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Peter Dutton

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Peter Dutton on US combat assets in Australia, China, and Vladimir Putin

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Peter Dutton works on faster timetable for nuclear-powered subs.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton says he would like to see more American combat capability based in Australia.

Speaking on the “Politics with Michelle Grattan” podcast, Dutton says: “I’d be very open to it. I would be very, very happy to have that discussion with the US if they saw a strategic advantage in doing so.”

He says there is significant visiting by US airforce, navy and army forces (together with the current marine rotation). “And if that is accompanied by, or there’s a subsequent decision to base further numbers, we’d be very happy to have that discussion with the US – or with the UK, for that matter.”

Last September’s AUSMIN talks committed “to significantly advance Australia-United States force posture cooperation”.

Dutton also reiterates he’s working on the acceleration of the timetable for the nuclear-powered submarines, a centrepiece of last year’s AUKUS agreement between Australia, the US and Britain. “I can assure you, the 20 year timeline is nonsense. I believe that we will be able to acquire well before that”.

Discussions with the US and UK have been “very productive” and “I’ll have more to say on that in due course once the discussions continue”.

“Everything [is] on the table with the US and the UK at the moment, and we will achieve capability well ahead of what the critics are pointing out at the moment.”

“I’ve been driving the process, receiving weekly updates, engaging with our counterparts. And this has momentum. It has buy-in from the US and the UK. It has an urgency because of the way in which the Chinese government is positioning in the Indo-Pacific”.

Asked about criticism that his language on China is too belligerent, Dutton says, “I do believe that China is on a pathway of aggression, particularly toward Taiwan, and I want to be part of what I think is a majority view around the world to stop that from taking place.

"I want China to continue to grow economically. I want to see people lifted out of poverty, but I don’t want to see a clash, particularly between great powers. And I think again, we’re better off to be frank in our assessments and to argue from a position of strength, not weakness, because otherwise, we will find ourselves in conflict in the Indo-Pacific, and that’s not what anybody wants.”

Dutton doesn’t step back from his description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as an ageing dictator who is becoming more and more irrational.

“People only need to look at his track record and concerning human rights abuses in Russia. There’s no sense when we’re dealing with a bully of any nature, believing that if we just close our ears and our mouth, that somehow the bully will become a good person.”

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