Labor Minister Confirms “No refund” at NATO Summit

Written by: Nick G. on 19 July 2024

 

Labor’s Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite has embarrassingly confirmed that the two amounts of $A4.7billion gifted to the US and UK miliary machines in an effort to pump prime the AUKUS arrangements will not be refunded if the arrangements fall apart.

Australia is a partner, not a member of NATO, but the government deemed it important that it strut its stuff at last week’s Washington summit.

While there, Thistlewaite was interviewed by US online Breaking Defence magazine.

Their first question raised the issue that that under a new administration and Congress AUKUS might “lose some steam.”

Thistlewaite referred to” conversations that I’ve had with congressmen and -women yesterday from both sides of the aisle” and believed that regardless of who won the US election, AUKUS’s future was assured.

“They see the strategic importance of it for security and peace in the Indo-Pacific” he said, “but they also see the industrial uplift that will come from Pillar II, and that means jobs in their districts.”

A few questions later, Breaking Defence asked: “There was some question in Parliament recently about the $5 billion payment to the US to bolster the sub industrial base, and what would happen if the AUKUS deal for Virginia-class subs falls apart. What would happen to that money? Is that actually a concern at all?”

Now that matter arose from a Senate Estimates hearing on May 6 when Greens Senator David Shoebridge questioned the Head of the Australian Submarine Agency, Vice-Admiral Jonathan Mead, who refused to answer a series of questions about whether Australia will get its money back if the US fails to transfer Virginia class submarines in the 2030s.

The government has had nearly 3 months to work out how to spin this matter, or if it wanted to, how to reply honestly to the question.

But Thistlewaite seemed clueless in his response, adding nothing to Mead’s earlier unsatisfactory answer.

“There’s been no indication at all to us that the Virginia classes aren’t going to be delivered,” mumbled Thistlewaite. “So we’re working on the assumption that we will acquire that capability from 2027. The planning is in place, including, importantly, the people transfer. So the deployments of US submariners, all that planning is starting to take place already. So there’s been no indication at all that that commitment won’t be met.”

Yes, you idiot, you can assume there are fairies at the bottom of the garden too, but the question was, will we get our money back if the submarines are not delivered. 

The government will still not say either “Yes” or “No”.  Just one of two words, Matt Thistlewaite. We don’t need any more than that.

Comforting for the US submariners who will be rotated through Fleet Base West, WA’s HMAS Stirling, Thistlewaite reported that “We’ve got a body called Defense Housing Australia. They’ve just gone out to the market for a tender to build 550 homes around the base for submariners and their families, and the response to the tender has been great.”

The government was “working at speed” on this and other infrastructure, he said.

It’s a pity the government is not “working at speed” to address the acute housing shortage facing its own people. 

 

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