While defence matters usually receive limited meaningful public debate in Australia, the government will need to take a different approach if it is to ensure the long-term success of AUKUS.
Australia’s Collins-class submarine replacement is proving a remarkably protracted process. After a false start in 2009, and a prime ministerial foray in 2014 into buying Japanese submarines, a contract was awarded in 2016 for eight very large French-designed conventional submarines to be built in Australia. However, in 2021, the contract was terminated, and instead a remarkable trilateral plan was announced for Australia to acquire nuclear attack submarines (SSN) under the new Australia–UK–US (AUKUS) partnership.
In 2022, a new Labor government was elected that vowed to continue this SSN shift. Accordingly, the plan is formally a bipartisan initiative, although the conservative Liberal National Party (LNP) that began AUKUS is now in opposition and naturally inclined to critique and complain.