Australian news, and some related international items

Doubts about the nuclear submarines, do they make Australia less safe? Hugh White wonders.

What the submarine deal means for Morrison’s future, The Age, By David Crowe, SEPTEMBER 18, 2021  ”…………… Morrison has made sweeping decisions in the coronavirus pandemic, shutting borders and spending billions, but none is like the move to bolt Australia to the United States and the United Kingdom and build a new fleet of nuclear submarines……………

The toughest decisions are safely postponed until after the federal election due by May next year. Anxious about his prospects in the shipbuilding states of Western Australia and South Australia, Morrison promises more money for defence and more jobs for workers who lose from the cancellation of the French deal.

What he does not promise is that every submarine will be built in Australia. This is because the government’s immediate political objective is at odds with the country’s strategic imperative to replace today’s Collins-class submarines as soon as possible. Only after the election will voters know if the fastest way to deploy the new fleet is to have the first vessels built by the British or Americans.

So there is a tactical move embedded in the strategic shift.

…….. But there are real concerns the Prime Minister could lead the country into greater danger, or at least leave it exposed.

…… This will be a defining argument for the next 18 months. If this call is so fundamental to Australian security, why is Morrison so comfortable with such a long wait for delivery? The alternatives are to buy US submarines that are already in the water as the US deploys newer vessels over time, or place orders for new submarines built overseas.

…… Is this as significant as ANZUS, as Morrison claims? “It is not,” says John McCarthy, a senior adviser to Asialink at the University of Melbourne and a former ambassador to the US, Indonesia, Japan and India. “I simply cannot see that changing the type of submarine, albeit important, makes a hell of a lot of difference. I don’t buy the hype.”

McCarthy does not take issue with the shift to nuclear or the strengthening of the US and UK alliances, but he worries about the breach with France and the message to Asia. After decades of greater engagement in Asia, the government has chosen to tighten the knot with the Anglosphere, yet France is a greater power in the Pacific than Britain. Only months ago, Morrison sought support from French President Emmanuel Macron to counter China………..

“The easy thing is to assume that what’s worked for us in the past is going to work for us in the future,” says Hugh White, professor emeritus at the Australian National University.“The easy thing is not to recognise that Australia has to look after itself in the new order in Asia. It is to assume that we can rely on America and, God save us, the British to look after us and all we have to do is help them. That’s the way we’ve thought about our security for 150 years…….

White believes a bigger fleet of conventional submarines could be more effective and doubts the nuclear fleet can arrive before 2040, but he also questions whether this is significant for China. “If the Chinese go and push ahead anyway, and we end up in a war, I don’t think it is going to make a very big difference as to who is going to win or lose,………………..

September 18, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, technology

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