Australian news, and some related international items

Big Tech, weapons, tax havens, even Rupert Murdoch – secrets from the Future Fund investment vault

AUKUS wins

Paul Keating’s words still resonate in Aussie minds,

At the Kabuki show in San Diego … there’s three leaders standing there, only one is paying, our bloke, Albo.

 Michael West Media, Philip Dorling and Rex Patrick | Mar 26, 2023 

The secretive Future Fund’s chairman Peter Costello might not like it, but Freedom of Information requests are peeling back the lid on the Fund’s weighty overseas investments. Philip Dorling and Rex Patrick report the more controversial ones.

Big Tech, Big Pharma and Big Oil are the top of the pops in a newly released list of Future Fund Investments across the United States, United Kingdom and a range of tax havens, notably among the Cayman Islands.

These revelations come on top of revelations earlier this year about ethically and environmentally questionable Future Fund investments in China.

The latest FOI drilling into the side of the vault also shed light on the Fund’s investments in arms manufacturers, Chinese companies operating out of the Caymans as well as politically controversial investments in Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire.

It’s so infuriated Senator Barbara Pocock, who has been pursuing the Fund’s investment practices the Senate. “It should not take FOI requests for Australian citizens to find out where their own money is being invested. The Future Fund is suffering from a corrosive secrecy disease.

The public should know about these Future Fund investments in carbon polluting fossil fuels, in arms manufacture and in companies based in tax havens – not to mention the Murdoch and Fox media empires. It’s time to come clean.

Big Tech

In what may be its largest investment in a single publicly listed foreign company, the Future Fund holds a $793 million stake in tech giant Microsoft. Other very large Future Fund tech investments include Google owner Alphabet ($559.9m), NVIDIA ($346.8m), Cisco Systems ($288.2m), Meta Platforms ($256.4m) and Intel Corp ($240.0m). Amazon comes in with a rather more modest investment of $187 million.

Given the vital importance of IT and telecommunications policy for Australian governments, business, our economy and society, disclosure of the nature and scale of these publicly funded investments is clearly in the public interest.

However, it only comes after the Future Fund was forced to abandon its deep preference for secrecy and resistance to scrutiny through FOI.

Pharma, energy and mining………………………………..

AUKUS wins

Paul Keating’s words still resonate in Aussie minds,

At the Kabuki show in San Diego … there’s three leaders standing there, only one is paying, our bloke, Albo.

But it appears the Future Fund is well ahead of Albo, with investments in leading American and British aerospace and defence manufacturers including Raytheon Technologies ($91.9m), Lockheed Martin Co ($75.1m), General Dynamics ($65.3m), Northrop Grumman ($41.5m), Honeywell International ($76.0m), BAE Systems ($20m), and Rolls-Royce ($0.7m).

A number of these companies will be deeply involved with the AUKUS nuclear submarine project, so maybe this a return path for a tiny share of the eye-watering $368 billion AUKUS price tag.

Tax haven heaven………………………………………………………

Backing Murdoch

In the end however, two quite modest investments in the United States may prove to be among the Future Fund’s more controversial holdings – a $6.3 million stake in News Corp and $13.5 million in Fox Corp which have been notable political allies of Coalition governments.

That’s $19.8 million in the two companies controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his primary channels of national and global political influence………………………………………….

The Future Fund is an independent, statutory body but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if a “Defund Murdoch” campaign emerges.

Last month Treasurer Jim Chalmers wrote about the need to bring ethics and values into national economic and financial policy. Perhaps he should call in Costello for a chat about ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance).

March 26, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

AUKUS, the Australian Labor Party, and Growing Dissent

the Royal Australian Navy would be far better off acquiring between 40 to 50 of the Collins Class submarines to police the coastline rather than having nuclear powered submarines lying in wait off the Chinese shoreline.

March 25, 2023, by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

It was a sight to behold and took the wind out of the bellicose sails of the AUKUS cheer squad. Here, at the National Press Club in the Australian capital, was a Labor luminary, former Prime Minister of Australia and statesman, keen to weigh in with characteristic sharpness and dripping venom. Paul Keating’s target: the militaristic lunacy that has characterised Australia’s participation in the US-led security pact that promises hellish returns and pangs of insecurity.

