New depths in Australia-US relations: the Collins Class Submarine project

Author/s (editor/s):

Maryanne Kelton

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 162

Controversy has swamped the Collins class submarine project since the tender process was concluded in the late 1980s. Why was this? In order to answer this question through the course of this paper, I begin by describing some of the intimate project details and then analyse how the project was captive of a change in broad foreign and defence policy orientation between the two governments who assumed responsibility for the submarines' construction and delivery. Whilst the project was initiated during an era where the ALP promoted a more independent policy posture, after its election in 1996 the Coalition prioritised its bilateral relationship with the United States. The policy divergence between these two postures manifested themselves in the tangible tensions surrounding the delivery of the Collins submarines. Concurrently I also suggest how the project's realisation has been detrimentally affected by its manipulation in Australian domestic politics.

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