Deterring at a distance: Luke Gosling MP makes the strategic case for AUKUS

Federal Labor MP Luke Gosling has defended the strategic benefits of Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS partnership, in a new Lowy Institute Analysis.

In his paper, entitled Deterring at a distance: The strategic logic of AUKUS, Mr Gosling argues nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) will significantly improve the Australian Defence Force’s deterrence and warfighting capabilities.

“By acquiring SSNs, Australia will be able to enter into the deterrence game in earnest because it can credibly threaten painful consequences for attempts to attack the country,” he writes.

Mr Gosling rebuts the leading arguments of AUKUS critics, who claim the financial, logistical, strategic, or sovereignty hurdles for Australia acquiring SSNs are too great. In fact, Mr Gosling argues Australia should consider building SSNs continuously from the 2050s.

“Beyond avoiding a shipbuilding ‘valley of death’ and locking in economies of scale, the advantage of maintaining a sovereign SSN capability indefinitely cannot be overstated, particularly in wartime, when parts will be at a premium.”

Mr Gosling acknowledges there are risks in the plan to acquire SSNs but says they are the most effective option available to Australia.

“Australia must make itself into a bigger threat to deter aggressors, limiting their freedom of action in order to safeguard its own. And there are no better means of doing that than the SSNs Australia will get under the AUKUS deal.”

According to the 2024 Lowy Institute Poll, released earlier this month, almost two-thirds of Australians are in favour of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.

Mr Gosling will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles at the official launch of the paper at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday 25 June.


  • Nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) will be central to Australia’s defence strategy in contingencies prioritised by the Defence Strategic Review, such as defeating threats of invasion or stand-off attack, countering a naval blockade, and supporting the regional balance of power.
  • SSNs will give Australia added strategic weight to deter a more powerful adversary by demonstrating the country’s capability to target forces that would otherwise outrange its own, and which could be used to coerce Australia at a distance.
  • To further grow Australia’s deterrent, future governments should consider building more SSNs continuously from the 2050s.

The Analysis Deterring at a distance: The strategic logic of AUKUS is available to read and download at the Lowy Institute website.


Andrew Griffits
Head of Media and Communications