The Guardian • Issue #2045

Outrageous assault on peace and vulnerable Australians

The crew of the Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Rankin enters Pearl Harbor for a brief stop during RIMPAC 2018. Photo: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The naval nuclear reactors for Australia, announced today, represent one of the lowest points in Australian democracy in living memory. Unimaginable expenditure – up to $368 billion – has been announced for a single weapons capability, submarines, in a decision that was made behind closed doors and is overflowing with risks, many of which have barely been acknowledged yet. They include very significant risks to health, and healthcare for Australians. Prime Minister Albanese has betrayed his own people.

Vulnerable Australians will suffer even more in order for such largesse to flow to the military-industrial complex. Opposition leader Dutton has already indicated that the NDIS, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Australians with particular needs, might need to be attacked. Our health care system is in crisis in many areas. Countless thousands of Australians have nowhere to live, and yet our biggest financial investments will be in preparing to join yet another war of choice, this time between the US and China.

The submarines are intended to take part in a nuclear war, despite not being nuclear-armed themselves. Australia should urgently sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to remove any doubts about our intention to remain nuclear weapons free.

The submarine decision has been taken, in the name of defending “democracy,” by a tiny handful of people, with not a single Australian outside elite circles – some with vested interests –being consulted and listened to.

Naval nuclear reactors are to be imposed on one of our cities, currently thought to be Wollongong, after zero consultation with the people there. The “exemplary” safety record for UK and US submarines that our Defence Department claims is simply not true.

There are other questions that haven’t even been asked, let alone answered. What will be the carbon emissions from this vast submarine-building complex? How will the ramped-up hostility that we are witnessing affect prospects for climate action by the big powers? And the nuclear waste – will Australia become the dumping ground for high level nuclear waste? Already the US and the UK have stores of submarine nuclear waste that they don’t know what to do with.

* Dr Sue Wareham OAM is National President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia).
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