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Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy Defends ‘Unfair’ Concerns Over Cost of $368bn AUKUS Deal

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy has rejected cost and transparency concerns around the federal government’s AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, arguing the program will be critical to defending Australia’s national security amid increasing military build-up and rising global tensions.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Mr Conroy said costs were one of the most “unfair and unrealistic” criticisms surrounding the deal, which is forecast to cost taxpayers $268bn to $368bn between now and the mid-2050s.

“Hundreds of billions is a large number, but this is a cost over more than three decades. Frankly, many other government programs will cost far more over that period,” he said.

“The federal government is projected to spend many times more on aged care, education and the NDIS than on the AUKUS submarine over to next three decades.

“Just as spending trillions on social programs over the next three decades will be important for the welfare of Australians, spending billions on nuclear-powered submarines will be important.”

Mr Conroy asserted that he not agree that has been a lack of transparency surrounding progress on the multi-decade pact, which will see Australia buy at least three American nuclear-powered submarines pending approval from US Congress.

He said he was “very confident” that current AUKUS arrangements would survive the upcoming election in the US, despite concerns raised by some republicans that Canberra’s $3bn investment wouldn’t go far enough to supply the submarines while supporting the country’s own military needs.

“US representatives have made it clear that they are supporting this not out of charity, but because they support it because it’s an interest of the United States,” he said.

Alluding to China’s military build-up in the Pacific and global conflicts in Israel and Ukraine, Mr Conroy said there was a need for increased funding towards defence to hold overseas risks at a “greater distance from Australian shores.”

He said acquiring nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines would be key to this strategy.

“There are very significant changes to our defence environment. When we look at our region we see intensifying great power, competition, accelerating military build-up, rising tensions and reduced warning time for conflict.

“This is the most challenging strategic circumstance since the Second World War.”

Source : The Australian