In his March 15 address to a Canberra press gallery bewitched by the magic of nuclear-propelled submarines and the China bogeyman, Keating was unsparing about those “seriously unwise ministers in government” – notably Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles, unimpressed by their foolish, uncritical embrace of the US war machine. “The Albanese Government’s complicity in joining with Britain and the United States in a tripartite build of a nuclear submarine for Australia under the AUKUS arrangements represents the worst international decision by an Australian Labor government since the former Labor leader, Billy Hughes, sought to introduce conscription to augment Australian forces in World War One.”

In terms of history, this was chilling to Keating. The AUKUS security pact represented a longing gaze back at the Mother Country, Britain, “shunning security in Asia for security in and within the Anglosphere.” It also meant a locking alliance with the United States for the next half-century as a subordinate in a containment strategy of Beijing. This was a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy that saw the US dominating East Asia as “the primary strategic power” rather than a balancing one.

For Keating, the impetus for such madness came from a defence establishment that dazzled the previous Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. That effort, he argues, was spearheaded by the likes of the US-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Andrew Shearer of the Office of National Intelligence. They even, he argues, managed to convince PM Albanese, Marles and Wong to abandon the 20-month review period on the scope of what they were seeking.

The steamrolling Keating was also unsparing in attacking a number of journalists for their ditzy, adolescent belligerence. The sword, once produced, was never sheathed. Peter Hartcher, most notably, received a generous pasting as a war infatuated lunatic whose anti-China campaign at the Fairfax presses had been allowed for years.

In terms of the submarines themselves, Keating also expressed the view that the Royal Australian Navy would be far better off acquiring between 40 to 50 of the Collins Class submarines to police the coastline rather than having nuclear powered submarines lying in wait off the Chinese shoreline.

As we all should know, submarine policy is where imagination goes to expire, often in frightful, costly ways. For all Keating’s admiration for the Collins Class, it was a nightmarish project marred by fiascos, poor planning and organisational dysfunction within the defence establishment. At stages, two-thirds of the Australian fleet of six submarines was unable to operate at full capacity. The lesson here is that submarines and the Australian naval complex simply do not mix.

The reaction from the Establishment was one of predictable dismissal, denial and distortion, typical of what Gore Vidal would have called deranged machismo. Instead of being critical of the powers that are, they have turned their guns and wallets on spectres, ghosts and devilish images. The tragedy looms, and it will be, like many tragedies, the result of colossal, unforgivable stupidity.

At the very least, the intervention by Keating, notably in the Labor Party, has not gone unnoticed. Within the Labor caucus, tremors of dissatisfaction are being recorded, breaches growing. West Australian Labor backbencher Josh Wilson defied his own party’s dictates by telling colleagues in the House of Representatives how he was “not yet convinced that we can adequately deal with the non-proliferation risks involved in what is a novel arrangement, by which a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT (Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty) comes to acquire weapons-grade material.”

Wilson’s views are not outlandish to the man. He is keen to challenge the notion of unaccountable executive war powers, a problem that looms large in the Westminster system. “To assume that such decision-making is already perfect, immutable, and beyond scrutiny,” he wrote in December last year, “puts Australia at risk of making the most dangerous judgments without the best institutional framework for doing so.”

A gaggle of former senior Labor ministers have also emerged, even if they initially proved sluggish. Peter Garrett, former environment minister and front man of Midnight Oil, while proving a bit squeamish about Keating’s invective, found himself in general agreement. “The deal stinks with massive cost, loss of independence, weaking nuke safeguards & more.”

Kim Carr, who had previously held ministerial positions in industry and defence materiel, revealed that the matter of AUKUS had never been formally approved in the Federal Labor caucus, merely noted. Various “key” Labor figures – again Marles and Wong – agreed to endorse the proposition put forth to them on September 15, 2021 by the then Coalition government.

He also expressed deep concern “about a revival of a forward defence policy, given our performance in Vietnam.” For Carr, the shadow cast by the Iraq War was long. “Given it’s 20 years since Iraq, you can hardly say our security agencies should not be questioned when they provide their assessments.”

