent and ongoing visits to South Australia that we would determine this matter once high-level strategic issues had been decided. As is clear, those matters are now decided, and it is important, strategically important, that we maintain the full-cycle docking capability there in South Australia and we continue with those operations there.

In addition, we will continue beyond 2026 with the full Life-of-Type Extension of the six Collins class boats. That will commence in 2026 and be on a two-year drum beat. In addition to that we will, with our Hobart class destroyers, undergo their combat system upgrade at Osborne from 2024. So, there will be a lot getting done. South Australia, and particularly Osborne, will be a hub for Australia's naval shipbuilding ambitions and programs.

Our investments in Western Australia, our other great shipbuilding centre, will continue, and are significant. And I was able to discuss these with Premier McGowan this morning. He is aware as I am, three different classes of ships are under construction in the West right now, with more to follow over the coming decades. Ten Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels, 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boats, six Evolved Cape Class Patrol Boats, up to eight new Mine Counter Measure and Military Survey Vessels, an ice-rated replacement for the Navy’s Ocean Protector, a new large Salvage and Repair Vessel, and up to four support ships for the enhanced Undersea Surveillance System. Western Australia will continue to play a key role in sustaining Navy's fleet with Collins class submarine intermediate and mid-cycle dockings continuing at Henderson through and until the mid-2040s. The Government will also work with the Western Australian Government, as we discussed this morning, to invest in a large dry dock at Henderson, which will enable naval and commercial vessels from Australia and around the region to be maintained in the West for decades to come.

The Government's investments will also see the establishment of regional maintenance centres in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland, providing sustainment hubs through which local businesses can contribute to nationwide supply chains.

But at its heart, today's announcements are about the oldest of friendships, the strongest of values and the deepest of commitment. That's what it takes to have a forever partnership. And I believe that this forever partnership will set Australia up. But not just Australia, our partners in ASEAN, our family in the Pacific, who we love dearly, our Quad partners, our bilateral strategic partners in the region, our great friends in New Zealand. I spoke to Prime Minister Ardern yesterday. She was my first call because of the strength of our relationship and the relationship between our countries. All in the region will benefit from the peace and the stability and security that this partnership will add to our region. It's there to add, it's there to contribute, it's there to support for everyone in the region. That's what we want in Australia, and that's what we're always committed to.

And with that, I will note on another matter, today we will hit 70 per cent of the country aged over 16 who have had their first dose. That 70 per cent double dose and 80 per cent double dose mark is within plain sight. Keep going Australia.

I'll invite the Secretary of Defence to make some remarks and then the Chief.

MR GREG MORIARTY, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE: Well, thank you Prime Minister. And, you know, on behalf of the Department and the ADF, I'd like to thank you for your commitment to defence, to the growing of defence capabilities, and the broader AUKUS framework, under which I'm particularly looking forward to engaging with US and UK counterparts around the cutting edge technologies, not just the nuclear-powered submarine but the other, the other opportunities that are made available to us through the AUKUS arrangement, quantum, AI, cyber, undersea capabilities that we will be able to look to in future, the sort of weapons systems that will continue to give the ADF a potent capability advantage in the decades ahead, because the threat environment is changing, and some of the analysis done within our agencies and the broader intelligence community I think has been made available to the Government and is one of the factors that they've taken into account as they've arrived at these decisions. So, the AUKUS framework offers great opportunities for defence to keep that capability edge in new and different ways moving into the future.

Prime Minister, in terms of the nuclear-powered submarine venture, we will over the next 12 to 18 months undertake that detailed work with US and UK partners. I know we, we've been directed by Government to absolutely maintain the highest standards of safety and security when it comes to the development of the nuclear capability. That is important for the Australian people, Prime Minister, but it's also important for our people who will operate these capabilities for decades to come. So, I reassure you and the Government and the Australian people of Defence's absolute commitment to the highest international standards of nuclear safety and security.

We are also committed to our Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. Our international partners demand that of us, and we are determined to be able to meet those, meet those standards.

It's an enormous amount of work we will be doing in the, in the coming 18 months, Prime Minister. The taskforce will look at issues such as the industrial pathway, the weapons suite, the census sweep that will be on these boats, the skilling and workforce needs that we will have, not just in defence but in broadly, in Australian defence industry. We'll be looking at that full range of infrastructure needs, what we need to do in terms of developing future, future capabilities to be able to build, operate and sustain these capabilities to give Australia that sovereign capability.

