Remarks on AUKUS to ALP National Conference

18 Aug 2023
Prime Minister
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Thanks very much, friends.

At the outset, I want to recognise that everyone here comes to this debate in good faith.

One of the strengths of a Labor Party conference is that we not only respect each other’s right to put forward differing views, we respect the integrity and the sincerity of those views.

One of the things that distinguishes us from our components.


From our first day in Government, we have worked to make Australia stronger in the world and safer at home.

Investing in our capability and investing in our relationships, our deterrence and our diplomacy.

And bringing both to our presence in this region.

Engaging with our Pacific family with respect, reinvesting in development assistance, working with our neighbours and partners to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity right across the Indo-Pacific.

Acknowledging the centrality of ASEAN to our north.

And supporting Ukraine in the face of the illegal and immoral invasion by Russia.

We know there is no security in isolation.

Australia has a role and indeed a responsibility to engage in our region and the wider world.


To fulfil these objectives, to sustain and strengthen Australia’s place in the world, our Government is investing in our capabilities and investing in those relationships.

And I want to pay tribute to our Foreign Minister, in particular, for the work that she is doing.

Now delegates

A partnership with two of Australia’s oldest friends, through AUKUS, and an enhancement of the alliance that is the heart of one of the three pillars of our foreign policy.

Is consistent with the Labor values that I have been a part of my whole life.

Our US alliance.

Regional engagement.

Support for multilateralism.

As we invest and capitalise through AUKUS, we will be guided by the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review to ensure we have the assets we need, where we need them.

That includes conventionally armed, nuclear powered submarines.

Submarines that are harder to detect and can travel further.

If you've come to the position, as I have, that Australia as an island continent, needs submarines.

Then it is compulsory, if you're serious about national security, that you then analyse what is the best form of submarines for us to have.

And I have come to the position, based upon advice and analysis, that nuclear powered submarines are what Australia needs in the future.

Submarines whose importance in our defence capability as an island continent will grow over time.

Importantly, the submarines will be an Australian sovereign capability, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy and sustained by Australian workers in Australian shipyards.

Australia has a proud record of leadership in the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Australia and our AUKUS partners are committed to setting the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard for Australia’s acquisition of subs, in continued close co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

These are the choices of a mature nation, a nation that understands that a bright future calls for more than sunny optimism.


The strategic complexity that we face is far removed from the bleak certainties of the Cold War.

We have to analyse the world as it is rather than how we would want it to be.

We have to bring our defence capabilities up to speed.

And AUKUS is central to that.


We are committed to stability and the preservation of the international rules-based system in the wider region.

And as we strengthen ourselves outwards, we strengthen inwards.

Every opportunity we have to maximise resilience is an opportunity to maximise Australian jobs.

And this is a project that is expected to directly create 20,000 well-paid, secure, union jobs.

Jobs that will expand our skills base and our capacity to stand on our own feet as a nation.

And a defence program that will enhance our manufacturing capabilities and assist us to become what we must be, a theme of the last election campaign that we were elected on, we want Australia to be a country that makes things here.

Now, just as Curtin and Chifley turned their vision of an automotive industry into a reality that lifted our entire manufacturing sector, this investment will be a catalyst for innovation and research breakthroughs that will reverberate throughout Australia.

Through our economy, across our advanced manufacturing and technology sectors, creating jobs and growing businesses, right around Australia.

AUKUS takes nothing away from what we do.

What it does do though, it is enhancement, an act of clear-eyed pragmatism that works for the national interest and in the context of greater good.

We are dealing with our neighbourhood with respect, reinvesting in aid, listening to the Pacific.

We understand that climate change is a national security issue.

And we are working with others to contribute to stability and discourage conflict in the region.

Just consider the relationships that we've had in the region and the world and whether they have been improved in the last fifteen months and if there is a single relationship, with the possible exception of Putin, that has been diminished?


We have a stronger relationship with our traditional allies, including the United States, than we have ever had.

We have relations with Europe, to the point whereby President Macron was backing the Matildas the other night.

But in our own region, with ASEAN and the Pacific it has been transformed.

And with China, we are working towards stabilisation.

Having adult conversations between us.

Cooperating where we can, disagreeing where we must, but engaging in our national interest.

That how serious people who are seriously concerned about Australia's national interest and understanding the importance of diplomatic engagement are operating.

Led by Foreign Minister and Defence Minister who wake up every day and think about Australia's national interest.

We are a Government with a vision that is both bold and grounded in reality.

AUKUS is the choice of a mature nation, an honest global player taking our rightful place on the world stage.

History shows us that in uncertain times, Australia finds its firmest footing with a Labor Government.

It was Fisher who formed the Royal Australian Navy.

When the world was at war, it was Curtin who forged our alliance with the United States, which remains the bedrock of our security.

When the world needed to be unified again, it was Evatt who helped drive the formation of the United Nations.

As a nation, our collective duty to peace and stability does not end at our own borders.

We have always played our part because Australia is a serious global citizen.

We step up.

With AUKUS, we are remaining true to that spirit.

And I commend the Marles position to delegates.