For former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, there were three questions: whether the submarines are actually fit for purpose; whether Australia retained genuine sovereignty over them in their use; and, were that not the case, “whether that loss of agency is a price worth paying for the US security insurance we think we might be buying.”

Will these voices make a difference? They just might – but if so, Australia will have to thank that political pugilist and Labor veteran who, for all his faults, spoke in terms that will be considered, in a matter of years, treasonous by the Empire and its sycophants.

March 26, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

“Collaborative” bases, and the ideology of AUKUS

What we need now under either the optimist or the more realistic pessimistic view is a massive campaign, a campaign that starts today against the background of this terrible shock, this awful sense of betrayal.

Pearls and Irritations, By Richard Tanter, Mar 24, 2023“……………………………………………. The Minister for Defence in the Albanese government made a ministerial statement last month, in which he talked about the joint facilities. But he also introduced a new category of bases under the US-Australia Force Posture Initiative that the previous Rudd-Gillard-Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison alliance supporting government had not thought of – collaborative bases.

Collaborative – an interesting word in its double meaning, isn’t it.

At the moment we don’t know how many Agreed Locations and Facilities there are on this list of collaborative bases identified in a secret part of the Force Posture Agreement – the bases given over by Australia to the US to be under varying degrees of US operational control. The most recent example is RAAF Tindal thanks to Scott Morrison, and we are going to see a lot more of that.

And the last part of nuclear permissiveness is the atmosphere that fills the room in Canberra when you listen to certain senior officials, compliant academics, and insider journalists talk about nuclear weapons for Australia.

In the past few years we have already had three former deputy secretaries of defence – the people who do the planning – saying in public it’s time for us to reconsider the decisions taken by the Fraser and Whitlam governments half a century ago to stop our development of nuclear weapons.

It’s time, they say, to think again about Australian nuclear weapons.

No, they say, we’re not advocating nuclear weapons for Australia, we just need to think about it.

But in the context of half a century of nuclear restraint, of full knowledge of what the possession of nuclear weapons will mean in our region, or what the actual effects of nuclear weapons use will mean in human and environmental terms, ‘just considering’ nuclear weapons acquisition means clearly much more than that.

The ideology of AUKUS

Ideology’s a funny word. Usually it’s used about other people. Like bad breath, ideology is something that afflicts the other guy, not us. Well, that’s nonsense. We all suffer from ideological thinking at certain times.

Ideology is that category of thinking that actually stops thought, which by its emotional logic takes means you don’t have to think about what’s actually being said.

In the ideological nonsense in The Age’s ‘Red Alert’ we saw a kind of triple equation, born of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and American plans to take the opportunity to reshape its alliances.

Russia = China – we don’t need to think about that, do we – they’re autocracies, and we’re not.

Putin = Xi. I’m happy to see that President Putin is to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for the war crime of his invasion of Ukraine. President Xi is not a particularly nice man, but a long way from Putin’s desperate criminality.

Ukraine = Taiwan. Putin invaded Ukraine, so Xi must be about to invade Taiwan – without any serious evidence, and in contrast to the behaviour of China since 1949.

This is the kind of talk that disables critical thinking. None of that makes any sense of the biggest historical defence spend we’ve ever seen, and nothing to say what will happen over the next forty years.

I think that China has some problems. If I lived in Tibet or Xinjiang I would be extremely concerned about what is happening to most of the people in those provinces of China in a deeply repressive kind of way.

If I lived in Vietnam I would know from a thousand years of history there’s a lot of pushing and shoving between China and its neighbours.

But the Vietnamese are still there – they have survived on their own resources.

I would be very concerned about some of the ways China treats its own citizens.

I would not like the concrete islands that China has made – and militarised – in the South China Sea.

True, China now has its first overseas base, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa – a little one across the bay from giant American and French bases of longstanding.

There may be, may be, some kind of PLA naval access to a port in the Solomon Islands, largely, if it eventuates, because of the arrogance with which Australia has treated the Pacific Islands for decades – ‘family’ when we wanted; shoved into the outhouse of history when we don’t care.

