AUKUS: UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron downplays Donald Trump fears

Katina Curtis and Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Defence Minister Richard Marles also has “complete confidence” in the future of the trilateral security deal, regardless of whether Mr Trump returns to the White House. 
Defence Minister Richard Marles also has “complete confidence” in the future of the trilateral security deal, regardless of whether Mr Trump returns to the White House.  Credit: AAP

The UK’s top diplomat David Cameron is downplaying concerns a second Donald Trump presidency could threaten the AUKUS alliance.

Defence Minister Richard Marles also has “complete confidence” in the future of the trilateral security deal, regardless of whether Mr Trump returns to the White House.

Lord Cameron joined Mr Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong in Adelaide on Friday to announce a $4.5 billion commitment to help double the size of the UK factory building the nuclear-power units for the planned SSN-AUKUS submarines.

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Mr Trump’s strong “America-first” mindset has raised questions about the future of the AUKUS pact if he defeats Joe Biden in November’s US presidential election.

The Albanese Government has repeatedly said it would work with whoever was president to progress to deal to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Lord Cameron, a former UK prime minister, echoed that sentiment on Friday after being asked what impact a second Trump term could have on the AUKUS pact.

“It’s up to America who they choose as their president – it’s a very important principle in foreign policy not to involve yourself in other countries’ elections,” Lord Cameron, now UK foreign secretary, said.

“What we will do — and I’m sure an Australian Government would do  is work with whoever becomes president.”

Mr Marles said Australia was confident the deal would endure, noting the bipartisan support as legislation allowing the US to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia passed Congress.

“We move forward with complete confidence about what the future will hold,” Mr Marles said.

Australia is also paying about $4.6 billion to the US to speed up its nuclear-powered submarine production line as a precursor to buying at least three of its Virginia class fleet.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Britain's former Prime Minister, David Cameron, leaves 10, Downing Street after being appointed Foreign Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle on November 13, 2023 in London, England. Rishi Sunak came under pressure last week to sack Suella Braverman after she wrote an article criticising the Met Police over Pro-Palestinian Marches which was not signed off by Downing Street. At the weekend, several far-right protestors were arrested after confrontations at the Cenotaph during the Armistice Day service.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Britain's former Prime Minister, David Cameron. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

Greens senator David Shoebridge, who opposes the AUKUS deal, said the multibillion-dollar payments were “bleeding Australian taxpayers dry” and would likely only increase.

“We have a desperate need for investment in jobs in Australia, desperate need for investment in programs in Australia. And what’s the Albanese government doing today? Sending $4.5 billion to the UK to subsidise their nuclear submarine industry,” he said.

But Mr Marles defended the payments as entirely appropriate, pointing out that at the same time, the Government was spending $30 billion on domestic capacity.

“Let’s not forget that the most significant industrial uplift that we will be doing and that we’re spending money on is right here in Australia,” he said.

The Rolls Royce factory building the nuclear reactors is already creating parts that will be used in the SSN-AUKUS fleet.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong also talked down AUKUS naysayers.

The Government was determined it would happen, she said, echoing comments from Lord Cameron.

“We do that understanding the scale of the enterprise, the scale of the task – but I have great confidence that not just the AUKUS partners, but also the state government, and the workforce, the people of Australia and South Australia understand just how big a project this is, and how transformative it is for our economy, for our industrial base, and for our strategic circumstances,” she said.

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