The Guardian • Issue #1996

Anti-AUKUS webinar provokes conservative contempt

Last week, the Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition (SAAC) hosted the Resisting AUKUS and War on China webinar.

The online webinar stoked outrage from Labor and Liberal politicians, as well as from the Daily Telegraph.

American author and activist Professor Noam Chomsky headlined the event.

The list of speakers also included trade unionists, an environmentalist, and anti-colonial professor, Dr Lisa Natividad. All spoke on the numerous negative effects resulting from the military deal. Issues raised included: effects on First Nations Peoples of the Pacific, the threat of war, as well as environmental and economic concerns.

The event drew the ire of The Daily Telegraph, who published an article attacking the webinar and those who attended it two days before it had even taken place.

In particular, the article criticised the attendance of Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) National Secretary Steve Murphy, who expressed his and the union’s opposition to the military pact and support for the campaign against it.

Murphy highlighted the union’s longstanding history of opposing nuclear proliferation and energy in Australia, as well as how AUKUS costs Australian jobs and sovereignty.

“The decision to pursue nuclear submarines has already cost shipbuilding jobs and we fear it will only get worse,” he said.

“The AUKUS deal is bad for our sovereign industrial capability. We want to build, maintain and sustain the Australia Navy’s ships and submarines in Australia.”

The article aims to use the AMWU’s position to attack on Anthony Albanese and the ALP in an upcoming election campaign gearing up for a campaign based on anti-Chinese fearmongering and militarism under the guise of “national security.”

“This is a test for Anthony Albanese; he can’t have a bet each way,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews is quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.

“Anthony Albanese was happy to take $464,000 from the AMWU last year; is he also happy to take their lead on AUKUS?”

The article goes on to equate opposing AUKUS with being a puppet of the Russian and Chinese governments, as well as accuses Albanese of being unable to control the “communists in his own party.”

This comes as Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have accused the ALP of being the preferred party of the Communist Party of China due to their supposed weakness on issues of national security, with Morrison labelling Labor MP Richard Marles a “Manchurian candidate.”

The SAAC webinar and its demonstration of mounting pressure against AUKUS within the union movement prompted Labor to “reject” the views expressed at the event.

The anti-AUKUS campaign has received support from the United Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia, Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, and the National Tertiary Education Union.

“Labor has supported AUKUS from the very beginning because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” Labor’s acting Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said.

“We recently reaffirmed that Labor in government will continue support for AUKUS when the British Foreign Secretary was in Australia, and we will be reaffirming that with the US Secretary of State directly when he visits later this week.”

This uncritical support for AUKUS by the ALP and its parliamentarians, as well as the party’s election assurances that they are equally as anti-China, pro-US, and pro-militarism as the Liberal government highlights the failure of the Labor Party to offer any meaningful opposition on matters of foreign policy.

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