The Informer: Submarines, security deal blow COVID out of the water

Submarines, security deal blow COVID out of the water

Of all the things you expected to consider today, can you honestly say nuclear-powered submarines were on your list?

Nope, me either, but that's 2021 for you.

Instead the Prime Minister, now known as the "that fella down under" after US President Joe Biden seemed unable to recall his name during the press conference, put submarines and security front centre.

Australia, the US and Britain will share advanced technologies - including the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines - in a barely veiled bid to counter China. Mr Morrison called it a "forever partnership".

"This is a historic opportunity for the three nations, with like-minded allies and partners, to protect share values and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region," Mr Morrison said.

As you'd expect, opinion on the arrangement is split. Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis says it's "recognition that Australia has a global role".

"We are saying, 'We are going to be there with the UK and the US in any crisis' and they are going to be there for us'," Dr Davis said.

Not everyone's feeling the love. Most certainly not France and New Zealand.

The French government is "majorly disappointed" a $90 billion deal to to build 12 conventional submarines has fallen through while the Kiwis are nuclear-free campaigners from way back, a fact PM Jacinda Adern confirmed again: "Certainly they couldn't come into our internal waters."

Expect a bevvy of details about the contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group to be shared as analysis of the new pact continues and no doubt terms like "floating Chernobyls" will abound, too.

And there will be years of discussion as the leaders' statement said an "initial scoping phase" would last 18 months. Back in 2017 Marise Payne, then Australia's defence minister and now its foreign minister, acknowledged that a "sovereign" nuclear fleet would take "far longer than a decade", and would come "at a very substantial cost premium to our conventional fleet".

Back on dry land it was the now customary full circle of COVID-generated emotions - a picnic announcement in Victoria and reimposed lockdown for Albury and Lismore. Elsewhere, the PM also vowed to properly investigate the blind trust former attorney-general Christian Porter used to help cover his legal fees for a defamation case against the ABC. A Tamil family has been granted a small reprieve in their fight to remain in Australia and the man accused of raping then-Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins is set to stand trial after pleading not guilty.

Lastly, if you want another slice of political awkwardness, check out Peter Dutton's attempt at an elbow bump from a few days ago. Gosh.

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This story Submarines, security deal blow COVID out of the water first appeared on The Canberra Times.