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Peter Dutton says Barrow cannot build AUKUS nuclear programme

A LEADING Australian politician has been criticised after suggesting Barrow would not be a suitable location to build new submarines as part of the AUKUS pact.

The AUKUS deal is a pact between Australia, the US and the UK to share skills and develop Australia’s fledgling nuclear presence in the Indo-Pacific. 

Peter Dutton, leader of the Liberal Party, and a former Defence Minister, warned the Australian government against buying submarines from the UK.

During a visit to an air show in Victoria, Mr Dutton argued that the American Virginia-class submarines would be the best option for Australia. 

He told reporters: “The beauty in my mind with the American model, of the Virginia class, was that it was a proven design, it gave us interoperability with the Americans and there will be more American subs in the Indo-Pacific than there will be British submarines.” 

Mr Dutton said when he was defence minister he was told that companies such as BAE Systems could not support the Australian programme.

“The advice to me at the time was very clear: Barrow-in-Furness is obviously landlocked, it didn’t have the ability to scale up,” he said.

It is likely that Mr Dutton was referencing the property space available at BAE.

Mr Dutton was criticised by the ruling Labour Party for his comments as he was sharing classified details from his time as a government minister that are still ongoing.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy, who recently returned from a visit to Barrow, slammed the comments.

“I think those comments from Peter Dutton are incredibly irresponsible. This was a man who received classified briefings up until the 21 May on this program,” Mr Conroy told reporters.

“He is either being mischievous or he’s not privy to the latest information. I’ve just come back from Barrow in the United Kingdom, where I’ve got a full briefing on what the United Kingdom is doing.

“I stay in regular contact with the US Navy, and we’ll make announcements very shortly about the optimal path forward on our nuclear propelled submarines.”

The Australian government said that it could not share details of the current negotiations as they stand. 

The MP for Barrow and Furness Simon Fell said: “Personally I think this is about political point scoring by Australian politicians rather than anything else. 

“Capacity in the US is, if anything, more constrained than in the UK and they have recently stepped down their production schedule as a result.

“We will only have to wait a few weeks to know what the future programme of work for AUKUS is. Clearly, I think there are huge opportunities for Barrow in this programme in playing a major role in design, skill share and perhaps even build. 

“But the opportunities for increased resilience and for jobs are massive regardless. AUKUS is very good news for Barrow’s future.” 

Source : The Mail