Nuclear submarines will remain under Australia’s complete discretion, despite their creation being a three-way partnership, Defence Minister Richard Marles says.
Mr Marles says Australian sovereignty is underpinned by the government determining the pathway forward, as opposed to any other nation coming over the top.
He said the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines through a genuine “three-way solution” with the United States and Great Britain would boost Australia’s sovereignty.
“Australia will always make sovereign, independent decisions as to how defence assets are employed, because we will not trade sovereignty for capability,” Mr Marles told parliament.
“Any decision for Australia to go to war, or to use Australian territory or assets in an armed conflict, remains solely a decision for the Commonwealth government of the day.”
He said the partnership only boosted Australia’s ability to make its own decisions, rather than diminishing it.
Nuclear components will be sealed shut to prevent Australian officials accessing the technology.
“The alliance affords Australia capability, technology and intelligence advantages we simply could not acquire or develop on our own,” Mr Marles said.
“This expands our strategic options, makes us less vulnerable to coercive action and enables Australia to pursue our national security interests far beyond what we could achieve alone.”
Mr Marles also stressed the importance of working with Asian partners in the region.
“By pooling resources and combining strengths, we can shape our future, reduce our vulnerability to coercion and help deter conflict.”
Australian and Indonesian foreign and defence ministers met in Canberra on Thursday to discuss their relationship and Indo-Pacific security.
Addressing the Indonesian ministers in Bahasa Indonesia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed her gratitude for the partnership.
“Indonesia is a close and vital partner for Australia. Indonesia’s voice matters to us. It matters in the region and events to the world,” she said.
Her counterpart Retno Marsudi said it was important the two nations be on equal footing.
“Australia and Indonesia should be an anchor of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo Pacific,” she said.
The focus on sovereignty comes as Canberra decides how it will acquire nuclear submarines under the pact with Washington and London.
Mr Marles says joining forces to build military capability isn’t a new concept, pointing to joint strike fighter jets.
“It is not unique that we are acquiring technology and capabilities from countries abroad that we wouldn’t be able to develop on our own,” he said.
“Once an Australian flag is placed on these submarines in the future, they will be completely under Australian control and they will act in Australia’s national interest.”
Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie backed the defence minister on the way forward, saying strength was vital with authoritarian powers such as China and Russia pushing the status quo.
“We can’t afford to be weak in this new reality and nuclear submarines will make us strong,” he told parliament.
“Delivering nuclear boats to the Royal Australian Navy on time demands relentless mission focus.
“This must be our priority as time is not on our side. Our strategic circumstances have changed, for the worse.”
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