I don’t know. That might happen. That would mean, oh dear, they will have two overseas bases – just 798 or so to go before they equal the Americans.

We need a country-agnostic policy of opposing all foreign bases in our neighbourhood – all.

I think Australia needs to be a little more careful and self-reflective about the way in which it talks about some of these undoubted sins of China.

We know something about islands that have been taken over for military purposes.

The forced removal of the people of the Chagos Islands so the US could build Diego Garcia – a British crime even recognised in the World Court.

Guam, an unvarnished American military colony since the end of the Second World War.

We know that China has bullied countries whose policies it doesn’t like with economic coercion – including Australia. We might, though, remember the seven decades of crushing US sanctions against Cuba – for the crime of defeating American plans. And now, again, the people of Afghanistan facing punishing sanctions for the crime of winning a war against the US.

We just need to be a little more honest and self-critical about this.

What China is doing in Xinjiang and Tibet is pretty recognisable as settler-colonialism with an overlay of ghastly pre-emptive counter-terrorism.

We know a bit about that sort of thing here.

And it doesn’t matter how we weigh the balances of these sins, whether we think any of these are equal or not.

But the important thing is that this must not stand.

I heard Lenore Taylor, the excellent editor of The Guardian Australia talking in a podcast the other day in an interesting way about a small sense of optimism buried in the Albanese proposal.

Taylor pointed out, and other people have noted the same thing, that in terms of the finances, the only thing that has been agreed to by the Albanese government concerns the forward estimates, the four year commitment from the budget in May.

The forward estimates, Taylor reminded us, amount to about $9 bn over those four years – probably mostly as an industrial subsidy to expand the US submarine-building yards.

Now, to you and me, $9 bn is a lot of money, but to the Defence Department, I suspect they waste something like that every month with costs overruns, white elephants, and renegotiating contracts when they change their minds.

This optimistic view suggests that the Albanese government, wedged by Morrison’s brilliant stroke of madness, has done the only thing it could do – gone along verbally, and got itself as much wiggle room as possible by pushing the serious spending out for years.

Events, they may be hoping, will save them from going through with the whole plan.

And on that they may not be wrong. The AUKUS scheme is so poorly conceived, so grandiosely conceived, so incalculably expensive, and so contingent on so many highly risky contingencies that it is very likely to go badly wrong.

So, they have, on this view, left themselves a back door out of the trap.

May be. Maybe not.

But the US has a long history of keeping recalcitrant junior partners in line, and Australian political, academic and media life does not lack for alliance supporters and enforcers who will keep a foot on that back door to keep it shut.

But it doesn’t matter, whichever view is right.

What we need now under either the optimist or the more realistic pessimistic view is a massive campaign, a campaign that starts today against the background of this terrible shock, this awful sense of betrayal.

A campaign which is made up diverse community-based groups, which has branches in suburbs and branches in country towns, broadly based with all sorts of elements and streams of opinion about peace.

Making the argument very clearly, based on experience, that the only times we have known Labor governments to stand up to the will of the United States have been on the back of huge long-running popular campaigns.

The first, now a long way back, was in the days of the Vietnam War, when Gough Whitlam became prime minister in 1972, and immediately responded to that high public pressure by ending our war in Vietnam, and of course, conscription of 19 year-olds for that purpose.

That only happened because of the pressure.

And the second was in the early 1980s when the Reagan administration, the most extreme rightwing administration since the early 1950s was pressuring Australia to take a greater role in the war against the then current demon, the Soviet Union.

It was again public pressure that forced the Hawke government to back down – in this city the role of the coalition of groups around People for Nuclear Disarmament and similar groups across the country – and then the electoral success of Nuclear Disarmament Party in the 1984 federal election.

We need that pressure – whether there is in fact a back door way out of this or not, there has to be huge public pressure on the Albanese Labor government.

Every time a Labor member of parliament or senator puts foot outside their office to appear in public, turns up at a public meeting, we need to ask them why have you betrayed us. Why have you allowed this to happen? What are you going to do?

We have to make it personal and objectionable and we have to make a whole lot of noise.

This must not stand.

