Antarctic video gallery
Contract signed for Australia's new icebreaker
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:
Today represents another chapter in the Turnbull government’s plan to drive a stronger economy through an embrace of innovation and scientific research and endeavour. Yesterday, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I announced Australia’s Antarctic Strategy and our 20 Year Action Plan, which establishes Australia as a leader in the Antarctic.
The Treaty regime that governs the Antarctic is undoubtedly in Australia’s national interest, and we support that Treaty’s regime. And it’s interesting to note that when the Antarctic Treaty was first signed in 1959 there were 12 signatory countries; today there are 53.
We are a leader in the Antarctic because it’s in our interests for the Antarctic to remain a natural reserve. There is no mining, no militarisation, it is for peaceful purposes, for scientific research and endeavour.
The centrepiece of our 20 Year Action Plan will be the commissioning of a new icebreaker, a state of the art icebreaker for Australia to continue our groundbreaking Antarctic research. The exciting news is that the icebreaker will be housed here in Hobart, this will be its home port, and that will mean a significant amount of work for local businesses, it will mean more local jobs for the maintenance, the supply and the operations to the Antarctic more generally.
We’re very excited to be working with partners DMS Maritime and other partners for the commissioning of this new icebreaker, a far cry from Sir Douglas Mawson’s first effort in 1911. And this represents a new era in Australia’s leadership in the Antarctic, and in terms of the scientific research, development and endeavour that we will be able to undertake.
And so I’m very pleased as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and responsible for our Treaty obligations to be part of this signing ceremony today which really does mean an enormous amount for Hobart and for Tasmania, reconfirming its status as the premier gateway to East Antarctica.
Now can I hand over to my friend the Environment Minister.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt:
Thanks very much to Julie, and in particular for that overview of Australia’s role in the Antarctic Treaty system and as a global gateway to the Antarctic. To Julie; to Matt Groom, the Tasmanian Minister for State Growth and Environment; to our Senators, Senate President Stephen Parry and Senator David Bushby who together really have been absolute drivers of the Antarctic vision for Tasmania; to our Senate Candidate Jonno Duniam, and to our magnificent Tasmanian lower house members Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson and our candidates Amanda-Sue Markham and Marcus Allen.
And of course to everybody involved with this project, it’s an absolute thrill to be here at the signing ceremony for Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker. The vision, as Julie has said, is to be a global gateway for the Antarctic, indeed to be the global gateway and that’s about Tasmania, that’s about Hobart, but it’s also about the great scientific vision.
Yesterday we announced $255 million for the over land transport, the capacity to search for the great million year ice core, to be engaged in the search for the holy grail of Antarctic research, and all of the funding which goes with it.
Today we are announcing a $1.91 billion lifetime contract for the new Antarctic icebreaker so $1.91 billion for a new Antarctic icebreaker. That is broken up in terms of $530 million for the construction and testing and delivery of the icebreaker and then about $1.38 billion for the lifetime operation, maintenance and development of the icebreaker of which $1.1 billion we expect will be spent here in Tasmania.
So that is a $1.1 billion benefit directly to Tasmania, one of the largest Commonwealth expenditures ever, in Tasmania, and it’s for science, it’s for climate research, it’s for environmental research and it’s for education and health all in Tasmania.
Tasmania has the capacity to become the world’s global gateway but the world’s premier southern hemisphere Antarctic research centre, and that’s about building on our magnificent institutions here.
So that’s a huge contract. But what’s the ship about? The ship is the Millenium Falcon of the Antarctic icebreaking world. Faster, stronger and more capable. And so its length is 156 metres. Its speed is 16 knots. Its capacity is 1.65 metres of ice depth which can be broken when travelling at three knots. And so this is an extraordinary ability to transport people and fuel and logistics to our supply bases so it makes them stronger, but it’s also a scientific platform in itself.
It has bathymetric capacity to map the sea bed, to imagine what could be the case, to discover things which were never known and which may never have been imagined. And so what a vision of the future in scientific research and innovation, and it’s real, and it’s happening here in Tasmania.
It has a scientific platform, so it will be doing in sea trials, it will be doing work on krill, work on the Southern Ocean system, work on the impacts of climate change on our great oceanic systems, so this is the future, here now in Tasmania.
