Australia news LIVE: Historic AUKUS deal set to create 20,000 jobs, PM says; Dutton, Coalition to support federal budget cuts to pay for submarines

Key posts

  • Search for site to store high-level radioactive waste from nuclear submarines
  • What a $368 billion submarine price tag means for the budget
  • Russian fighter jet hits unmanned US drone
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Search for site to store high-level radioactive waste from nuclear submarines

The search for a site to store high-level radioactive waste will begin in the next year after the government confirmed details of its plan to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

While Defence Minister Richard Marles said there were decades to select the site, which would be on current or future Defence land, its location could prove controversial.

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS South Dakota (SSN 790) transits the Thames River during a homecoming event at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton.

Marles told the ABC the location would need to be remote, in an area with geological stability, and one that the government could keep secure.

“We’re blessed with large parts of the country where that’s possible. We have made clear this will happen on Defence land, be it current or future Defence land,” he said.

The full story on the search for a site to store radioactive waste is available here.

What a $368 billion submarine price tag means for the budget

Treasurer Jim Chalmers will have to find up to $31 billion in budget savings over the coming decade to offset the medium-term cost of the government’s planned fleet of nuclear-powered submarines while also making space for the surging expense of other programs.

The headline total cost of the 32-year plan, at between $268 billion and $368 billion, dwarfs the size of most spending programs or major infrastructure projects.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, speaks to Captain Gary Lawton, Commanding Officer at HMAS Stirling in WA.Credit:AAP

The initial shock of this huge figure, however, abates once you consider the long period over which the submarines are to be built.

The government estimates that over the budget forward estimates – between 2023-24 and 2026-27 – the project will cost $9 billion. Of that, it says it has already offset $6 billion, as it is not proceeding with the abandoned French Attack-class submarine project.

Read more on the budget issue here. 

Russian fighter jet hits unmanned US drone

A Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday in a “brazen violation of international law,” causing American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle, the US said.

Moscow said the US drone maneuvered sharply and crashed into water following an encounter with Russian fighter jets scrambled to intercept it near Crimea, but insisted its warplanes didn’t fire their weapons or hit the drone.

Units of one of the territorial defence brigade participate in military drills on a training ground in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine this week.Credit:AP

The incident, which raised tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, appeared to mark the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft was brought down after being hit by a Russian warplane.

It comes after the International Criminal Court will seek warrants for Russian officials for their role in the Ukraine war, particularly forcibly deporting children and targeting civilian infrastructure.

The latest news from the war is available here. 

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Wednesday, March 15. I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

It’s the day after the historic AUKUS deal, but discussions on how Australia will pay for the $368 billion project are ongoing.

Here’s what else you need to know before we get started:

  • Staying with the submarines’ pact for the moment, with the search for a site to store the high-level radioactive waste to start next year.
  • As flagged above, Australians will be urged to accept hard decisions to fund the decades-long plan to build the AUKUS submarines.
  • A senior Indonesian official says Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines should not use the country’s sea lanes because “AUKUS was created for fighting”. Meanwhile, China has also lashed the deal. Foreign Minister Penny Wong is set to speak about the issue later this morning.
  • Former Liberal deputy leader Fred Chaney and Labor elder Pat Dodson are urging Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to support the Voice to parliament.
  • To NSW election news, where the state’s Labor Party has been accused of trying to buy votes in the inner Sydney seat of Balmain after a campaign manager offered a school P&C $20,000 from an internal campaign fund.
  • In Victoria, the state government will ask the Albanese government to help fund Victoria’s resurrected State Electricity Commission under a plan to build a publicly controlled wind or solar energy farm.
  • Turning to the war in Ukraine, where the International Criminal Court is expected to seek the arrest of Russian officials for forcibly deporting children and targeting civilian infrastructure.
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