The Guardian • Issue #2030


Let’s rebuild the anti-war movement

Anti-war rally in Sydney, 2003.

There are many Australians currently opposed to the AUKUS pact with all its sinister implications for our country  since it was first handed to us as a fait accompli in September 2021 by former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. There has since been a swelling of support under various headings of anti-AUKUS around Australia, and one of them – the Anti-AUKUS Coalition – has been doing excellent work to highlight the need to cancel the acquisition of costly and dangerous nuclear-powered submarines. They recently placed advertisements in two major newspapers, which were signed by 1,000 groups and/or individuals. This response revealed how opposition to the AUKUS pact has been growing.

Australia has always rejected going down the nuclear path in the past. But when the recent Coalition governments were in power, this commitment was gradually chipped away. We need to insist that our present government signs the Treaty for Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Forty years ago Tom Uren led a march of over 40,000 people in Sydney to protest against “the threat of “mutually assured destruction” which had sparked protests around the world calling for nuclear disarmament – saying “NO TO NUCLEAR WAR.” And if he is to be believed, we must remind our present Prime Minister of his own words in 2015 at the Tom Uren AC Memorial – hosted by him and the Hon. Linda Burney, MP – when he said about his friend that “He lived an incredible life. He witnessed the depravity and cruelty of war, but he never lost his humanity. Tom went on to be a minister in the Hawke Labor government. He was an anti-war advocate. He was a strong anti-nuclear advocate.” Albanese went on to say how Uren was a father figure to him because he had been driven by values derived from his own experiences.” He stressed that Uren’s values were what influenced him.

So, with the threat of hosting nuclear submarines outside our major cities, perhaps it’s time to remind Albanese of these words from 2015 and say how important it is to still maintain a “NO NUCLEAR STANCE,” which has been ALP Policy since Mr Uren’s day, and realise that if Australia continues supporting the AUKUS pact, Australia is moving away from a very long held ALP Policy. Unless Australia gives up its support for AUKUS, it is travelling a road laid down by the United States of America and the United Kingdom’s defence and foreign policies.

There is no way the US or the UK can provide us with nuclear submarines as they are too busy building their own. But what is sure to happen is that Australia will be hosting UK and USA nuclear-powered submarines in a much shorter time scale, along with the expansion or re-development of at least one port on the east coast of Australia. The enormous cost of these vessels could be used to ameliorate all the social justice wrongs that exist in Australia today.

As someone who lives in Perth, WA, I’m not at all happy knowing nuclear submarines are visiting Garden Island – some 5-10 KM from Perth. And I’m sure people on the east coast weren’t exactly thrilled when former PM Morrison spoke about using an east coast port “for regular visits of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines.” This AUKUS pact will also include far more complexities, such as “cooperation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation, and information sharing.” And its focus on military capability separates it from the FIVE EYES intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes New Zealand and Canada.

Fortunately, we still have one (retired) PM with some sense. On the 14th October 2022 former PM Paul Keating’s statement said: “The announced agreement … will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the US with only one objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the US against China. […] This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the US robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate. […] Australia has had great difficulty in running a bunch of Australian-built conventional submarines, imagine the difficulty of moving to sophisticated nuclear submarines, their maintenance and operational complexity.” He went on to say that “Australia can do its own foreign policy, its own security arrangements and pacts, and develop its own defence capability without being owned by anyone else. But our strategic sovereignty is being outsourced to another country, the US.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that “the purchase of eight nuclear submarines under the AUKUS pact is expected to add at least another $100 billion to the nation’s already ballooning Defence bill, as the Albanese government seeks to rein in cost blowouts and delays of major military projects.”

Currently, the AUKUS pact has not yet been properly costed but possibly won’t stop at $100 million for the subs alone. There are many “incidentals” still not costed – for example, all the upgrades in the Northern Territory to the 5 Bases and other work announced by the Morrison government in 2021 and earlier.

We really need the ALP Federal government to change tack, and stop going blindly down the road left by the LNP. Let’s start talking about peace and, like Tom Uren, oppose all nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry. He was a strong advocate for socialism and a supporter of left and progressive politics which meant following the politics of social justice, human rights, equality for all, fairness between nations and caring for the environment.

If the Albanese government did this, Australia would be a fairer place. It’s time for change, a time to take Australia on a path of “politics for social justice,” which will make Australia a richer nation in many ways.

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