Thank you.

March 26, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) flexes its muscles – forces the ABC to back down on a Media Watch show that dared to criticise ASPI

Despite ASPI telling Media Watch it only has four defence industry sponsors, page 143 of its latest annual report clearly lists five. Since its establishment, ASPI has enjoyed the financial largesse of a dozen weapons makers, which collectively picked up $51 billion in Defence contracts between 2011 and 2021.

ASPI conveniently classifies sponsors who make billions of dollars supplying mainly high-tech services to the military as “private sector” companies.

ASPI takes exception to media scrutiny, By Ainslie Barton, 25 Mar 23,

ABC’s Media Watch backs down, following complaint from Australian Strategic Policy Institute, after it aired a segment of Channel Nine political reporter Chris O’Keefe berating both ASPI and Nine Newspaper over the Red Alert series.

Two weeks ago, ABC’s Media Watch carried the banner “Hysterical reporting stokes fears of war with China” aimed at Nine Newspapers’ three-part Red Alert series in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Host, Paul Barry took them to task for gathering a one-sided China hawk panel upon which to base its report. The program included comments from a host of experts who strongly disagree with the proposition that China is poised for war.

It also quoted from mainstream media, including a clip from Nine’s Today Show in which political correspondent Chris O’Keefe had this to say, “The reporting this morning is hysterical, now if you’ve got the Australian Strategic Policy Institute [ASPI] who are saying ‘Oh well, we are the ones who could be going off to war in three years’, well they’re funded by the Australian Defence Force, Lockheed Martin, Thales and Boeing.”

Barry later brought up one of Nine’s China experts, former ASPI boss Peter Jennings, making it clear he was no longer the think tank’s executive director.

This week, Media Watch again picked up the China threat and nuclear submarine debate, following former prime minister Paul Keating’s National Press Club appearance. In summary, Barry argued instead of mainstream journalists just launching into Keating for opposing AUKUS, they should have been doing their actual jobs. That job is not being cheerleaders for our massively hawkish foreign and defence policies, it’s asking questions about the government’s rationale to commit hundreds of billions of dollars to nuclear submarines.

However, at the end of the episode, it was Barry himself coming up with explanations, saying this, “And finally, a clarification about last week’s show. When discussing Nine’s Red Alert series on China we played a short clip of Chris O’Keefe linking Peter Jennings to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. ASPI says Jennings no longer plays an active role with the institute and it was not involved in the framing of The Age and Herald’s report. ASPI also says it receives funding from only four defence manufacturers and it’s two percent of its budget.”

Even though the hot war may not have yet started the fog created by ASPI abounds.

Jennings is synonymous with ASPI, outside of Canberra he was a little-known Liberal ministerial adviser and a Defence Department policy wonk. It wasn’t until he took up the role at ASPI that he became the go to China hawk for mainstream media.

He might have vacated the executive director’s office but the views he expressed in the Nine Newspapers series are entirely consistent with his views at ASPI, and indeed the views of his successor Justin Bassi.

Despite ASPI’s constant claim of independence, Bassi walked right out of the office of Liberal Cabinet Minister Marise Payne into ASPI’s office, just a few blocks from Parliament House. He was a ‘captain’s pick’ with it widely reported then Defence Minister Peter Dutton intervened to veto the ASPI board’s preferred candidate, instead installing China hawk Bassi. The appointment of the ASPI executive director has to be ratified by the Cabinet, indeed a very broad interpretation of the term “independent”.

What constitutes no active role?

Jennings might have vacated his corner office but, the simple fact is, immediately upon the completion of his tenure, he assumed the position of “ASPI Senior Fellow”. His profile is on the ASPI website, his phone number is included, and that number is the ASPI direct line.

As ASPI complained, it might not have framed the Nine Newspapers report, but it absolutely framed the narrative. No single group has done more to portray China as a military threat than ASPI. There is an argument, had ASPI not spent years laying the China threat groundwork, this Nine Newspapers series would not have hit the front pages.

While Bassi had nothing to do with the Red Alert series, one could hardly argue he didn’t support it, after all he Tweeted a link to the SMH story the day of publication.

