AUKUS DEAL: Australia going nuclear raises concern for huge taxes

Anthony Albanese is about to make a significant revelation regarding Australia’s nuclear submarine programme, but the government has not yet disclosed the program’s staggering cost.

The Prime Minister departed India on Saturday for the United States, where he will attend the announcement on Monday in San Diego alongside President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

According to information that has leaked from both sides of the Atlantic, Australia will purchase two different types of nuclear submarines from its AUKUS allies as part of a three-phase plan to challenge China’s expanding military strength.

The program’s price has not yet been formally established. Reports indicate that during the following 30 years, it might cost the budget more than $150 billion.

On Saturday, Mr Albanese was asked just how he will justify the mammoth cost of the project given the current state of the budget and cost of living pressures.

“Australia faces real challenges. We have said very clearly and explicitly that there are major pressures on expenditure, not just in defence, but in other areas as well,” he told reporters before leaving for the US.

“It’s why the ERC’s been meeting regularly. It’s why we need to be prepared to make some difficult decisions.”

While Coalition says it is in “lock-step” with the government over AUKUS, it cautioned it against raising taxes to foot the bill.

“When the coalition was in government, we took defence spending from 1938 levels to 2 per cent of GDP. We committed $270 billion worth of defence expenditure after 2013 and we do all of that without raising taxes,” he told Sky News.

“We want to see the purchase of the submarines (and) want to see the AUKUS program going forward.

“But we’ve demonstrated that you can provide for defence expenditure without raising taxes.”

The AUKUS security pact was unveiled in late 2021, with the US and UK agreeing to help Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines, scrapping a $90bn deal with France for conventional vessels.

The first phase will involve US-deployed submarines visiting Australian ports more regularly. Australia is also expected to buy up to five US Virginia class vessels as a stopgap measure before obtaining a fleet of British-designed boats to be built in South Australia.

Joe Courtney, a US congressman who served on the House Armed Services Committee, wouldn’t say if the boats offered to Australia would be new but assured his nation wouldn’t just be offloading clunkers.