- by Richard Titelius
- The Guardian
- Issue #2056
Placard "Stop AUKUS WA, no nuclear subs, peace not war." Fight Climate Change Not War speak out and march Fremantle.
On Saturday 27th May, several anti-war, anti-nuclear and climate activist groups held a speak-out on the AUKUS Agreement signed in September 2021 between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the proposed acquisition of up to eight nuclear powered submarines, and climate change. The event was organised by Stop AUKUS WA. On the 14th March 2023, the leaders of the three nations signed a Joint Statement on how the acquisition of the submarines will proceed and the training of Australian Defence Force personnel to operate the proposed submarines.
The MC for the event was Sam Wainwright of Stop AUKUS WA and also a former Fremantle City Councillor. Sam said that the funding allocations of the Federal government showed where its priorities lie. In the 2023 budget, the government has allocated $4 billion towards renewable energy, $10 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, $48 billion on defence, and $368 billion towards 6-8 nuclear powered submarines over 30 years. By the time the submarines are delivered, that last figure will be around fifty per cent bigger. Those are the government’s priorities unless unless we the people do something to change the ALP’s mind about the concept of defence and security. Sam said it will take a prolonged campaign like we have never seen before.
The first speaker was Mia Pepper of Nuclear Free WA who said that the eight nuclear powered submarines proposed under the AUKUS Agreement are a big erosion of Australia’s anti-nuclear stance. The likes of Queensland Nationals Senator, Matt Canavan are seeking to lift the ban on nuclear energy by saying that it makes no sense to ban nuclear energy when we will have a fleet of nuclear submarines.
Mia Pepper, explained that Australia is still dealing with the legacy of uranium mines such as the one at Jabiluka in the Kakadu National Park where problems with leaking mine tailings continue to dog clean-up efforts. One estimate is that it will cost $2.2 billion to rehabilitate the Jabiluka site. Additional mines will only increase the difficulty of rehabilitating the mine sites long after the mining companies have extracted the ore. A nuclear power industry would only compound the health and financial risks to Australia’s people.
Dr Chris Johansen from Nuclear Free Cockburn Sound said that the proposal to spend $368 billion on up to eight nuclear-powered submarines represented a reluctance to spend on social programs, social housing and renewable energy which would help promote human thriving. The nuclear subs from the AUKUS deal would be stationed at the Stirling Naval Base in Cockburn Sound, creating dangers for local communities from Rockingham to Fremantle. Supporters of the subs deal argue that there is only a million to one chance anything calamitous will happen – but even that chance is too much of a risk.
Dr Johansen also argued that if we leave the accountability for nuclear submarines to government and the military we may never know what happens in regards to an accident until it is too late for local communities to respond effectively. Johansen was against the government promoting a war with China for the purpose of purchasing nuclear submarines for our defence – which he doubted would only have conventional weapons on board as promised. The purchase of nuclear submarines was also being used to normalise nuclear power. Johansen concluded by saying it was okay to be a NIMBY in this case, but that nuclear-powered subs should not be in anyone’s backyard.
Elizabeth Hulm of Stop AUKUS WA began by saying that we reject the myth that in order have peace you have to prepare for war. We need to reject the operation of the military industrial complex which is what our government will support if we go further with the purchase of these subs. This amounts to a theft from the public purse, and avoids scrutiny of what happens to our money. We need to re-imagine the discourse of security, as what really makes us insecure are food insecurity and climate change. These matters pose existential threats to mankind’s survival. Hulm added that the working people of Australia will not feel compelled to fight in wars of US imperialism. We should make the pursuit of peace everyone’s business, especially workers.
Rob Delves of Extinction Rebellion said it was important to link the fight to stop climate change with the fight to stop AUKUS. While Prime Minister Albanese would have the Australian people think that AUKUS and the nuclear submarines would increase our sense of security, Delves said that the deal to acquire the subs has had the opposite effect on our supposed enemy China where it has created a sense of distrust. The word “security,” Delves added, comes from the Latin word secures and means living without worry or anxiety. What many people in Australia and the world are rightly insecure about is access to food, water, and housing, as well as about climate change.
AUKUS has been captured by the people who profit from war while all the talk about a military strategy to protect us from war also distracts us from the existential threat facing us. Australians need to mobilise to stop catastrophic climate change.
The last speaker was Greens Upper House member for Fremantle, Brad Pettitt who said that in the fight against the impacts of climate change, we have science on our side – it is not war we need to fight but climate change. The impacts of climate change are already being felt, forcing people to flee some parts of the world. On current projections, we are on track to see 1.2 billion people displaced by climate change. The $368 billion earmarked for nuclear subs under AUKUS would be better spent on tackling climate change. As an example, Pettitt suggested that it would take only $2 billion to put renewable energy and insulation on 35,000 social and community houses in WA. In this country we also have a biodiversity crisis of which climate change is a principal cause.
Over 150 people then marched with a giant inflatable whale at the front and a number of colourful banners with the marchers singing and chanting against the war and for a more peaceful future. The march fittingly ended at Bathers Beach, as oceans should be for marine life and not nuclear submarines with their deadly cargo of warheads and radioactive fuel. The message of the rally and march also reached a wider audience that evening as a report appeared on the Channel 10 news.
The Communist Party of Australia joins all these social and political groups in opposing the AUKUS Agreement and the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines which will create insecurity. The real existential threat of our times, climate change, remains unaddressed by our government and its effects are felt by all life on earth.
Fight climate change, not war!