So, Prime Minister for Defence this is a very exciting day. A lot of enormously complex work ahead of us, but we are absolutely committed to delivering this capability for the Government. Thank you, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Secretary. Chief.

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: Prime Minister, thank you for the decision today, and my thanks from the Australian Defence Force for the decision of the three
leaders today. Our strategic environment has deteriorated. Our key strategic documents speak of this. That challenging environment is becoming more challenging, and is set to do so into the future at an accelerated pace. This decision is very welcome in terms of the development of the Australian Defence Forces for structure and its forced posture, and particularly that long view potential of the AUKUS agreement and the wide range of advanced technologies the three nations will work together to build on and to develop for the security and stability of our own nations, and indeed of our region.

The Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence have a wide range now of work to do through this 12 to 18 month period. But as the Secretary has emphasised, the commitment to our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty are absolute. Our determination to safely and appropriately understand, develop, and employ these capabilities is the total commitment of our organisation in that regard. And we look forward to the continuing development of Australian defence and security capabilities suited for our nation. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. I'm just going to ask my staff to grab me a glass of water, if they wouldn't mind. So in conclusion, then, I want to thank a number of people. Of course, I want to thank the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force, and all of those who have worked so hard within both organisations over the course of these last 18 months. I particularly also want to thank my parliamentary colleagues and my government colleagues. I want to thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne. I want to thank the Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, particularly in these last four or so months. There has been an enormous amount of work that has been involved in taking this through our National Security Committee and addressing all the necessary issues that you know we would have to address.

But, I also want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his great support of this initiative, as a, as the Deputy Chair of the National Security Committee. So, thank you Barnaby. Can I also thank Linda
Reynolds, the former Minister for Defence. It was Linda and I who commenced this project many, many many months ago, and we worked very closely together on this over a long period of time, and I want to acknowledge her role in getting us to where we are today.

I also want to thank the former Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who was the previous Deputy Chair of the National Security Committee, worked together with myself and of course, the Treasurer and the Foreign Minister and others who serve around that table, the Attorney-General, Minister for Home Affairs to ensure that we could carry this issue to this day. So, to you, Michael, thanks mate, and, and I know he'd be very pleased to be seeing this announcement today, as I know Linda would also.

But, I've got to say my greatest thanks are to my partners in this forever partnership, this AUKUS partnership, to President Joe Biden and to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I introduced them today as great friends of freedom and great friends of Australia, and they truly are. They understand what goes to the heart of our relationship, the security and defence of peace and freedom. That is what has always sustained us, and when we met together at Carbis Bay for that historic trilateral meeting, there was a clear sense of shared purpose. There was an easy sense of agreement. This was a natural territory for us, each of us to move into. “But, this is Australia,” President Biden remarked, in understanding the depth of our experience over more than a century. And similarly with Boris, with whom you know I have a close friendship. He has been an absolute energiser, as we’ve worked through these many months to come to this agreement. So, to Boris and to Joe, thank you very much for being great friends of our country, and thank you for the work that your nations have done, not just now, but over a long period of time to guarantee the peace and freedom, not just of the Indo-Pacific, but the world more broadly. Happy to take questions. Mark.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what if China see this as a provocation, nuclear-powered submarines, cruise missiles, long-range air missiles - won’t they just frame this as a Cold War type weapons build-up? [Inaudible] Are you prepared for more economic trade sanctions from China in in response to this, and are you seeking a meeting with President Xi to explain what this is all about?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that, that engagement has already commenced with China, as it has with many countries in the region, including our Quad partners in Japan and India. I spoke to Narendra Modi and Yoshi Suga last night. Of course, I said I’m, I spoke to Prime Minister Ardern. I'll be having further calls today as we talk through these issues and that engagement with China, and there is an open invitation for President Xi and I to discuss these and many other matters. And that has always been there. Australia remains open to discuss these and all issues that are important to the Indo-Pacific. I believe and hope we would both share the same objective of a peaceful Indo-Pacific, where the sovereignty and independence of nations is understood and respected, and that enables their own citizens to flourish. Now, that's what we all want. It is not an uncommon thing for countries to take decisions in their own strategic interests and to build up their defence capabilities. China makes the same decisions, as does other countries within our region. So, I don't think that should be seen as necessarily extraordinary or in the terms that that you suggested. And any response that was along the lines that you suggested I couldn't see as that corresponding with what Australia has done.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how much do you have to pay in terms of compensation to the Naval Group, what's the dollar figure in compensation, if you can give that for us? Have you spoken to President Macron yet and if so, what was his reaction? And then, the other thing I wanted to ask you in relation to, if you look at NATO, for example, Article 5 Collective defence, it requires every member to come to the other members’ defensive attack. We don't have that, despite all of the commitments in ANZUS and AUKUS now, lots of dollars going in. Is it time for that sort of Article 5 commitment from the US, UK and us?

