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AUKUS has very high risk of failure: Turnbull

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says the AUKUS deal comes with a “very high risk” of failing. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

By Maeve Bannister and Tess Ikonomou in Canberra

FORMER prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines comes with a “very high risk” of failure and faces huge challenges of recruiting and training enough skilled workers.

It follows Labor’s most revered living leader Paul Keating launching a scathing attack on the landmark military deal, which he described as Australia’s worst international decision since the conscription policy during World War I.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced details of Australia’s submarine pact with the US and UK – part of the AUKUS security alliance – on Tuesday.

As part of the arrangement, Australia will command a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines within the next three decades.

Mr Turnbull said Australia would need to train thousands of skilled workers, who then faced a challenge of finding work in a relevant field after the project finished.

“The human resources challenges of this are really considerable, because we don’t have a nuclear industry in Australia,” he told ABC RN.

The former Liberal leader said the deal came with a “very high risk” of failing to deliver because the British submarines were yet to be designed.

Mr Turnbull also questioned whether Britain was going to be “financially strong enough” to be Australia’s partner in delivering the boats, with the country’s economy forecast to be the worst-performing large advanced economy this year.

He said unlike the UK, France – which Australia tore up a $90 billion submarine deal with for AUKUS – was already in the Indo-Pacific and had millions of citizens located there.

Mr Turnbull said all of these issues should have been publicly debated.

“We’ve been caught up in this hoopla where anyone that expresses any concerns about it is accused of being or implied that they’re lacking in patriotism,” he said.

Mr Keating condemned the $368 billion price tag and questioned Australia’s sovereignty within the arrangement.

Minister for Defence and Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said Mr Keating remained a revered figure within the Labor Party.
He told the ABC’s  “7.30” that no matter what the former prime minister said about him, Mr Albanese or Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the government would not say a bad word about Mr Keating.

“The Hawke-Keating government was the great peacetime, reformist, long-term government in our history,” Mr Marles said.
He said the government had worked hard to stabilise Australia’s diplomatic relations with China.

“We want to have a productive relationship with China, but we do observe that we are seeing the biggest conventional military build-up in the world today since the end of the Second World War,” Mr Marles said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Mr Keating’s comments showed there was division within the Labor Party over AUKUS.

“I think it is incumbent upon Richard Marles and others … to rebuke the unhinged comments of Mr Keating,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“(The government) should be taking the advice of the military and intelligence chiefs as opposed to Paul Keating.”

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One Response to AUKUS has very high risk of failure: Turnbull

Mark Boast says: 17 March 2023 at 12:05 pm

Another candidate for the Neville Chamberlain award? Quite scary that a recent PM would appear not to understand the role of competent nuclear powered submarines. Quick read of Falklands war lessons learned suggested: especially the wide scale impact of the HMS Conqueror action that impacted the role of the Argentine Navy. History not relevant to our prominent pollies?

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