Australia to send team to New Zealand to investigate what joining 'pillar 2' of AUKUS could look like

  • 01/02/2024

New Zealand and Australia ministers have on Thursday agreed to have an Australian team travel to Aotearoa to investigate what could be offered up for a potential pillar 2 AUKUS agreement. 

AUKUS is a three-way pact between Australia, the UK and US.  The three powers form pillar 1, a pact to provide eight nuclear-powered submarines which costs an estimated AU$368 billion.

New Zealand has expressed interest in 'pillar 2’, which is about developing and sharing advanced technology, like articial intelligence and autonomy, and advanced cyber and electronic warfare.   

"Ministers discussed the AUKUS trilateral partnership and agreed it made a positive contribution toward maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," a joint statement from Winston Peters, Judith Collins and Australia's Penny Wong and Richard Marles said. "Ministers also welcomed the Quad's commitment to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and its positive and practical agenda to support Indo-Pacific countries' priorities and needs. 

"Australia will continue to engage close partners, including New Zealand, to ensure our efforts are mutually reinforcing and complementary." 

However, during a Thursday afternoon press conference, Marles - Australia's deputy PM and Defence Minister - stressed there were a lot of details to work out before pillar 2 could even be joined. 

"We'd want to see runs on the board in relation to pillar 2 between the three countries - Australia, US and UK - but in the longer-term, we're open to the idea of pillar 2 being open," he told reporters. 

The ministers on Thursday also agreed to increased defence interoperability, stressing how complex the world is becoming. 

"Building on our Anzac history, ministers committed to increasing integration between our military forces, including through common capability, exchanges of senior military officers and increased participation in warfighting exercises," the joint statement said. 

"Recognising the importance of the Pacific to both countries, ministers agreed to continue efforts, in conjunction with Pacific countries, to strengthen regional cooperation and interoperability.   

"Ministers also committed to enhancing joint deterrence efforts, including through joint exercises and training."