PRIME MINISTER: We are very, very pleased with the arrangements we have with the United States and our many other partners in the region. And no, we are not pursuing those types of arrangements. The ANZUS alliance and many other partnerships and agreements we have, we believe, suit our security interests and has served us very well. And AUKUS takes that to a whole new level, a whole new level. And, and so we're very pleased with where that has brought us to. In relation to President Macron, he and I had a very lengthy dinner engagement and discussion back at the end of June, not long after I'd been with President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson in Carbis Bay. He had been there also. And so we were able to discuss the strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific at great length and what Australia's capability needs were. And I was able to set out very clearly that there were very real issues about whether a conventional submarine capability would be able to address those going forward. And so I was very clear. We have always acted. And as I instructed the Secretary of Defence to operate in total good faith in our dealings with Naval. There was never any, never any certainty that what has been a long and and painstaking process, that it would result in where we are now and to have that capability. Indeed, if we were unable to access this technology and to have a fleet of nuclear powered submarines, then the Attack class submarine is the best conventional submarine that we would be able to utilise. And we remain of that view. If you're looking for a conventional submarine, if that's what you'll need is, the Attack class is a great submarine and the Naval Group is a great organisation to deliver such a submarine. And the French Government gave enormous support to that initiative. And I'm a very appreciative to President Macron for the many discussions that he and I have had over this project and as indeed my predecessor had about these issues. So, of course, they're disappointed. We have been able to directly communicate, I have, that decision to President Macron and that was followed up, that communication with a telephone discussion between the Minister for Defence and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and their counterparts last night. Of course, they're disappointed. But I want to be clear. This in no way reflects in any way, shape or form on the Attack class submarine, the Naval Group and the commitment of the French Government and indeed President Macron personally to this project. They have been good partners. This is about our strategic interest, our strategic capability requirements and a changed strategic environment. And we've had to take that decision.

JOURNALIST: What is your message to WA workers? I understand all those projects [inaudible] but it won't equal the number of jobs that the [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: No. There's more jobs going into Western Australia now than FCD was ever going to deliver to Western Australia. I mean, the large list of projects that I read out to you far exceed those types of programmes. Western Australians are Australians. Like New South Wales residents are Australians. And all Australians benefit from the national interest decisions to protect Australians and to keep Australians safe. And the decision that is necessary to keep Australians best safe is for the full cycle docking to be undertaken in South Australia to maintain the continuity of what has been achieved by the team that has been engaging in that process in South Australia. One of the reasons that we have been able to secure access to this technology is not just what I mentioned about the technological changes. It is about the performance of what we've been able to do with the Collins Class compared to where we were a decade ago. That has been transformed. That has significantly bolstered the confidence in Australia to manage submarines, and that has assisted us to get to this decision today. So maintaining the continuity of that support in South Australia was the strategically right decision, and that was the advice that we received. But there are many other projects that we're pursuing in Western Australia. There will be a lot of ships built in Western Australia by Western Australians and they'll be equally putting their shoulder the wheel to that national task.

JOURNALIST: Will we be getting the British made Astute class or the American made Virginia Class? What is the one expected cost to the Australian taxpayer?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll ask the Secretary of Defence to add to my answer. What we have agreed to do as the first initiative of AUKUS is to now put in place this 12 to 18 month programme of finding the most effective pathway to delivering the submarine fleet for Australia.

JOURNALIST: It could be [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: We haven't determined, we haven't determined the specific vessel that we will be building, but that will be done through the rather significant and comprehensive programme assessment that will be done with our partners over the next 12 to 18 months. Now, that will also inform the costs that relate to this, and they are yet to be determined. But as I said before, and what I'll ask Greg to do is talk a bit about that process and how that works and the things to be considered, because that also goes to ensuring that we're addressing the nuclear stewardship issues as part of that. But we will have to spend more on Defence. We said that when we came to government, because we understood that that was necessary. Defence spending as a share of our economy had fallen to the lowest level since pre World War times, Second World War Times. Now, we've turned that around, it's now over 2 per cent, about 2.2 percent now and we will continue to need to invest more. That's what the new era looks like. That's what living in this new world looks like. We will need to do what it takes because that's what you have to do to protect Australians and to keep Australians safe in what is a radically and rapidly changing part of the world. Greg, can you speak to the 18 month process?