Far more egregious than this and the nature of Jennings’ ongoing connections with ASPI are those of Nine Newspapers’ gang of five experts. One in particular is Lavina Lee, who Nine described as a “geopolitics guru” and “senior lecturer in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University”.

What both Nine in its publications, and presumably ASPI in its demands to Media Watch, did not disclose is Lee’s position as a member of the ASPI Council. This is not an honorary role, as the ASPI Annual Report reveals, it is a paid position.

The issue with Lee is not so much the freedom to express her opinions outside of her role at ASPI. It’s the fact she was peddling a narrative indistinguishable from ASPI’s, under the guise of being an independent academic, and did so without disclosing her formal paid role with the think tank.

Breaching the defences

Despite ASPI telling Media Watch it only has four defence industry sponsors, page 143 of its latest annual report clearly lists five. Since its establishment, ASPI has enjoyed the financial largesse of a dozen weapons makers, which collectively picked up $51 billion in Defence contracts between 2011 and 2021.

ASPI conveniently classifies sponsors who make billions of dollars supplying mainly high-tech services to the military as “private sector” companies.

One of its, non-defence industry, backers is the multi-billion dollar US engineering and systems integration company Leidos which has a substantial defence division. According to figures published on the Department of Finance website, since July 2021, it has been awarded more than 140 contracts, with the Department of Defence and security agencies, worth over $1 billion. The classification of Leidos as a run of the mill private sector player seems to be a loose definition.

Other, non-defence, supporters include engineering company Jacobs (107 Defence contracts worth $154 million); cybersecurity company Quintessence Labs, which has been awarded one small Defence contract; Palo Alto Networks which supplies multi-billion dollar network security systems for the military; Splunk Technologies, yet another military supplier; Senatas, a maker of military encryption systems; and software company Oracle, one of the biggest ICT service suppliers to the US military.

That adds up to 12 current sponsors who either make weapons or provide services supporting military infrastructure. The lesson is you can’t take anything ASPI says at face value.

March 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Greens attack Albanese government’s ‘deeply unsettling’ secrecy on submarine nuclear waste plans.

Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council also warned against cloak of national security to ‘mask inadequate radiation safety protection’.

Guardian. Daniel Hurst, 24 Mar 23

Labor and the Coalition have been accused of taking a “deeply unsettling approach” to transparency around Aukus after the major parties blocked the publication of documents about nuclear safety and waste issues.

The government cited national security concerns when it rejected a Senate order to produce documents, including those about options to manage operational waste from the nuclear-powered submarine program.

The move comes just months after the Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council warned against allowing a cloak of national security to “mask inadequate radiation safety protection of the Australian public, weaken regulatory authority, or inhibit transparency on matters of Australian public safety”.

David Shoebridge, a Greens senator and defence spokesperson, said the council was “the very agency entrusted to protect Australians from radiation and ensure nuclear safety and security, yet the government is already ignoring its advice”.

“The hiding of information at this early stage signals a deeply unsettling approach to future regulation, transparency and oversight of these nuclear submarines,” Shoebridge said.

His motion had sought a range of documents reviewed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) working group, including the safeguards required for a nuclear-powered submarine program.

It also sought information about the “characterisation, classification and acceptance of risks in a nuclear environment” and any minutes of meetings held with the nuclear-powered submarine taskforce on these topics………….

The Coalition joined with Labor to defeat the motion in the Senate this week.

The former independent senator and submariner Rex Patrick said the blocking of the motion “shows the shallowness of thinking behind both major parties as to the need for complete transparency around this important issue”.

“This Aukus program has been orchestrated in total secrecy such that the government and Defence could get to a point of announcing a fait accompli without any debate or resistance,” Patrick said.

“There are some things that should properly be kept secret around a submarine – but these things should not include nuclear stewardship, nuclear regulation, nuclear safety or how to deal with operational waste and spent fuel.”

Patrick has, however, used freedom of information laws to obtain some other documents from Ansto and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (Arpansa).

These include minutes of an Ansto board meeting on 9 February showing the agency will seek government funding of $34.5m over the next four years because it faces increased workload “as a direct result of a nuclear-powered submarine program”…………………………………………………..

