- by Denis Doherty
- The Guardian
- Issue #2054
Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition poster.
Decaying capitalism is turning the world upside down. Australians are sleeping in the streets and going without food and health care while half a trillion dollars will be spent on nuclear submarines, long range missiles, hypersonic weapons and more military hardware. This is an immoral, inhuman, inexcusable crime – and it must be reversed. We must have a peace budget now.
The recent federal budget showed what we can expect – the skewing of our resources to support the US drive to war with China while wages remain low, jobseeker gets a slight increase, and housing remains lost in a whirl of pretend policies which will not produce one social house until 2025, let alone the public housing this country needs.
Spending on the military rather than civilian areas of the economy results in a net loss of jobs. This is because military spending is less effective at creating jobs than virtually any other form of government activity.
The government wants 4000 extra university places and has committed “$150 million to start delivering the skills and workforce we need to deliver Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine program.”
But these are jobs for death and destruction. Where are the jobs for a happy and sustainable future?
In 2008 the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Conservation Foundation produced a report that said Australia could become a world leader in creating green industries generating up to a million green collar jobs by 2030 as well as multi-billion dollar export opportunities in green technology.
WAR ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Australia’s future depends on a healthy planet, but military spending amounts to a war on the environment. All military activity is highly polluting and a major contributor to climate change.
We must have a peace budget that includes developing stronger disaster preparedness and response capabilities. This includes dealing with fire and flood in Australia as well as aid for Pacific communities which are being hit with repeated disasters, including devastating cyclones, tidal surges, and sea-water inundation.
Under AUKUS, Australia will be responsible for storing the nuclear waste from the decommissioned submarine reactors.
However, Australia has not found a permanent site to store low-level nuclear waste, let alone highly radioactive waste.
When the first three subs are at the end of their lives – in about 30 years according to Marles – about 600kg of highly enriched uranium will have to be stored. Because the fuel is weapons-grade, it will need military-scale security.
Every site suggested so far has been on indigenous land and opposed by its traditional owners.
Australia’s military budget is on the cusp of surging past $50 billion a year and the recent Defence Strategic Review encouraged a further $19 billion spending, including $4.1 billion for long range strike missiles, $3.8 to strengthen northern bases, and $400 million to retain Australian soldiers – all signs of an increasing move to war.
Instead of these lethal destabilising purchases, a peace budget would allow Australia to develop stronger disaster preparedness and response capabilities and climate-adaption initiatives.
This is important so we can deal more effectively with Australia’s escalating fires, floods, and droughts but it is also critical for Pacific communities hit with repeated devastating cyclones, tidal surges, and sea-water inundation.
The military is profoundly influencing foreign affairs. The Murdoch papers crudely put it as: “Australia’s push to curb China’s regional coercive ambitions has been given a $2 billion boost allowing for more regional deployment of soldiers, sailors, and police.”
Another $52 million over two years has been set aside for diplomatic activities to support AUKUS. This is not true diplomacy, but coercive efforts to overcome the concerns of Indonesia, Malaysia, and others in South East Asia and the Pacific about the AUKUS pact.
A PEACE BUDGET
We should follow the example of our Pacific neighbours who have a policy of “a friend to all and an enemy to none.”
We must engage in co-operation with the region, including China, and maintain an independent foreign policy which engages with all countries. We must develop mutual respect for all our neighbours.
This change of attitude will see a different approach to the military, cancelling all aspects of the AUKUS agreement and cutting the defence budget by 10 per cent.
A peace budget would see the half a trillion dollars planned for AUKUS used instead to properly fund medicine, child care, aged care, education, electricity, public housing, public transport, the NDIS, and a wide range of other services as well as environmental protection and sustainable development.
While the recent Federal budget did begin to move things in the right direction, much of it was incremental and fell well short of solving the many problems facing Australia.
Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. We can afford to tackle climate change, increase unemployment benefits, care for our aged, and provide free childcare if we want to.
We should scrap the $500 billion AUKUS. With these freed up resources, we could lower emissions, cut the cost of living and lessen inequality.
We must have a peace budget to deliver these good things.
On the United Nations Day of Peace last year, the Communist Party of Australia called for the Albanese government to step back from war preparations, and to instead adopt a peace budget.
It should be obvious by now that countries trying to outspend one another by buying more and more deadly weapons systems does not create peace or security. It has not worked in the past and it never will.
It is time for us to join together and call on governments around the world to cut military spending, and to instead invest in the true needs of the people and the planet to build a just and sustainable future.