Scott Morrison sees AUKUS as 'much more than nuclear submarines' in critical tech shift

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to talk up the new Anglo-AUKUS trilateral grouping that's infuriated the French government as "much more than nuclear submarines", in a speech on Wednesday which seeks to set out a major new policy focus on emerging and critical science and technology.

Speaking to the inaugural Sydney Dialogue event, organised by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Mr Morrison will seek to address concerns in the cyber policy space that the nation risks being left behind if it does not seriously get behind a global quantum technology revolution.

The emerging and critical technology space includes quantum tech, as well as other fields such as artificial intelligence, drones, critical mineral extraction, genetic engineering and novel antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines.

In a speech, seen by The Canberra Times, the Prime Minister will release a critical technologies blueprint in a bid to drive research, investment, adoption and commercialisation.

There's also a new critical technologies priorities list and the launch of a National Quantum Strategy to be lead by Australia's Chief Scientist.

But it is the recent controversial AUKUS security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, and dumping of the $90 billion French subs deal, which has got Mr Morrison talking up tech.

"To state the obvious, AUKUS is about much more than nuclear submarines," he is expected to say.

"AUKUS will see Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States promote deeper information sharing; foster greater integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains; and strengthen our co-operation in advanced and critical technologies and capabilities."

Apart from French disappointment and accusations of betrayal and deception, costs to sovereignty has been a major element of the criticisms of the AUKUS deal, most notably from former prime ministers Paul Keating and Malcolm Turnbull.

But Mr Morrison sees great positives in technology sharing among the AUKUS grouping with the US and UK.

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Mid-next month, officials will report back to leaders with a proposed AUKUS work plan involving exchanges of information, personnel and advanced technologies and capabilities.

"It's a big agenda," Mr Morrison is expected to say.

"AUKUS is a broad and adaptable partnership that will drive our technology and capability co-operation to meet the challenges of the 21st century in our region, the Indo-Pacific region."

Focusing on quantum tech in his speech, Mr Morrison will say he wants Australia to be a quantum technology leader in the Indo-Pacific and it is time to go to the next level.

"Quantum science and technology has the potential to revolutionise a whole range of industries, including finance, communications, energy, health, agriculture, manufacturing, transport, and mining," the Prime Minister will say.

"Quantum sensors, for example, could improve the discovery of valuable ore deposits and make groundwater monitoring more efficient; and quantum communications could provide for secure exchange of information to better secure financial transactions.

"Quantum technologies will also have defence applications, like enabling navigation in GPS denied environments and helping to protect us from advanced cyber attacks."

Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, has been asked to lead the development of a National Quantum Strategy to "better integrate industry and government activities."

The Sydney Dialogue event is also due to also be addressed virtually over the next three days by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

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This story Scott Morrison goes for AUKUS sell in new critical tech focus first appeared on The Canberra Times.