The Guardian • Issue #2046


Minnow Australia in the Anglosphere

Why does Australia want nuclear submarines at all? The 2016 Defence White Paper tell us that “the key capabilities of the future submarine will include:

  • Anti-submarine warfare;
  • Anti-surface warfare;
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and
  • Support to special operations.

A diesel submarine can do all four and the 2020 Force Structure Plan admits this in its discussion of the future submarine’s capabilities to “regional anti-submarine warfare.” If any such actions are purely intended for regional purposes, then diesel submarines are all that we need.

Defence documents, however, talk about “interoperability with the United States,” which has 54 nuclear powered attack submarines compared with Russia’s 12 and China’s 6 ballistic missile submarines. So, presumably we need American nuclear-powered attack submarines in order to sink these “enemy” submarines before they could launch their missiles? I’m visualising scenes from Dr Strangelove already!

Of course, as anyone paying any attention to this knows, AUKUS isn’t about the subs, it’s about maintaining US superiority in the region and in order to do that we need nuclear-powered submarines with the ability to seek, track, trail, and (if necessary) destroy Chinese and Russian nuclear ballistic submarines. The creation of AUKUS is all about consolidating the global, nuclear “Anglosphere”, in which “minnow” Australia is a geographical superpower.

Unfortunately, we in the West are currently seeing our Garden Island’s Fleet Base West, being upgraded to the tune of $8 million to host these subs. We provide a politically stable and easily supplied home base for these AUKUS subs and plenty of space to expand for any support infrastructure considered necessary. In the event of the US dragging us into a war with China over Taiwan, this will make Perth a very vulnerable target. The vice-president of Beijing’s semi-official Centre for China and Globalisation, Victor Gao, has warned that “Australia itself will be a target for possible nuclear attacks in the future” because of AUKUS.

In the midst of all this talk of war any level-headed person has to question the use of submarines at all in today’s war scenario. But $368 billion says otherwise. They may never actually deploy nuclear weapons – in fact we’re about to sign the Treaty of Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – but hosting nuclear-powered submarines could sound our death knell.

Why are we suddenly changing from being a solid, peaceful citizen in our region helping to provide global security into becoming used as an American base for its war games? Whatever we may think of China’s behaviour towards its smaller neighbours (if what we hear is not to be taken with a grain of salt) we need to mind our own business and show respect to other cultures.

Australia is well able to defend itself. We have a well-provisioned RAAF, a competent patrol-boat flotilla policing our shores, and an army which plays a role in promoting global security. This “forever partnership” with the US and UK puts us at real risk of WW3.

It’s time to stop spending billions buying US and UK submarines and start putting our own house in order: a house that is at present falling down around our ears.

Eileen Whitehead

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More