War — what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, according to Anthony Albanese.
The Australian prime minister wasn't interested in discussing the prospect of Australia engaging in a military war while defending a commitment to spend as much as $368 billion on a new submarine fleet, in a contentious deal announced this week.
The prospect of war with China has been front and centre in Australia's media in recent weeks (much to the chagrin of China and former Australian prime minister Paul Keating), but it wasn't something the current PM wanted to talk about when appearing on The Project on Thursday night.
When asked if the eye-watering sum of taxpayer money committed to the subs was "a sign that the threat is real?", Mr Albanese wouldn't be drawn.
"I don't think it is constructive to talk about war," he replied.
Mr Albanese said the deal was about ensuring Australia had the best defence capability possible and said his government was also investing in relationships.
"I had a very constructive meeting with President Xi last year," he said.
"We have had our foreign ministers meet, including Penny Wong visiting Beijing in December. Our Defence Ministers have met, our trade ministers will meet soon. We've seen some of the impediments to trade between our two countries be removed. They are our major trading partner. We want friendly relationships, we want to cooperate wherever we can," he said.
However host Waleed Aly urged the PM to address the elephant in the room.
But you can't spend this much money on weapons of war and say you don't want to talk about war.Waleed Aly
Mr Albanese responded by asserting that it makes sense for us, as an island continent, to have a strong navy.
"The advantage of nuclear subs is they can go faster, they are quieter, they can stay at sea for longer. They are just better.
"Yes, they are more expensive but in terms of value for money, having the best that is less detectable, that provides you with more security, that provides a greater deterrent then that is a good investment. We have made that decision," he said.
Australia makes $1.3 billion missile purchase
On Friday, Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed Australia is also set to acquire hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States as part of the AUKUS security pact.
"It's a really important part of what we need to be doing with our posture, which is to have a greater ability to project," he told Nine's Today program about the $1.3 billion purchase.
"Making sure we have longer-range strike missiles is a really important capability for the country. It enables us to be able to reach out beyond our shores further and that's ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe."
On Thursday, Mr Albanese defended attacks on the government by Labor heavyweight and former PM Paul Keating (1991 to 1996) who argued China isn't a threat to Australia.
"My responsibility in 2023 is to give Australians the leadership they need now, not what they might have needed in the 1990s," Mr Albanese told reporters.
"I am determined to make sure we do just that."
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