MR GREG MORIARTY, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE: Prime Minister, so over the next 18 months, the taskforce that will set up a number of working groups with our US and UK partners, some of those will look at safety standards, at the workforce. The optimal pathway to deliver this capability to Australia needs to look at what is Australia's requirement and then what can our US friends and our UK friends contribute to that. So part of that is looking at design parameters. Some of it's looking at the industrial capability requirements that we will have. So, it's not correct to say at the moment it'll be, it'll be A or B. That's what will be achieved. And the team are ready to start engaging with their partners on that straightaway.

PRIME MINISTER: The Secretary hadn't finished, but Clare?

JOURNALIST: White House officials have briefed out that the nuclear submarine will give Australia the ability to play a much higher level with regards to Indo-Pacific security and augment American capability, do you think the US expects we will be more proactive militarily in the region, is that the case? Should Australians expect more military action against China and what impact might this have in terms of response to the change in security threat I mean rather than against China, what impact do you think this will have in terms of the tensions in the South China Sea as well?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Australia will continue to engage with our partners in the region as we have for a long time. And clearly the AUKUS partnership enables us with the capabilities that it will deliver to Australia and to our partners will enable us to do that even better than we are now. And what that does is contribute to stability in the region. It actually contributes to a secure Indo-Pacific and it delivers, I think, a more free and open Indo-Pacific whether that's in the South China Sea or anywhere else. You see, that is our purpose. Our purpose is to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific and we join with everybody who is seeking that purpose.

JOURNALIST: One of the early criticisms, PM, has come from Paul Keating this morning. He put out a statement very critical of the dependence on America in this arrangement, that we're basically locking in our future with the US for decades to come and sacrificing our sovereignty and independence. Given the American defeat in Afghanistan and questions about American power, what's your response to that concern about our dependence on America for the long term?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't share Prime Minister Keating's view, and I prefer to be in the company of John Curtin and Robert Menzies when it comes to this issue and John Howard and indeed many prime ministers over the course of a long history. In addition to Robert Menzies, there have been 14 Australian Prime Ministers who have stewarded the ANZUS alliance together with 14 American Presidents. This has come from both sides of politics on both sides of the Pacific. And this has always been a project that has gone well beyond any partisan issues, I think, in either country. And that is welcomed. Everyone's entitled to their view of these issues. The former Labor Prime Minister is entitled to his views and to be respected for those views. But they are not views my government shares. My government shares the view that I think is grounded in the decisions of Curtin and Menzies, which is always understood that our relationship with the United States is a forever relationship. It is a relationship that has served our peace and security interests for a very, very long time and will forever into the future. What I'm excited about with this relationship under AUKUS, is it brings together the third partner in what have been the most long standing relationship for Australia with the United Kingdom. And there is also a very unique relationship there and this formalises that to a whole new level when it comes to defence and security and diplomatic relations. And so I welcome that. And I think most Australians will. But one of the reasons the three of us come together, is we respect democracy and we respect freedom and we respect the diverse views that are there. I'll come here and then I'll come back across that way.

JOURNALIST: You talked about increasing defence spending and that it will have to go up, what is, how much are you prepared to put it up by? The US spends three and a half percent of GDP on their military, is that the sort of thing that you're committing Australia to today? Does it have a.

PRIME MINISTER: I haven't indicated any percentages and I'm not, we're not going to have future targets expressed in those terms. Our defence investment will be in response to the need and the capability requirements that are identified to address the many issues we have to and what this partnership produces for us. And so we will meet it there. But what I'm saying is it's more than where it is now and it will continue to be. It's certainly more today where it was than when we first came to government. And we understood that when we came to government and we have restored, we have restored Australia's defence capability as a government. I mean, that has been a significant and hard won goal for our country, and we've done it in the national interest. It had been neglected, it had been under invested in and many other countries had been down similar paths, not Australia. When I was on the White House lawn in 2019, I said and I've said it many times since, we look to the United States, but we never leave it to the United States. And the same goes for United Kingdom. We carry our own water in this arrangement. Always have, always will

