News National Government doubles down on AUKUS plan

Government doubles down on AUKUS plan

Assistant trade minister Tim Ayres addresses a conference on nuclear non-proliferation. Photo: AAP
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Australia has doubled down on its plan to acquire nuclear powered submarines from either the United States or Britain.

Assistant trade minister Tim Ayres has told an international nuclear non-proliferation conference that Australia is committed to the treaty, and the procurement of such submarines will not violate its obligations.

“At this conference and beyond, each of us must work to forestall the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that await us unless we take real steps towards the elimination of nuclear weapons,” Senator Ayres told the conference in New York on Tuesday.

“The challenges to the non-proliferation treaty have never been greater.

“All three (AUKUS) partners are committed to upholding our legal obligations and to strengthening the integrity of the non-proliferation regime. We will not simply uphold but strengthen the integrity of the regime.”

Senator Ayres told the conference Australia is proceeding with its acquisition in a transparent way, and working with the international nuclear regulator and community to maintain “a nuclear weapons-free and independent Pacific”.

“The international safeguards system is essential for global confidence in the nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

The assistant minister’s speech came after Indonesia raised concerns about how nuclear technology for military purposes fits within the treaty.

While not directly mentioning the AUKUS alliance, Indonesia raised concerns about the risks of near-weapons-grade uranium being used for naval propulsion in a working paper submitted to the conference.

“The use and sharing of nuclear technologies and materials for military purposes could run counter to the spirit and objectives of the treaty, as it could potentially set precedence for other similar arrangements and complicate safeguards mechanisms,” it reads.

Australia, the US and the UK submitted its own working paper, stating “naval nuclear propulsion cooperation under AUKUS will be conducted in a manner that is fully consistent with our respective obligations under the (treaty)”.