The prime minister has indicated he will take part on Friday in what is expected to be the most contentious debate on the floor of Labor’s national conference — that surrounding the AUKUS security pact — as the government attempts to quell internal disquiet over the contentious deal with the US and UK.
His deputy, Defence Minister Richard Marles, is planning to introduce a 32-paragraph statement in support of AUKUS to the party’s official platform.
It will say that nuclear-powered submarines are aligned with Australia’s strategic interests.
But other party members are seeking to pass motions that are deeply critical of the pact.
A group led by New South Wales state Labor MP Anthony D’Adam is seeking to remove a clause that says the deal will “enhance” Australia’s self-reliant defence policy from the party’s platform.
Mr Albanese was asked on 7.30 if the party faithful at the conference should hear directly from him on the matter.
“Quite possibly they will be … tomorrow,” Mr Albanese said.
The prime minister confirmed he would be attending the conference on Friday morning, when defence is on the agenda, and foreshadowed that viewers would see his contributions to the debate reported on the nightly news.
The Marles motion, co-sponsored by Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy, will also include reassurances that AUKUS will lock in well-paid jobs for unionised workers, and will not undercut Labor’s commitments on nuclear disarmament.
“We’re a democratic party,” Mr Albanese said.
“And the difference between us and the Liberal Party is they hold conferences and no-one focuses on anything they’re talking about because they’re essentially just fundraisers.”
“The Greens … exclude the media,” he said.
The government has committed to disposing of the spent nuclear reactors and waste from the AUKUS submarines when they are eventually decommissioned.
“Obviously, this isn’t something that is imminent,” Mr Albanese said.
The nuclear reactors in the planned AUKUS submarines will use US/UK designs fuelled by highly enriched uranium and will not need to be refuelled for the lives of the vessels.
The Department of Defence has been asked to investigate potential sites for nuclear-waste disposal on defence-owned land and will report back to the government on options.
The prime minister pushed back on the suggestion that his government was trying to “fend off” the wider party’s attempts to change its positions at the conference.
“I don’t think that’s right,” the prime minister said.
He said the government was setting the agenda on climate change, manufacturing and child care.
Source : ABC