MIKE SMITHSON: South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas’ US submarine venture part of masterplan

Mike Smithson
The Nightly
3 Min Read
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is visiting the United States in what some say is mission impossible.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is visiting the United States in what some say is mission impossible. Credit: The Nightly

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is visiting the United States in what some say is mission impossible.

He’s trying to unlock the secret to securing a skilled workforce to service and build Australia’s $368 billion submarine fleet.

In his own words he’s trying to achieve for the nation in 10 years what normally takes other nations 60 years.

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But more on that later.

Mr Malinauskas is riding a wave of popularity and is largely seen as golden boy of Labor politics across the country.

He’s the guy who stripped down to his swimming togs for a photo opportunity during the last SA election campaign, which he easily won.

His team argued at the time it was an “impromptu” decision for the purposes of a quick photo opportunity regarding a funding pledge involving the Adelaide Aquatic Centre.

What a load of baloney.

As Opposition Leader, he’d been working out in the gym for months and knew his buff appearance would appeal to the female vote and grab front page photos which his flabby Canberra colleagues could only dream of.

This 43-year-old former trade union secretary is on a JFK-type mission which could, and probably should, see him go all the way to Canberra – perhaps even into the top job.

Amongst his achievements, of which sport is a crown jewel, he secured long term SA contracts for the AFL Gather Round and Greg Norman’s LIV Golf.

Heavy hitters from both these sporting juggernauts refer to Mr Malinauskas as a good friend and a confidante.

His easygoing public demeanor masks a ruthless desire to push through on a range of issues which other politicians might choose to bypass.

He’s also tackling a hydrogen plant as an economic saviour for SA, a State-based Indigenous Voice and he’s trying to ban under-14s from popular social media platforms.

Critics suggest these are boring, untimely and unachievable ... in that specific order.

I first met Mr Malinauskas in his union days as dashing fanatic who could charm a room before he’d walked through the door.

We first crossed paths socially at the silver wedding anniversary party of his now parents-in-law, who are good friends – and yes, I’m a generation apart from the Premier.

On arrival, there was a glaring stand-out with the scene confronting me.

His wife Annabel’s parents appear to be as established, blue ribbon Liberal supporters as you can get.

Yet this whipper snapper Laborite was pressing the flesh with the so-called enemy.

As he says, that’s never been a problem, to this day.

At their engagement party, half the guests sipped chardonnay and the other half swilled beer.

It’s not hard to guess who was on whose guest list.

Even at last month’s LIV golf, Malinauskas dutifully did a selfie round with dozens of guests, whether they were yahoos out for some boozy fun photos or VIPs.

During a quiet rest break, I asked him how much fun it had been putting on his smiley face for a selfie shot with a seemingly gormless couple of international visitors the previous day.

He said not a problem at all.

They were probably the wealthiest couple at the event and prospectively an investment goldmine.

And that leads me back to his US trip.

He needs answers for a skilled workforce quickly, as Australia gears up for an AUKUS nuclear submarine building future.

Before then, we’re promised three American Virginia Class submarines straight off the shelf across the Pacific.

But the US can barely service its own current needs, let alone supply ours.

He sees it as his sovereign duty to find a way forward and bring other Australian states along with him to achieve the big defence picture.

By his own admission: there are not words strong enough to describe the enormity of the submarine workforce challenge ahead.

So, another day, another challenge.

It’s all part of the Malinauskas masterplan.

Mike Smithson is a presenter and chief reporter with 7NEWS Adelaide.

He covered State politics for 25 years and has worked in television for 45 years.

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