British High Commissioner confronts Dutton over UK submarine comments


Britain’s High Commissioner confronted Opposition Leader Peter Dutton over his warning that UK nuclear submarines should not be chosen by Australia as part of the AUKUS deal, saying his comments were not helpful and she did not agree with them.

Last week, Mr Dutton advocated for Australia to acquire its future nuclear submarine fleet from the United States instead of the UK.

He said he received advice when he was defence minister before last year’s election that the UK did not have the production capability to support an Australian program as well as its own. 

“The advice to me at the time was very clear: that Rolls-Royce didn’t have any production capability left, no headroom; Barrow-in-Furness is obviously landlocked, it didn’t have the ability to scale up,” he said at the time.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell said she spoke to Mr Dutton on Tuesday night and said she did not agree with his view.

“He is commenting on an outcome he doesn’t yet know,” she said.

“There is a lot of speculation, everyone is entitled to speculate.

“I was simply pointing out that I did not think such expressions were helpful on what is a genuine trilateral partnership started under his government.”

AUKUS announcement this month

Ms Treadell was also asked if the UK was prepared to align its own defence requirements to ensure it can work with both Australia and the United States as part of the partnership.

“In any partnership it is about how we work together, how we deliver together,” she replied.

“So there will be an interoperability in the way we move forward together.”

Earlier on Wednesday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed he would travel to the United States in coming days for a meeting with President Joe Biden. 

His confirmation follows reports that the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be making his way to San Diego in the coming week.

It follows ongoing negotiations between the three countries about the construction of nuclear powered submarines for Australia.

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