Australian news, and some related international items

Australian Labor prepares return to disastrous Forward Defence doctrine

Pearls and Irritations, By Brian Toohey, Mar 31, 2023

Nearly everything the Labor government says about nuclear subs is ludicrous and highly damaging.

Despite Defence Minister Marles apparently saying Australia will not participate in a war over Taiwan, Hugh White (ex- Dep Head Defence) says the US would never sell nuclear submarines to Australia without guarantees they will always be used in a US war. The reason is that these subs are taken from off its own line of battle. They are not additional submarines from the production line. Once again, Australian sovereignty does not exist in the sense of being able to use US weapons how we want to do after buying them.

Marles now says the nuclear subs are not for war, but to protect Australian merchant shipping. A leading economist Percy Allan points out there are 26,000 cargo ship movements to and from Australia each year. Nuclear subs have terrible maintenance problems and if we buy the expected three second hand Virginia Class attack subs from America, only one might be operationally available at any time and probably none.

One sub, let alone none, can’t protect 26,000 cargo shipping movements, but mainstream journalists swallow this nonsense.

Before his sudden conversion to pacifism, Marles wanted to deploy the nuclear subs off the Chinese coast to fire long-range cruise missiles into the mainland. This represents a return to the Forward Defence doctrine that failed in Singapore in 1942, and later in Vietnam. Arthur Calwell gave a magnificent anti-war speech in 1965. He was fully vindicated when the Vietnamese won a war against a horrendously destructive invasion that was a war crime. Now, Albanese effectively supports war.

With Labor now returning to the disastrous Forward Defence doctrine, it’s worth remembering the Coalition defence minister in 1969 Allen Fairhall scrapped this doctrine and cut military spending by 5%, while there were still 7,000 Australian troops in Vietnam. The Coalition then switched to the direct defence of Australia. Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Keating all embraced the defence of Australia, not forward defence. Keating also adopted a long sighted policy of seeking our security in Asia, not from it.

Later, in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Howard reverted to do America’s bidding in another war crime of aggression.

Australia’s best defence is it’s surrounded by water and a long way from China or India. There is no evidence either is a threat. If this changes for the worse, the Defence of Australia doctrine will come into its own.

Marles and Albanese will recklessly position nuclear subs off China. But that’s where China’s forces are concentrated. Because Marles and Albanese would be playing to China’s strengths, they would then be responsible for a disastrous military blunder when the subs are sunk.

It would be much better to play to our strengths, by defending the approaches to Australia by buying highly advanced, medium sized, submarines that are superior to nuclear subs.

Marles estimates his subs will cost up to $368 billion (realistically over $400b). As explained later, that includes the crazy decision to pay the UK to co-design 8 new submarines for Australia. This dwarfs the next highest defence acquisition —$17 billion for F-35 fighter jets.

The US Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service have an outstanding record for exposing appalling waste and incompetence in US submarine shipyards. One Virginia sub was tied up at a jetty for five years before it could be fixed. The US has a military budget of $US880, yet Albanese is donating $3 billion to help improve the shipyards.

Marles did not take the responsible ministerial step and commission a cost-effectiveness study of the options before splurging $400 billion. Australia could get ten superior conventional submarines for a total $10-$15 billion from Japan, South Korea or Germany that could deter any hostile ships approaching Australia from a couple of thousand kilometres away. Submerged drones and mines could also help at a low cost.

Japan’s new Taigei subs use highly advanced batteries that run silently for several weeks without needing to surface to charge the batteries. South Korean and German submarines are about to get much improved batteries. These new subs can run silently on hydrogen fuel cells as well as batteries.

Nuclear subs are easier to detect. When they go at high-speed, they make a detectable wake. Being much bigger, they have a stronger magnetic impression than suitable conventional boats.

Like other subs, nuclear ones have to come to the surface to stick up periscopes and radar and electronic warfare equipment. They produce an easily detected infrared signal due to the reactor constantly boiling water for steam engines to propel the subs. (Nuclear power does not propel the sub. Puffing Billy does.)

Another huge problem with nuclear subs is the government has rightly said it will take all the highly enriched uranium waste at end of the sub’s life, then safely store it. This requires the waste to be vitrified overseas and returned in thick drums for burying deep in stable dry underground rock formations for hundreds of years and heavily guarded. Each reactor weighs 100 tons and contains 200 kg of highly radioactive uranium. When used in nuclear power stations, uranium is enriched to about 5%, the same as for French and Chinese nuclear submarines and 20% for Russian. It’s 93% for ours, greatly exacerbating the disposal problem.

I recently asked Australia’s principal nuclear safety organisation, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency about how such waste could be safely stored. It refused to answer. Perhaps it was intimidated by Defence.

Marles exacerbated the problem by saying the waste uranium would be stored “on” defence land. It can’t be stored safely on top of the land. It must be stored deep underground. He’s not dealing with low-grade hospital nuclear waste.

Neither the US or the UK has a high-level underground nuclear waste repository. They could easily pressure Australia into securing their waste from their nuclear subs reactors here.

It seems likely the burial site will be on land in central Australia that is important to Australia’s indigenous population. Whatever happens, it is essential there is no repeat of the way the indigenous people were wilfully exposed to radiation during and after the British nuclear tests in the 1950s and 60s in Australia’s south and central desert areas…………………………………………………………….. more


April 1, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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