South Australia’s Budget on Thursday will include $5.4 million to establish an Office for AUKUS to bring the massive submarine and technology project to life and act as a contact point for federal counterparts.
“This new office will play a key role in co-ordinating agencies across government to ensure we deliver a highly skilled workforce and the infrastructure we need to make the AUKUS program a reality,” South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said.
The office will be established before the end of the year and be a unit within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The new office will coordinate several state agencies and departments’ initial AUKUS efforts and be responsible for delivering the state’s joint-commitments with the federal government to the trilateral security pact.
So far these include securing more land for new submarine construction yard and training academy, and delivering the workforce and infrastructure needed to deliver and operate the submarine fleet.
Various state agencies will be involved in AUKUS, including Defence SA and the departments of Premier and Cabinet, Industry, Innovation and Science, Energy and Mining, and Education.
The staffing levels are yet to be determined, according to a state government spokesperson.
“Now funding has been confirmed in the State Budget, planning will commence on the structure of the unit – including staffing arrangements,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
The office will also serve as a point of contact for federal agencies leading the $368 billion, multi-decade program.
Under the AUKUS “optimal pathway” revealed in March, Australia plans to build at least eight nuclear powered SSN-AUKUS boats in Adelaide, with American Virginia class submarines bought as a stop gap.
The new state office will help implement the Australian nuclear-powered submarine construction program at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide and be responsible for delivering the state’s part of the AUKUS Cooperation agreement.
Mr Malinauskas and federal Defence minister Richard Marles signed the AUKUS Cooperation Agreement in March.
It includes an initial commitment to 800 additional Commonwealth Supported Places at South Australian universities over the next four years, which was funded in the May federal Budget.
The agreement also includes a commitment to invest in research capability and infrastructure as well as to “progress consideration of options for defence-related science and technology facilities in Adelaide”.
Susan Close said AUKUS would put state industry “at the forefront of one of Australia’s greatest industrial undertakings”.
“This is a unique opportunity for South Australia, which will deliver jobs and benefit the economy for future generations, while providing industry with a major capability and capacity uplift,” she said.
The Commonwealth and state governments are currently working on a Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce, which is expected to make its recommendations around September and October 2023.
This article has been updated to include additional information on the Office for AUKUS structure and establishment.
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