The confirmation of a new speaker of the House in the US Congress has sparked hopes a landmark deal to sell US nuclear-powered submarines to Australia can finally be approved.
As US President Joe Biden and visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday, Republican senator Mike Johnson was voted in as speaker.
That ended a weeks-long stalemate in Congress amid concerns the subs deal may be delayed or opposed.
Told the news during the press conference, Mr Biden said: “I urge Congress to pass AUKUS legislation this year. We have to get moving.
“I am confident we are going to be able to get the money for AUKUS because it is overwhelmingly in our interest.
“This is about maintaining stability in the Taiwan Straits, in the Indian Ocean, the whole area. I think it will increase the prospects for long-term peace.”
There have been concerns expressed by Republicans in the US Congress that selling submarines to Australia could compromise the provision of submarines to the US navy due to production shortfalls.
Mr Biden said he had last week sent Congress a budget request with commitments to boost submarine production and maintenance capacity in the US.
“Democrats, Republicans alike understand the strategic value AUKUS brings to our nations. And I urge Congress, I urge Congress, to pass our AUKUS legislation this year,” the president said.
“It’s important that Congress move quickly. And the fact is that I’m confident that we can get this done,” Mr Biden said.
The president thanked Mr Albanese for investments Australia had made to strengthen the submarine industry base.
The prime minister said Australia appreciated the US administration’s efforts to action AUKUS goals and work with Congress to pass the legislation needed.
“We are conscious that this is only the second time in history that the United States has shared this technology,” Mr Albanese said.
“AUKUS will drive innovation and co-operation to provide the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom with improved capability to help secure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
Mr Albanese is shortly heading to China where he will meet President Xi.
“It is in the global interest for us to have a relationship where there is dialogue. Through dialogue comes understanding and a defusion of tension. We want a peaceful and secure region but one that is based on the rule of law,” he said.