And so with that I am delighted to say that the Commonwealth will today be signing the agreement with DMS Maritime and to be built by Damen shipyards. It’s a great achievement, and to our negotiators, Peter Block, and David Sumner and team, a marathon effort, great outcome, we thank you, we congratulate you and we say to Tasmania, you are now the future. Thank you.
Minister Hunt launches Australian Antarctic Strategy
Let me step back for a moment. Australia’s vision for the Antarctic is of an area of the world’s last great wildernesses. It’s a majestic environment that we want to preserve in its pristine state and to preserve as an area of peaceful cooperation, not competition. And as part of that vision, we want to be the world leading gateway to the Antarctic. And Hobart is the gateway to the Antarctic for the future. That’s what we are seeking to do and that’s what we are setting out as part of this process.
What are our national interests beyond this vision? Our national interests really are four-fold.
Firstly at the environmental level we are custodians of the Antarctic along with others, as an original signatory of the Antarctic Treaty, we have a deep strong duty, we want to preserve this incredible area not just for decades, not just for generations but for eons and eons hence. That is, this generation’s duty and legacy for future generations.
Beyond that, science is a key national interest. This funding today, and this strategy helps us in the search for the million-year ice core. This is one of the world’s great scientific endeavours, and it is likely, on the advice I have from Dr Nick Gales and other scientists within AAD, that if the ice core is to be found, it will be found in Australia’s Antarctic Territory.
A tremendous opportunity, and this is about unearthing the secrets of our climate, unearthing the secrets of our history, in the ice core, and I’ve been fortunate to do ice core exploration work, you discover the history of climate activity over the life of that ice core. And so the bubbles that are found, the concentrations that are found tell us what the climate was like, how it responded, how it acts. And we can learn from that about the very things that will impact on our day to day lives and our trends here in Hobart, here in Tasmania, and here in Australia more broadly.
Beyond the interests of environment and science, we also have the great tasks of national security, and a peaceful cooperative Antarctica is a critical piece of a peaceful cooperative Southern Ocean, and if we have a Southern Ocean which is free of strategic competition, then Australia is safer and the costs for Australians are dramatically lower.
And then last of all we have the economic, and growth and jobs benefits to Hobart and Tasmania, Hobart being the global gateway to the Antarctic. This is about science jobs, education jobs, it’s about logistical jobs, it’s about the attraction of Hobart as a world class visiting point for the creation of climate science, of environmental science, of Antarctic science and for people to participate in that.
So that’s the grand vision, coupled with the interests, then what are the actions which are set out in this 20 Year Strategy and Action Plan for Australia’s Antarctic engagement.
And the actions really boil down to three things. Overall, there’ll be an announcement or there will be an allocation of $255 million of additional new funds over the next 10 years. That is $200 million for firstly the operation of AAD, it’s an average $20 million a year filip to their budget, that’s tremendously important not just for the work of AAD but, as Nick was explaining, the long term ability to plan science. So more scientists on the ice, but with the ability to look and plan over a series of years. I think that’s exceptionally important.
Then beyond that there’s an additional $55 million for on-ice activities as well and that includes the $45 million for a traverse capability. What does it mean? Look over here at the yellow Hagglunds, this is the sort of thing, but with a newer, better, faster version which can help us with what we’re doing on the ice. So overall we’ll be building the ability to traverse inland, to create science opportunities so our scientists are safe, but they are also more mobile, they’re able to be engaged in the search for the million year ice core, they’re able to be engaged in the search for new information about Antarctic life, about the Antarctic climate and about its impacts as a centrepiece of the global climate system.
And then there is $10 million which is for the feasibility study for the bankability study for an all year round runway. This will look at the question of is it economically feasible and attractive, is it physically feasible and achievable and if so where and how should it be built? There will be testing involved, and that’s a really important project.
But right now, a new traverse capability which will give our scientists an unparalleled opportunity and put us right at the forefront, and then the next step, and that comes on top of the announcement only last week of ‘green for go’ for the Hobart runway which will be extended, and in a short period of time that will mean that there’s an extra capability for heavy lift, for extra science through aerial transportation to Antarctica.
There’s one more element, and that of course is the new icebreaker, I will say we are very close to a very significant announcement on a new icebreaker and the full funding for that will be announced in due course. Our negotiators are working very hard and I expect an announcement on that in the imminent future.
Put together, this is the greatest investment in Antarctic research in Australian history and it’s a tribute to all of the scientists here.