House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Office for AUKUS

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Leader of the Opposition) (14:24): My question is to the Premier. Can the Premier update the house on the Office for AUKUS, including any work being done to prepare South Australia for nuclear reactors as part of AUKUS pillar 1? With your leave, sir, and that of the house, I will explain.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS: On 12 June 2023, the Premier announced a $5.4 million investment in establishing the Office for AUKUS. AUKUS pillar 1 focuses on Australia acquiring a conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

The Hon. P.B. MALINAUSKAS (Croydon—Premier) (14:24): Yes, I can, and I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. The Leader of the Opposition is right in that last part of his remarks around Australia purchasing a conventionally armed nuclear submarine—I think the term the Leader of the Opposition used was 'fleet'. There will be at least three Virginia class submarines that the commonwealth is acquiring that will be based in Western Australia. The Office for AUKUS, which sits currently within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and works closely with Defence SA, naturally is not so much focused on that acquisition but far more focused on the work that needs to be done in South Australia pertaining to the building of conventionally armed nuclear submarines here at Osborne.

The work that the Office for AUKUS has been focused on most recently is a number of things, and I will give a highlights reel. First and foremost, of course, has been working with the commonwealth around getting the land swap completed and enacted and then put to best use. That is actually a first, incredibly important piece of the puzzle, because that needed to occur and be enacted in order for the commonwealth to then start facilitating all of the initial infrastructure works that are required to be undertaken at Osborne. Much of this will be not immediately visible to people driving around Osborne, but the moving of powerlines and existing gas lines, and then other enabling of works have to be done first. There is $2 billion worth of expenditure being undertaken exclusively by the commonwealth in conjunction with ANI in being able to do that work.

Following the very important announcement that was made only a few Fridays ago—in fact, it was in between parliamentary sitting weeks—the announcement of BAE as the builder of the nuclear submarines in conjunction with ASC, and also following the land swap, that now provides a foothold for the commonwealth to pursue the design of the model and of course the physical building of the shipbuilding skills academy at Osborne. That work is now in train with the commonwealth, and the state government has a seat at the table in those works.

We hope to see construction of that training and skills academy next year, although still a fair bit of work needs to be done in terms of the design and the models that will be applied in order to be able to do that. That is something the Office for AUKUS contributes to as well. Other efforts around training and skills the Office for AUKUS has been central to, but now there is also engagement with both ASC and BAE in terms of helping to contribute to and facilitate the exchange of workers that we know will be taking place.

The other specific element of the Leader of the Opposition's question was in regard to nuclear. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services was only in the UK in the last fortnight undertaking the important work of starting to prepare the state government's preparedness and readiness for what we are doing around emergency services in the vicinity of what will be a nuclear site. There will be a range of responsibilities that sit within the state government's control in this regard, and the minister was there in Davenport in the UK meeting with Babcock and others who are responsible for these efforts.

This is just one example—one important example—of the sorts of efforts that the state government is making in order to get in advance of all of the complexity and all the functions that will have to be new to the service delivery of state government in the preparation of a nuclear industry existing at Osborne.