Australian news, and some related international items

The three big questions Australia’s leaders must answer about the Aukus deal

Gareth Evans, Guardian, 21 Mar 23,

The public has a right to know why we are making such a drastic shift in our defence strategy and spending, writes Australia’s former foreign minister

Love Paul Keating or loathe him, admire or abhor his invective, he has raised questions about the Aukus deal which are hugely important for Australia’s future and demand much more compelling answers than we have so far received from government ministers past or present.

The big three for me are whether, for all the hype, the submarines we are buying are really fit for purpose; whether an Australian flag on them really means we retain full sovereign agency in their use; and if it does not, whether that loss of agency is a price worth paying for the US security insurance we think we might be buying……………

 is the Aukus fleet – on the brave assumption the vastly complicated acquisition program does not become the “goat rodeo” (fiasco) predicted by some respected US-based analysts – really our best buy? If the purpose of our new boats is to be a useful, albeit numerically marginal, add-on to US underwater capability in the South China Sea and around Taiwan, they can play that role well. But if their primary purpose is to prevent continental Australia – and our Indo-Pacific sea-lanes – from possible attack, it remains entirely legitimate to demand a detailed explanation as to how that task could be better performed by the Aukus fleet than the 20 or more sons-of-Collins we could buy for the same price, given that only three nuclear-propelled boats are likely to be on station at any given time.

The core issue is how comfortable we should be in so obviously shifting the whole decades-long focus of our defence posture away from the defence of Australia – which has always included a strong presence in our archipelagic north and, within a very considerable radius, the sea-lanes so crucial to our trade – toward a posture of distant forward defence. The case must be made, not just asserted.

The second big unanswered – or less than persuasively answered – question is whether, by so comprehensively further yoking ourselves to such extraordinarily sophisticated and sensitive US military technology, Australia has for all practical purposes abandoned our capacity for independent sovereign judgment. Not only as to how we use this new capability, but in how we respond to future US calls for military support.

There were assurances at the time of the first Aukus announcement by the US secretaries of state and defense that “there will be no follow on reciprocal requirements of any kind” and “no quid pro quo”. But in my own experience that is not quite the way the world – and American pressure – works………………..

When it comes to decisions to go to war, we have too often in the past, most notably in Vietnam and the Iraq war of 2003, joined the US in fighting wars that were justified neither by international law nor morality, but because the Americans wanted us to, or we thought they wanted us to, or because we wanted them to want us to…………………………

My last big question may be unanswerable for now, but should be getting far more attention. Just how much security has our devotion to the US and our ever-increasing enmeshment with its military machine, really bought us, should we ever actually come under serious attack?

While the Anzus treaty requires the US “to act” in these circumstances, it certainly does not require that action to be military. I am afraid that we should be under no illusion whatever that, for all the insurance we might think we have bought with all those past down-payments in blood and treasure and our “century of mateship”, the US – whoever is president – will be there for us militarily in any circumstance where it does not also see its own immediate interests under threat………………


March 29, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international

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