The Guardian • Issue #2067


ALP Conference and the path to war

“If you’re pro-human rights, you need to be pro-AUKUS. If you’re pro-peace, you need to be pro-AUKUS. If you’re pro-advanced manufacturing, you need to be pro-AUKUS.” In such a fantasy-world, to militarise the region, to threaten war, to arm for war, to destroy an economy for the sake of war, is to be pro-human rights, pro-peace and pro-jobs. This was how Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy sought to sell AUKUS to delegates at the ALP National Conference. It was a disgraceful speech and an insult, not just to the ALP, but to all of us. He also likened those who oppose AUKUS to pre-WW2 “appeasers.”

Conroy attacked the unions who stand against the militarisation of our economy in terms that would win him praise in any conservative party.

His remark, that it was not in Australia’s national interest to have “one power dominate our region, especially one that breaches international laws” was illuminating. The reference was to China, but it is the USA that dominates our region. It is the USA that has a record of overturning sovereign states, with coercion and by force.

The Prime Minister lauded AUKUS as a job creation scheme. This was meant to placate the union delegates. These delegates, the union members represented by them, the rank-and-file ALP members who passed resolutions across dozens of branches, and the growing numbers of Australians who are resisting AUKUS will not be so easily fobbed off. $368 billion to produce 20,000 jobs is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. That’s 18 million dollars for each job created.

We live with health and housing crises of gigantic proportions. How many affordable homes, schools, hospitals, climate change mitigation actions would $360 billion buy? How many tens of thousands of socially useful jobs might be created? We will, instead, get a war-based economy that will endanger us all, both in this country and across the broader region.

Logic and good sense tell us that a war against China serves no-one’s interests.

The assumption that a conflict is all but inevitable and that “deterrence” can only be achieved by belligerence, is a strategy that will lead us all into very dangerous waters. The ALP government is eager to wade into these waters and to take us with them.

The ALP Conference aimed to sideline, at least for a time, any internal opposition to its war-mongering policies. While the parliamentary branch got their way, the anti-AUKUS movement will not go away and nor will the growing opposition in Australian society to the developing war economy or our government’s obsequious attachment to US foreign policy in the region and the world.

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