In the latest sign of misgivings within Labor, a party branch in the electorate of the prime minster, Anthony Albanese, passed a motion calling on his government to “withdraw from the Aukus alliance and cease any program in pursuit of the acquisition of nuclear submarines”.

Party members at the Enmore branch meeting this week agreed that Labor should prioritise spending that contributes to the “social good of our society rather than wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on a dangerous and unnecessary weapons program”.

According to a copy that has been widely circulated within NSW Labor, including to a large number of branch secretaries, the motion argued Aukus was “not in the interests of the Australian people” and “could take us into an unnecessary and devastating war”.

The motion reflects concerns within elements of the party’s rank-and-file membership, but does not yet indicate a groundswell that could stop the deal.

……………. The Petersham branch – also within Albanese’s electorate – passed an anti-Aukus motion in late February, before the San Diego announcement.

Labor members are also mobilising against the possibility of Port Kembla being selected as a future base for nuclear-powered submarines.

Some members are understood to have been emboldened to register their concerns, after several prominent Labor figures including the former prime minister Paul Keating spoke out against Aukus.

March 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

AUKUS – “These are the horrors”

Instead of humiliatingly accepting the smirking American ‘we neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons visiting your country’, the Albanese government could reassert a little of our lost sovereignty by stating up front, no nuclear weapons never.

The AUKUS submarines will not be here to defend Australia, but only to attack China in a subordinate role with the American forces.

Pearls and Irritations, By Richard Tanter, Mar 24, 2023

AUKUS. This is a horror for which I now fear for the lives of my children and their children. Every time a Labor member of parliament or senator puts foot outside their office to appear in public, turns up at a public meeting, we need to ask them: why have you betrayed us? Why have you allowed this to happen? What are you going to do?

Transcript of a speech at the Anti-AUKUS Rally, Naarm, State Library of Victoria lawn, 18 March 2023.

These are horrors.

This is a horror for which I now fear for the lives of my children and their children.

This is now changing the direction of Australia for the next forty or fifty years.

We have never seen anything like this in peacetime Australia. At any stage.

This must not stand.

But it’s with the suite of profound horrors that we must start with.

The horrors of AUKUS

Firstly, the automatic involvement in war.

We have already been tied to the United States by the bases – by Pine Gap, by North West Cape, by the Space Surveillance Telescope that take us into space warfare, by the many other Australian bases to which the US has access.

We are already tied in, hard-wired in many cases, to the American war machine.

And the ADF is barely an autonomous force today.

But AUKUS takes us very much further down that road.

We already know what the submarines are there for.

In a rational world I actually think submarines are very important for the defence of Australia – but not in the form of this politically-driven, call-from-Washington-inspired scheme for long-range, long-endurance nuclear-powered submarines whose only rational use is to attack China.

Not on their own – Keating’s right about that calling them toothpicks thrown at a mountain – but in concert with American submarines and carrier task forces.

Maybe not immediately nuclear-armed, but almost certainly capable of nuclear-attack as well.

The AUKUS submarines will not be here to defend Australia, but only to attack China in a subordinate role with the American forces.

The horror of that fiscal black hole.

What does that $368 billion actually amount to? As if we have any idea of what the value of a dollar will be in forty years time – the lifetime cost of AUKUS will be an order of magnitude higher, certainly two or even four trillion dollars.

But what that means in terms of the sacrifice from what’s needed from government for decent health and survival for the Australian people is itself horrific.

This moves us towards what I think is an almost irrevocable position of enmity as far as the Chinese are concerned.

Principally because the only rational strategic role for those submarines is to contribute, potentially, to an American existential threat to China.

Even if we stop tomorrow, is China going to forget that?

Why should they?

We’ve revealed our hand.

We have a Minister for Defence who is effectively the minister for Washington, and this is where we have come to.

The horror of the sacrifice zone that the high-level nuclear waste storage site that is to be somewhere built in Australia.

I have to say that of all things that have shocked me about this scheme, this is one that has shocked me most.