JOURNALIST: The experience with the French submarine project saw blow outs, delays, all sorts of complications. How confident are you and can you assure Australians that we can get this new, very complex capability in the timeframe that you think we need?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I wouldn't share your assessment of the project as you outlined it. I'm aware of those criticisms, but I don't believe they are all founded in what is fact and I'm sure the Defence Secretary would agree with me and he may wish to comment on that. But that is largely history now. And the investment we have made in working that capability with attack remains with us. It, it continues to support our capability and the knowledge and skills and experience of those, whether it's in our Department of Defence, Defence Forces, our defence industry capability. The engineers have been trained, the access that they've had, all of this has built. And so they have been important investments going forward. Building nuclear submarines, building any submarine is not a simple exercise. It's incredibly complex. There are enormous, there are enormous uncertainties involved in these projects. It would be nice to say that it was a simple process, but it is not. And the challenge in managing any project of this scale in this nature is dealing with the challenges along the way. And what has been very positive, I think, in the relationship we've had with the French Government and President Macron in particular, that is, the challenges that you refer to have arisen, we've worked through them and we've come to better positions on those. And that indeed was demonstrated in the scope to works that was set out to us at this most recent stage, which was done in good faith. We will take the same approach when it comes to working through the development of this very significant and complex task. That's what Prime Minister Johnson said, is probably one of the most difficult programmes to deliver of projects anywhere in the world. But we'll get it done and we'll be getting it done with the best of friends and the most trusted of partners.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: We've invested $2.4 billion in the Attack class programme, and I say all of that investment, I believe, is further building our capability. And I think that is consistent with the decision that was taken back in 2016 for all the right reasons to protect Australia's national security interests and to serve that purpose. Investing in your defence capabilities is always a good idea for Australia. And so that has been a good investment for Australia's capability. When it comes to the delivery of this programme, I indicated that we anticipate being able to commence build this year and the first of those submarines will be in the water, we believe, before the end of next decade. And all partners will be working to ensure that is achieved at a date as soon as is possible to achieve. That is important not just for us, I remind you, this isn't just about a partnership that is serving Australia's interests. This is a partnership that is serving the joint interests of the United States and the United Kingdom. And so this is a capability that combines with theirs. And so there is a great motivation and incentive for all three of us to get on with this and to get it done as quickly and as effectively. Of course, always paramount, as safely as possible. And that's what we will do and the capabilities that we will continue to ensure are present for our submarines, particularly the Collins class. Now, the Collins class life of type of extension will see those six vessels in the water for decades to come, decades and decades to come. And that will provide our submarine defence capability there to support the many other capabilities that will be added to that. I've referred to the Tomahawks. I've referred to the other area surface capabilities that we've announced today in the upgrading of the Hobart AWD, all of these sorts of things, all of those very important to ensure that we address the strategic challenge. So while the submarines will be delivered when they'll be delivered, so many more elements of the capability that are made possible by all this, will be delivering in the years ahead from now doing all of those things. And that's what it's designed to achieve. It's designed to achieve now and it's designed to achieve tomorrow. That's what AUKUS delivers. I'm dealing with Defence today.

JOURNALIST: Why do we need these subs now and if this is about China as a threat to regional security, then what do we do in the meantime, presuming we won't have the subs for some time?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think I just answered that question in relation to the last question.

JOURNALIST: Does this decision now make the rescindment of the land bridge lease over the Port of Darwin much more likely? Will the US, is the US asking us to do that? And further, has President Biden agreed to back our sovereign guided munitions industry?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not going to make any comment on the latter point and on the other two points, they're not related.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the blind trust that Christian Porter ...

PRIME MINISTER: Are there any other questions on Australia's sovereign defence capabilities before we go to the other issues of the day?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just following up on the last part of Daniel's question, which is do we expect an enhanced military presence from the US in this region? I've heard what you said about scaling up our own capability, but that's an important question that requires an answer, because the whole context of this announcement is the strategic environment. And also on Porter, if I may …

PRIME MINISTER: I'll deal with that later, I'm going to do the Defence first, but I'll come back to you. I know people are keen for me to address that, and I'm happy to.

JOURNALIST: All right. Well, do we expect an enhanced US presence in the region in the time frame between now and when these submarines will be delivered?

