Australian news, and some related international items

Living With Our Expensive AUKUS Nuclear Submarines

More public discussion of this complex issue might assist in modifying the worst excesses of the AUKUS deal with its enormous financial consequences and more dependency on those powerful friends abroad which have been such a feature of the federal LNP’s foreign policies for decades past.

Will we all continue to live with those dark AUKUS nuclear submarines? Australian Independent Media, By Denis Bright  13 Jan 23,

The Christmas edition of The Australian (24-25 December 2022) released a quote from the head of Australia’s nuclear task force Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead. It described the AUKUS submarines as the gold standard of our new security blanket. Spies worldwide wanted to know so much more as the consultative processes surrounding the details were always in the hands of political, military and intel insiders. The wider public would always be left with future payments to cover the financial costs and fall-out from lost trading and investment opportunities between Australia and China.

Writing in The Guardian (8 June 2022), Daniel Hurst estimated that the still undefined AUKUS deal would be an additional $90 billion over the French diesel-powered submarines negotiated by the Turnbull Government.

Yet, Australians seemed to welcome the dark submarines which had a popularity rating of 62 per cent despite an acknowledgment that the deal would inflame relations with China and our future commercial ties according to Katherine Murphy of The Guardian (28 September 2021).

The Albanese Government has already made a goodwill payment to France of $835 million for our breach of contract over the cancelled submarine deal (ABC News 11 June 2022). These costs will fade into insignificance when the full costs of the AUKUS Submarine deal evolve.

The French Government tried hard to promote its contribution to the US Global Alliance after gaining its contract with the Turnbull Government for the sale of the diesel-powered submarines to Australia. French Navy Rubis-class nuclear powered submarine (SSN) Emeraude and Loire-Class support & assistance vessel (BSAM type) Seine reached RAN Fleet Base West in Perth on 9 November 2020 (Naval News 10 November 2020). Prior to the maintenance and logistics visit, Australian Defence Force elements, including the Frigate HMAS Anzac, and Collins-class submarine HMAS Sheean and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft exercised with the French Navy units off the coast of Fremantle.

The ageing nuclear submarine Emeraude was commissioned in 1988. Ten crew members were killed in an accidental explosion off Toulon, France in 1994. Reporters from Vingt Heures (Channel 2 in Paris) were invited on board to film the missiles on the attack class submarine after its triumphal return after a six-month voyage to Australia, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits in early 2021. Naval News in Paris were unable to comply with my request for a detailed map of the navigation route which was flicked across the television screen by reports from Vingt Heures. Were the French vessels welcomed into the naval installations at the US installation on Diego Garcia on their merry jaunt from the Red Sea to Western Australia I wondered?

Up north in the South China Sea, both China and Taiwan of course have rival claims over specific islands and reefs across the South China Sea, so the Emeraude had to be on guard as it moved in stealth mode through troubled waters.

Perhaps more commercial globalization is the only recipe for the new wave of security fears about an emergent China. While China remains dependent on mineral and energy resources from Africa, the Middle East, Australia and energy rich Indonesia for its national economy, it can hardly cut off its supply network with shipping embargoes as claimed by advocates of Freedom of Navigation. The AUKUS submarine deal did not canvass such issues and were to be a trump card in giving a khaki hue to the federal LNP’s plans to win the 2022 election for Scott Morrison. Having won the election, the Albanese government was soon caught up in positive political spin that was deemed to come with the AUKUS deal which required no background briefings to balance references to gold standard security advantages for Australia.

It was a bit late for the Chinese Embassy’s goodwill event on 10 January 2023, to change the tide of Australian public opinion (ABC News, 10 January 2023):

The ambassador made both remarks during a wide-ranging and largely upbeat press conference in Canberra held to mark the New Year.

He declared relations between China and Australia had reached a period of “stability”, saying the Chinese Year of the Rabbit offered an opportunity to “jump over obstacles” that had emerged in recent times.

But there are still deep doubts in Canberra about China’s trajectory and the limits to the rapprochement in the wake of high-level meetings between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Xi Jinping, as well as Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her then-Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing.

Jumping over obstacles to goodwill demands a cooling of tensions over access to the South China Sea, ironclad guarantees about the special status of Hong Kong and an end to saber-rattling over Taiwan which is largely integrated into the economy of China in trade and capital flows. Ambassador Xiao Qian of the Chinese Embassy in Canberra proposed a similar lifeline for Australia to minimize the costs of the AUKUS submarine deal (The Guardian 10 January 2023)………………………………………….

Taiwan still retains some island outposts in the South China Sea including the island of Taiping where the military airport is indeed the main feature of the entire island as covered in the Italian-based PIME AsiaNews (12 March 2022)…………

The ASEAN Forum opposes the return of great power rivalry between nuclear weapons states in the region. Writing in The Interpreter (13 September 2022), Melissa Conley Tyler noted the reservations from regional leaders about the AUKUS submarine deal:

When Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced the AUKUS trilateral security cooperation agreement a year ago, it didn’t get a uniformly positive reception in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “deeply concerned” over an arms race in the region. Malaysia expressed concerns at multiple levels, with both the prime minister and foreign minister raising concerns that it could “potentially spark tension among the world superpowers and aggravate aggression between them in the region”. Malaysia’s Minister for Defence Hishammuddin Hussein went as far as saying he would consult with Beijing on its views on AUKUS.

With commitment to the AUKUS deal still at a consultative stage, favourable guarantees from China might yet modify those gun-ho commitments from the Morrison Government to the re-militarization of our region.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also revived concerns over the AUKUS submarine deal as covered by Ellen Ransley ( 9 January 2023):……………………….

More public discussion of this complex issue might assist in modifying the worst excesses of the AUKUS deal with its enormous financial consequences and more dependency on those powerful friends abroad which have been such a feature of the federal LNP’s foreign policies for decades past.

This nostalgia for a return to Cold War solutions will hardly bring progress in reducing regional tensions. While waiting for the arrival of the AUKUS submarines, China continues with its development of land and sea based nuclear weapons. Perhaps some eleventh-hour deals are still possible to reduce future tensions, but change is difficult because of bipartisan agreement in Australia on this issue which seems to have strong electoral support in the absence of public discussion on the economic consequences….. more


January 16, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war

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