AUKUS nuclear submarine deal could cost each taxpayer an estimated $13k, as experts explain its importance
A $200 billion nuclear submarine deal could cost the average Australian taxpayer around $13,000.
This is effectively the equivalent of every Australian buying a new small car – a staggering outlay on just a handful of boats.
But experts say the deal, despite the extraordinary price tag, could be worth every penny.
They say the submarine partnership will establish an “unprecedented level of trust and collaboration” between Australia and its most powerful allies at a time of rising global tensions.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to warn taxpayers about the enormous cost of the submarine plan on Tuesday and promise to be transparent about the tax traps of the 30-year deal.
Over the life of the deal, which is expected to cost more than $200 billion, each Australian taxpayer would spend approximately $13,370 of their taxes on the fleet. That figure is based on the 14.9 million who paid taxes in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
A $200 billion nuclear submarine deal will cost the average Australian taxpayer around $13,000
The agreement will create an “unprecedented level of collaboration” between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
So far, the plan hinges on purchasing up to five US-built Virginia-class submarines by the 2030s.
Britain is then expected to work with Canberra on a new fleet around 2040 that will be equipped with US weapons and combat systems. All three countries will use the same defense systems and missiles.
These nuclear submarines can stay underwater for longer periods of time and travel further without surfacing, making them key to advancing Australia’s defense strategy.
Each submarine can stay submerged for up to three months, carry 37 torpedo-sized weapons and travel at speeds of 46 km/h, unlike our current diesel-electric submarines, which can stay submerged for no more than 70 days.
But beyond the capabilities of the submarines, expert sources say they will strengthen ties between the three nations involved.
Charles Edel, a former State Department official and Australia’s chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously said the “big story” behind the deal is “strategic convergence” between Australia, the UK and the US.
So far, the plan hinges on purchasing up to five US-made Virginia-class submarines by the 2030s.
What is it about the new submarines that makes them so remarkable?
– It can spend three months underwater
– Travel at speeds of 46km/h
– Carries 37 torpedo-sized weapons
– Expected useful life of 33 years.
– A tablespoon of uranium can power a submarine to circumnavigate the world
“In a strict sense, AUKUS is a trilateral partnership aimed at enhancing the defense capabilities of the nations involved,” he said.
“But its broader meaning lies in its intent to drive technological innovation, grow industrial capacity and deepen strategic coordination between the US, Australia and the UK,” he said.
“Ultimately, strategic convergence, and not submarines, is the big story behind AUKUS.”
There will be a long-term commitment between the three nations to cooperate on issues of cyber warfare, missiles, and artificial intelligence, among others.
The deal would create 20,000 jobs in Australia, including 8,500 employed to build and maintain the submarines.
Additionally, a Virginia-class submarine requires 132 crew members on board, including 15 officers.
Australia currently has a university program dedicated to nuclear engineering and produces around five graduates a year, which means there should be more commitment to training and education in the field.
John Blaxland, an international security expert at the Australian National University, told the New York Times that dual nationality crews could provide a compromise solution.
“We’re going to need an unprecedented level of close and trusted collaboration to make this work, at the political, operational and worker bee levels,” he said.
The deal is being hailed in all three nations as “the most important multilateral defense capability effort the world has seen in generations.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will announce more details of the deal on Tuesday, after meeting with President Joe Biden this week.
The opposition promises bipartisanship to achieve this agreement in the most timely and cost-effective manner.
Coalition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie told reporters in Canberra that the coming months and years could result in “a level of bipartisanship that we probably haven’t seen for a generation.”
“Of course we’re going to work with the government to make sure we can fund this because, as you know, it’s a very competitive environment (for budget funds),” he said.
Speaking at Sunrise this morning, Labor Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and National MP Barnaby Joyce agreed on the importance of the nuclear submarine deal.
Ms Plibersek said: ‘These submarines will be very important in our ability to defend ourselves in the future.
These nuclear submarines can stay underwater longer and travel further without surfacing, making them key to advancing Australia’s defense strategy.
“It’s a very long-term project and with it will come a substantial number of jobs and a lot of investment and real capacity in the Australian economy.”
Mr. Joyce agreed that “this is the cost of defending our nation,” and supported the decision to buy “off the shelf to begin with” to get the ball rolling on the deal faster.
‘I understand about the manufacturing jobs, but their main job is to protect Australia. That is the main job.
Speaking on ABC Insiders, Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney promised Australia would receive “the highest quality” nuclear submarines on offer. There have been suggestions that the Virginia-class submarine fleet would be second-hand.
‘The useful life of a Virginia-class submarine is 33 years. Nobody is going to, you know, endorse clunkers to good friends and allies,” she said.
How the deal was made
End of 2019: Scott Morrison tasks defense officials with looking at the feasibility of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines after doubts over the French contract.
May 2021: Mr. Morrison presents the AUKUS proposal to the full national security committee and is granted permission to approach US and UK leaders with official government policy.
June 2021: Morrison meets US President Joe Biden and then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the G7 and they agree an agreement in principle.
September 2021: The deal is publicly disclosed and announced by Mr Morrison in Canberra, flanked by TV screens of the US and UK leaders. An 18-month consultation period begins on how Australia will procure nuclear-powered submarines and which model it will go with.
May 2022: Labor wins federal election, triggering a change of government
August 2022: Defense Minister Richard Marles announced a review of the defense force and how it will address emerging threats during the AUKUS consultation period.
December 2022: Mr Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong meet their US counterparts in Washington for the annual meeting
January 2023: Australian government completes underwater pathway
February 2023: Australian and UK foreign and defense ministers meet for annual consultation
February 2023: The defense force review is given to the prime minister and the defense minister. A government response is expected in April.
March 2023: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reveal the way forward to procure nuclear-powered submarines.