Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison governments partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom is ensuring that Australia can meet the threats posed by the changing strategic environment, and is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?
I thank the honourable member for Ryan for his question and acknowledge the hard work that he does in his local community supporting all of those that work and live on the barracks at Enoggera—the Gallipoli Barracks—and the strong support that he provides to those veterans and to their families.
As we know, the Indo-Pacific is witnessing a dramatic military build-up. We know that the Chinese government has 355 vessels—boats and submarines. They will have an increase in that number to 460 by the end of 2030. And we know that, over an 18-month period, at the moment, they're producing, on a tonnage rate, more in their naval fleet than what the—
and deter potential Chinese military aggression. This is why the Australian government has entered into the AUKUS arrangement with both the United States and the United Kingdom, to make sure that we can take steps to keep our country safe and secure now and into the future. And, as part of the deal on AUKUS, we have of course announced that we are going to acquire, to build, at least eight nuclear propelled submarines. That gives them the stealth and the ability to operate in the Indo-Pacific to protect our country and our interests and the interests of our friends. Part of that process means that there needs to be a consultation through the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to sign off on the deal.
There has been some opposition, and I note that there is some opposition from those opposite. As we know, on national security this Leader of the Opposition always plays both sides of the fence. There's always an each-way bet on national security by the Labor Party. In here, they say they're in support of AUKUS, and when they get outside they tell a very different story. I noticed yesterday that the member for Fremantle, in relation to this IAEA process, in relation to our country, Australia, said that 'we will have broken new ground in weakening the existing non-proliferation regime'. Now, those words sounded familiar, because when you look at those that have contributed through the process at the energy agency, there are only two other countries that are making a claim that Australia is not doing the right thing here. That is the Chinese government and the Russian government—those two. So, Comrade Wilson, you're on message, and 'weak leader' here would be very proud of you.
I give the call to the member for Sydney.
Honourable members interjecting—
Order! Order! Members on my left! If members on my left and members on my right want me to hear the question, they'll stop their interjections. The member for Sydney has the call.