SYDNEY (Dispatches) -- Australia plans to build a A$10 billion (U.S.$7.4 billion) nuclear-powered submarine base on the country’s east coast after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and China’s refusal to condemn it had served as a “wake-up call” for Europe.
The new submarine base is the latest step in Australia’s push to bolster its military capabilities and to form alliances in the Indo-Pacific region as tensions with China mount. Canberra will invest A$578 billion in its defense forces over the next decade, including a deal with the UK and U.S. to modernize its submarine fleet.
The government has shortlisted sites in Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla, south of Sydney, for the new base, which will give the fleet immediate access to the Pacific Ocean, the Financial Times reported. Australia’s existing submarine base is in Western Australia, on the Indian Ocean.
Morrison, in a speech to the Lowy Institute, a think-tank, said the Ukraine conflict and recent tension with China — including the “needlessly provocative” use of a laser by the Chinese navy against an Australian surveillance plane off its north coast — meant the country faced its most dangerous security threat in 80 years.
“A new arc of autocracy is instinctively aligning to challenge and reset the world order in their own image,” he said. “Events are now lifting the veil. Perhaps the scales are beginning to fall from the world’s eyes also. At least I hope so.”
Morrison added that the Ukraine conflict was a “major wake-up call” for Europe, both strategically and economically. The prime minister said he welcomed the signs of a “more concerted, tough-minded European approach to autocrat adventurism”. He likened the new approach to moves by Australia and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region.