Radio interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings, 5AA Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: AUKUS Agreement; investment in South Australia; nuclear waste.

Will Goodings, Host: Immediately after 9:00, with Matthew Pantelis, the Premier of South Australia, Peter Malinauskas, will reflect on the announcement that we've been reporting on right throughout the morning since it was made at 7:15 today, the US President, the British Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister all stood up in San Diego to announce the details of the AUKUS agreement. The Premier welcomed it, as I imagine, will our next guest, the Foreign Minister of Australia, South Australian Senator Penny Wong. Senator, good morning to you.

Foreign Minister: Good morning, Will. Good morning, Penbo.

David Penberthy, Host: Penny we’ll be unashamedly parochial, as we often are here on the 5AA Breakfast show. Firstly, huge news for South Australia.

Foreign Minister: It is huge news. I mean, this is the biggest single investment in our national power in Australia's history. But for those of us in South Australia, it is the biggest single investment in South Australia in our history, full stop. And it will transform our state, it will transform our economy and it will change for decades to come the opportunities young South Australians have just in the way, but at a much greater level of complexity that the car industry changed our state for so many decades.

Penberthy: We went to uni together, Penny.

Foreign Minister: We did.

Penberthy: And I reckon, I'm not going to tell any stories, but I reckon more than half of our friends don't live in Adelaide. Would you agree with that? Maybe more.

Foreign Minister: Yeah, I'd agree with that. I mean I think, we've seen over years, a lot of people go interstate and you know Adelaide’s, a lot of people from Adelaide are in senior positions, in high profile positions, in important positions internationally and in the state, whether it's in foreign affairs, including in the department where you saw Frances Adamson was the Secretary, or Annabel Crabb or Sam Maiden. I mean, there are so many people. Natasha Stott Despoja.

Penberthy: Phil Coorey.

Foreign Minister: Yeah, Phil Coorey. Yep.

Penberthy: Because I think the thing, more so for our parents and grandparents, so much of what has defined the sort of sense of almost dread for parents in Adelaide is the idea that your kids are going to have to move, be that a white collar job. And increasingly now with FIFO economy, blue collar jobs. This can change that, can it?

Foreign Minister: This can change that. And the reason I talked about economic complexity is because I just want to emphasise this isn't just, this is jobs at all sorts of levels. Not just construction jobs. It is construction jobs, and that's great. But this is an investment in infrastructure, in skills, and in the capacity to be part of producing some of probably the most complex engineering product capability that is the nuclear powered submarines that we have. So you can think about the spin off effects to the whole economy, as well as the direct employment, which is between 4-5,500 direct jobs here in Adelaide on the subs, plus 4,000 on the on the construction. So, I think it's a wonderful thing to think of where we might be, where we will be in 20 years, 30 years, in terms of the economic base that South Australia will have.

Goodings: Senator, what would you say to reassure people who are concerned that for that economic benefit to be realised and those jobs to be realised, that this is a plan that needs to survive changes of President in the United States, changes of government in the UK and changes of government in Australia as well?

Foreign Minister: Well first point I'd make is, I think, in all of those countries there is broad political support for this. Second, what I'd say is you will see investment from this year. We're already seeing Australian submariners being trained and working, being trained and to be embedded in US and UK forces. But I'd say, more broadly, this is a multi-decade undertaking and it's essentially an investment in all three countries, making sure we are one big submarine construction and sustainment yard with different bases, different aspects being done elsewhere. But we're all part of the same project. So I think by necessity, that will mean we will have to stay the course because we want to stay the course. And we see the benefits in Australia and South Australia and Adelaide, just as the US and the UK see benefits for them.

Goodings: With your Foreign Minister hat on for a moment, do you have any concerns about what the reaction to this deal being announced in China will be given we've seen in recent weeks and months as something of a thawing of the trade relationship with lobster looking like it's going to be back on the menu in China. Australian lobster, wine, barley and some of those things that had had unofficial trade bans posted on them looked like they were coming back. Are they at risk because of this at all?

Foreign Minister: Well, what I'd say publicly, and what I've said privately is this: Australia seeks this capability in order to help keep the peace. Australia seeks this capability in order to ensure we contribute to deterrence, to a stable, peaceful region in which sovereignty is respected. Australia always works to be part of a region which is peaceful and stable, and any capability we have, we see as being part of enabling that strategic balance or an equilibrium where all countries can maintain their sovereignty and where stability is respected. We never seek to escalate in what we do in the region or more generally.

Penberthy: Penny, one thing Phil pointed out when we caught up with Phil Coorey after 8:00 was that there's a mention in the agreement of the need to create some sort of nuclear waste storage facility in South Australia in about 25 years time. How do you see that playing out?

Foreign Minister: Well, the location well, first, we have a responsibility, because we're obviously very committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have a responsibility to deal with nuclear waste appropriately and this will require us, over years to come, and this is not an obligation which will apply where we will not have to store anything until the 2050s. We will have to find a location to store the waste from nuclear propulsion. So what we will do is to go through an audit of Defence land, Defence estate and Defence will make recommendations to government. But we are talking some decades off and no location has been determined.

Penberthy: Penny Wong, the Foreign Minister. Thank you so much for joining us this morning on what is a huge day in the history of SA and the country.

Foreign Minister: Big day. Thanks very much for having me. Cheers.

Penberthy: Cheers.

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