PRIME MINISTER: These are matters that we are directly discussing with the United States and with the United Kingdom. They're also matters we're discussing with the French. And I hope we continue to discuss those matters with the French. You can expect to see Australia working with more and more partners, but particularly with the United States and the United Kingdom as a result of this arrangement to ensure we're addressing our strategic needs here in the region and for those to be done carefully and to be done in accordance with all the usual protocols and protections that you'd expect. And as we go into the latest AUSMIN talks, where I would normally be joined by the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister here for announcements such as this, but they are already on the ground working AUKUS up and its immediate implications as they go into the 2021 AUSMIN talks. So the short answer is we can expect that, yes, but there are no announcements that I have today in relation to that. And if there were, then obviously we would do that.

JOURNALIST: This might be one for the Secretary as well. Just for people at home, what is the expected lifetime of these submarines? And just a little bit more detail on how we deal with the waste after that's done, because members of the Greens have been very agitated this morning about the waste.

PRIME MINISTER: They tend to be agitated as a general principle, but I'll ask the Secretary of Defence to address those issues because that will be addressed as part of the 18 month programme.

MR GREG MORIARTY, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE: Certainly, I mean, the management of waste, the disposal of the submarine at the end of its life, all of those are issues where we will be engaging with our US and UK partners. They have decades of experience dealing with these issues. And we're going to be drawing heavily on their expertise over this 18 month period too.

JOURNALIST: Will that be playing a big part [inaudible]?

MR GREG MORIARTY, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE: All of these issues will be matters for government. The Department's job over the next 18 months is to engage with our international partners, to discuss these issues, to draw on their expertise, to be able to develop plans to bring forward to government.

PRIME MINISTER: To answer your specific question, no, that is not the plan of the government. That is not the plan of the government. The arrangements for that particular site were very clear in what was taken through the Parliament. And it doesn't extend to that type of arrangement. I've got one here and then I'll deal with that other matter.

JOURNALIST: A lot of the companies that have already signed contracts with Naval are small and medium businesses, what is your message to them today and how do you think this announcement will affect them?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look, as I acknowledged in my opening remarks, obviously the disruption caused of not going forward with the Attack class programme and moving to this new programme will have those implications. That is unavoidable for a decision such as this. I have no doubt, though, that more broadly, the strategic national interest decision that was required of Australia would not have us not pursue that for want of those issues. And I think that would be understood. And I would also say to them, we need you. The same capabilities that you were bringing to the Attack class programme, the same skills, the experience, the people, the ingenuity that you were bringing to that programme. We will need not just for this programme, but in South Australia in particular, whether it's the Hobart upgrade, whether it's the other programmes that we are running there. This will all need those skills and experience and not just in South Australia, but all around the country. For example, those who are working on the Osborne shipyard. This is an issue that the Premier and I discussed. Premier Marshall and I discussed. And I want to thank him, too, also for how we've worked through this. There is a lot of building work to get done, and we don't because of COVID at the moment, have large numbers of people who are immigrating to Australia at the moment. And so even today, on the workforce numbers that we have, that I have some knowledge of, but you'd appreciate I haven't been briefed on them because I've been out here. But that shows that we're going to need people in building jobs, in construction jobs. There's a lot of work to do and there's a lot of work that needs to be done by the very companies that you're talking about. We're going to need them. And there's a very strong future. We will be investing more in naval shipbuilding, not less. And that means we need them.

Now, I've heard the other two questions that are on this issue, and I'm happy to address them. I've already issued a statement which I've said that we are looking carefully. I take the matter very seriously. We are looking carefully at the arrangements and what the Minister would be required to do in order to ensure that he is acting consistent with the ministerial guidelines.

JOURNALIST: Did you know that Christian Porter's legal fees were part paid by the trust before he declared it on the register of interests and will he stay on your frontbench?

PRIME MINISTER: I refer to my previous answer. I've outlined what the pathway forward is, and that's what we're pursuing.

JOURNALIST: Why not just ask him to declare the source of the money or to pay it back now, before getting that advice? Why do you need advice at all?

PRIME MINISTER: Because I'm ensuring that the ministerial guidelines are adhered to.

JOURNALIST: When did Mr Porter first advise you [inaudible]? Did it get taken to the Government Committee of Cabinet and if not, why not? What action will you take if he is in breach of the ministerial code of standards? And given you wrote them, you must have a view on whether or not this arrangement complies with them.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I as always, will ensure that I act very carefully to ensure that the ministerial guidelines are adhered to. I have taken decisions in the past, difficult decisions, when I believe they haven't been adhered to and decisions have been taken as a consequence of that. In the same way on these issues, I will follow the same process. I'll deal with it carefully and as always, I'll ensure that the ministerial guidelines are adhered to. Thank you very much.