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7 May 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has expressed concern about the flooding incident onboard the submarine HMAS Sheean last year, reported in today's media, and its meaning for Australia's future submarine force.

"I have great faith in our well-trained submariners and our submarine maintenance organisation, but the brutal reality is they are both in a fight with ageing boats," Senator Patrick said. "It's very clear that Prime Minister Morrison's 2040 AUKUS submarine plan is not only putting national security at risk, but it's also putting our Collins submariners at undue risk".

"The Collins Class submarines were originally due to start retiring in 2025. The 2009 Defence White Paper and Defence Capability Plan announced a replacement submarine program that was supposed to see the construction of new submarines commence in Adelaide in 2016 with the first of the future submarines operational by the time the first Collins submarine was to retire."

"In the 13 years since the program was announced we have spent more than six billion dollars and just spun our wheels," Senator Patrick said. "Six billion in taxpayer dollars has been spent to date and in terms of submarine capability all we have to show for it is a nuclear submarine study underway".

"The AUKUS program is a flawed idea thought up in a hurry as a possible remedy to a failing French Attack Class submarine program. 2040 is way too late a delivery date given the current geo-strategic circumstances we find ourselves in. Prime Minister Morrison has seen us jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“On top of which the $170B price tag is unaffordable, particularly against a backdrop of a national debt exceeding one trillion dollars. And the likely overseas build of the AUKUS submarines overseas is a sovereign capability and Defence industry disaster.”

"The incident reported today highlights the additional risk that the AUKUS submarine program is placing on our submarine crews. The Government will need to extend the life of the the Collins class submarines, not one 10-year cycle, but two."

"In the ever-increasing likelihood that we ask our submariners to fight for us, they’ll not only be battling an enemy, they’ll also be battling problems caused by their ageing boats thanks to the incompetence of successive governments. The entire situation is completely unacceptable."