The two defence ministers have met on three separate occasions since the Albanese government came to power in May and will meet again in December in Washington DC for the annual top-level foreign affairs and defence talks known as AUSMIN. A large contingent of Australian officials are expected to join the trip to iron out the final details on the submarine plan.
Two pillars of AUKUS
There is speculation UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace may join Mr Marles and Mr Austin for the first AUKUS defence ministers meeting.
The nuclear submarine taskforce, which is looking at how Australia should acquire relevant technology from the US and UK under the AUKUS partnership, is also due to report to the Albanese government in March next year.
Mr Austin said the two pillars of AUKUS – submarines and advanced technology capabilities such as hypersonic missiles and quantum computing – were the perfect ways to arm a modern defence force for future battles.
“As we work to create a nuclear-powered submarine capability, this will make a difference for generations to come. But that’s just one pillar of this effort. Pillar two is focused on developing things that are relevant to us now and going into the future in terms of technologies. We are excited about that and Australians are excited about that too,” he said.
The Biden administration is increasingly aware of Australia’s growing strategic importance in the Indo-Pacific in light of China’s aggression in the region.
Mr Austin has spearheaded the public support for Australia and criticism of China.
He told the Halifax International Security Forum last week that China had to back down from trying to use force to push its agenda.
“Beijing, like Moscow, seeks a world where might makes right, where disputes are resolved by force, and where autocrats can stamp out the flame of freedom,” Mr Austin said.
He told the Financial Review that he had long been an admirer of Australia and said military capabilities should grow in a way that reflected the needs of soldiers.
“Australians are tremendous partners and that’s not something that I have to guess – I have fought in combat a number of times with the Australians. They are very reliable, very effective forces,” he said.
“We will go after things that the war fighters think they need and that’s what will really drive our efforts. What do the war fighters believe that they need that’s relevant to a potential fight today, midterm and going forward.”
With Andrew Tillett