Deep tensions over AUKUS


THE former professional head of Australia’s submarine fleet says any tensions caused by signing the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal are probably “valid and useful”.

Retired commodore Peter Scott has just written a memoir of his underwater career, which included active service in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan in 2006/07, and says Australia needed to acquire the nuclear-powered submarines it will buy as part of AUKUS.

“AUKUS is the optimal pathway for acquiring nuclear submarine capability and is very well articulated, very necessary, and very achievable,” Scott told the Herald. 

“I think that for as long as nuclear-powered submarines have existed, Australia has actually needed that capability. “

He says the tension created by signing the AUKUS deal was useful and deliberate. 

“I think the AUKUS deal is having an impact.

“It’s designed to do. 

It’s demonstrating that together with our allies, we value our sovereignty. We value our independence. 

“And we’re willing to invest and act to protect our sovereignty and our independence and our prosperity. 

“So, if that is causing tension anywhere, then it’s probably a valid and useful tension.”

Scott takes the reader into life aboard a submarine with Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life, and says the idea was to raise people’s awareness about their importance to Australia’s defence, as well as something of a recruitment pitch. 

“[Running Deep] is a memoir, of course. So, it’s very much been shaped and influenced by the life that I’ve led. 

“Not so much research, but absolutely the work that I did with the Navy was a fundamental influence on the content and the style of the memoir that I’ve written.

“For most Australians, service in submarines is an exotic and a largely unknowable way of life.

“I am also conscious that submarines are increasingly important for our national defence and security. 

“I’ve got many years of experience, working at different levels, in submarines and submarine capability. 

“I was inspired to write Running Deep to offer people insight into what is genuinely a real way of life, and also to offer a greater appreciation of the value of our submarines as a deterrent, or an offensive capability. 

“And perhaps a further hope is that I might be able to inspire some further generations of Australian submariners.”

The book is organised chronologically, and follows the three main phases of his navy career.

He signed up as a 17-year-old midshipman in 1983 and rose to hold multiple command posts. The final phase of his career saw him move into more strategic roles, such as advising the Chief of Navy on all matters submarine.

Scott hopes Running Deep will give the average reader insight into “what it takes to serve at sea, in the boats, and also what it means to be an Australian submariner.” 

He says the book will be important for current submariners as it fleshes out how they see themselves “connected to the wider Australian population that they serve”.

Scott points out several lessons and themes for the reader to focus on.

“There are some stories and perhaps some lessons on a couple of themes like survival, resilience, and leadership. 

“And while the book doesn’t aim to be a lecture on any of those, I think if people are looking for examples and ways to survive, challenges, overcome adversity and be resilient in the face of adversity and to lead others in complex and demanding environments, then there’s certainly something to take from the book in that regard.

“In my early years in the navy, I was impressed by [submarines’] capability. They are designed and built as offensive weapons of war. They’re built to sink ships and other submarines.”

Scott was also initially a little daunted once the hatch closed and the outside world seemed remote. 

“They’re very complex systems and they demand exceptionally well-trained people to operate them. And they demand a lot of great teamwork to operate them well.

“They [submarines] impressed me. They challenged me. 

“But also, you know, I found a home in submarines; I was always very at home, in the boats going out to sea and doing what we needed to do, and working with tremendous people who were similarly inspired by challenge and purpose. 

“So, yeah, I like submarines, and I like submariners.

Since retiring from the navy, Scott has been working as an executive coach.

“I help executive leaders to develop, perform and succeed at whatever it is that they aim to be successful at. 

“With the book launched, and once I get through a little bit of marketing efforts, I expect I’ll have more capacity to do more of the executive coaching. And, as I say, it’ll help other leaders to develop and achieve in their own way.

“Certainly, if they’re thinking about joining the submarine arm, they could do no better than to buy a copy of Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life and have a read.”

By Ariana Rosenberg

Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life
Peter Scott
Fremantle Press 

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