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Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison defends early AUKUS plan secrets

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said China’s rapid military buildup was “at the top of the list” of factors driving the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal he secretly brokered with the United States and Britain.

Eighteen months after announcing “The Birth of AUKUS,” Morrison agreed in an interview with 7.30 that he could be called the “father” of consensus.

The former leader explained why Australia, the only country to have entrusted propulsion technology since Britain in 1958, and finally the United States finally shared the secrets of nuclear submarines.

“Like you said, we needed to get something that the previous government couldn’t,” Morrison said.

“It’s not a reflection of previous governments. The answer has always been ‘no’. It will be ‘no’ not just for Australia, but for everyone who has asked for this.”

Scott Morrison, along with then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden, announced a trilateral joint security partnership in 2021. (AAP)

When asked if China’s rapid military expansion prompted the US to say yes, Morrison said, “It was a combination of multiple events, but it was certainly at the top of the list.” rice field.

“Since 2016, even in that short period of time, there have been tremendous changes in the strategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

According to Morrison, that change in the Indo-Pacific has affected the diesel-powered submarines that Australia has agreed to buy from the French Naval Group.

“The strategic environment has made them effectively obsolete,” Morrison said.

Under the AUKUS contract, Australia will purchase three to five Virginia-class nuclear submarines from the United States, followed by eight more SSN-AUKUS boats of British design and US weapons systems.

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Play the video.Time: 7 minutes 7 seconds

Why is the AUKUS Submarine Agreement such a big deal?

The former prime minister, who recently described AUKUS to Australians as the most closely guarded secret since World War II, was asked if he had kept the plan hidden from most of his national security cabinet for nearly a year. rice field.

“Except for defense and foreign secretaries, that’s true,” Morrison said.

“When Linda Reynolds was the former defense secretary, and of course Marise Payne, when I brought him into the circle and Peter Dutton became defense secretary.

“It was really ‘who needs to know’ [basis] Because it was a progressive approach. “

The former prime minister said he was the driving force behind the AUKUS agreement to expand beyond nuclear submarines to include technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, undersea drones and hypersonic missiles. rice field.

Scott Morrison stands in front of the podium and listens to questions during the press conference.
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was his ambition to expand the AUKUS agreement beyond nuclear submarines.(ABC News: Luke Stevenson)

“Every time we tried to develop a feature jointly, it became very clear that we didn’t have to do this,” he said.

“Why aren’t we in the same room at the same time?”

As Morrison was debating whether to pursue a nuclear submarine program in 2021, he did not consider a potential war with China to be fought alongside the United States.

“It was important to think the situation through to prevent such consequences,” he said.

“It was to achieve a lasting strategic counterbalance.”

Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak give lectures under their respective national flags
Australia’s nuclear submarine program could cost up to $368 billion over the next 30 years. (Reuters: Leah Millis)

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley later told ABC that China had misinterpreted the submarine deal as a threat, but that Beijing was expanding its global influence faster than Britain expected.

“There is no reason for China to suggest that this is directed at them,” Cleverley said.

“This is about Australia’s full right to develop and strengthen its own self-defense capabilities.”

In its 2021 strategic foreign and defense policy review, the UK suggested that China is building a long-term influence on the world stage while Russia poses challenges.

“And of course what we’ve seen is that these things will probably happen sooner than we’ve assessed,” Cleverley said.

Robodet scheme

Morrison was also asked about Robodebt, a failed scheme meant to collect Centrelink’s debts.

The Royal Commission, due to release its findings this year, explored the question of when senior officials and ministers first learned that the scheme was likely illegal.

Morrison, who announced the introduction of Robodebt as Minister of Social Services, was asked by 7:30 when he had been informed of the illegality of the plan.

“It wasn’t until I became prime minister that I was informed of it and shut it down,” he said.

Former welfare minister Stuart Robert told the Royal Commission earlier this month that he had defended the plan as a “loyal minister” even after he began to harbor “great personal misgivings” about the plan.

Festure by hand by Stuart Robert.
Stuart Robert said he had to follow government policy because of cabinet solidarity rules. (ABC News)

When asked if the Cabinet’s solidarity extends to misleading the public, Morrison said, “We’ll have to raise that with Mr. Stuart.”

“Do you now accept that it was illegal and immoral?” 7.30 asked host Sarah Ferguson.

Morrison said, “The legality of this issue has certainly been resolved, and if it had been raised with the government at the time, Robodet would never have happened.”

Morrison was asked again if he would describe it as immoral.On an industrial scale, it failed that test. “

Finally pressed about whether the term “immorality” was a valid term, the former prime minister said, “The result was very different from what was intended.”

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https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-14/scott-morrison-china-military-aukus-deal-730/102094886 Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison defends early AUKUS plan secrets

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