Not just because I made the mistake of thinking that Albanese might be halfway reasonable because in my role as a former president of ICAN I had relations with those people, and he pledged he would support a nuclear ban treaty.

Well, that’s not happening now unless we make it happen.

But the announcement of a nuclear waste dump for high-level toxic nuclear waste, radioactive for thousands of years, is another world all together.

I had foolishly thought that they would follow their own mantra for the past year of saying that ‘this will be a sealed reactor full of highly enriched uranium, and to prevent diversion to nuclear weapons, the US will deliver it sealed, and when the fuel is exhausted it will return to the United States sealed for disposal, somewhere safe, where no-one else can get at it …’

More fool me. More fool me.

They betrayed us again, and that nuclear sacrifice zone of high level waste is going to be a huge problem – and struggle – for decades and decades.

What really troubles me as someone who works on strategic issues and thinks that defence issues are real and important, is that this the largest defence expenditure – if we can use the word ‘defence’ with a straight face in this context – this massive defence expenditure actually disables our genuinely necessary defence capabilities.

There will be very little money left over for anything else in defence.

Worst of all, it disables the possibility of what we have come here today to call for – an independent defence and foreign policy – because there will be nothing left.

I heard one of those defence experts quoted in that authoritative source, Nine Entertainment’s Red Alert on the front pages of The Age – the same report that said yes, we have allies, we have Diego Garcia – all 27 square kilometres of it grabbed by the Brits and rented by the Americans, and we have Guam – the tiny American colony almost wholly taken up by US military bases – it would be funny if it wasn’t so awful and so telling about the government’s grasp of the actual facts – I saw that one of those experts said ‘we have to accept that if there is a war with China ‘that means Pine Gap goes’.

Actually I think that’s quite true, under certain circumstances. But the blitheness, the casualness with which that is said tells us a lot about how these people think.

Because if ‘Pine Gap goes’ in a nuclear missile attack, then Alice Springs and most of its 25,000 citizens ‘go’ too. No need to think about that, is there?

Just the casualness with which this is proposed and debated, apart from the ignorance, is stunning and revealing.

And the last part of the horror for me is the nuclear permissiveness which is now beginning to swell in discussions in Canberra security circles.

The momentum that is going to be built out of this first step of nuclear-powered submarine will mean we’re already going to have naval training for this; we’re going to have expanded nuclear engineering programs at places like the ANU.

We’re going to have military and naval careers built around this.

We’re going to have an industry here which has a deep interest in going the next step from naval nuclear propulsion to a civilian nuclear power industry.

We also know, because this is preceded by the US B-52 bombers at RAAF Tindal near Katherine in the Northern Territory – not nuclear-armed bombers at present, but quite definitely possibly nuclear-armed in the future at the stroke of a presidential pen –that those bombers will be used as part of an attack on China.

And what’s really important to understand now is that the South pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, which Australia signed and says it’s proud of, has a loophole in it sponsored by the Australians to meet US needs, which says there are to be no nuclear weapons in the territories of the member states, like Australia, except in the case of ‘transits’ or ‘visits’.

Transits and visit in these days of American rotational deployments can cover an awful lot of interpretations.

The Albanese government could do one very simple thing to address this fear: it could declare that under no circumstances will any nuclear weapons from any country be allowed into Australia.

Not for a visit, not of layover in transit, just never.

No nuclear-armed aircraft, warships or submarines will ever be allowed to enter Australia.

The USS Asheville nuclear-powered attack submarine in Perth at the moment at Stirling Naval Base, and its successors, will never be allowed to return without a verifiable declaration that they come without nuclear weapons.

Instead of humiliatingly accepting the smirking American ‘we neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons visiting your country’, the Albanese government could reassert a little of our lost sovereignty by stating up front, no nuclear weapons never.

The strategy of AUKUS

The strategic part of what’s happening at the American bases in Australia (aka ‘joint facilities’) is part of all this.

You know what is happening at Pine Gap, the giant American-built and American-paid for joint surveillance station outside Alice Springs.

You know about the wonderfully-named Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station on the tip of North West Cape in Western Australia – a critical submarine communications base for American nuclear submarines and in the future for these AUKUS submarines. It’s immensely important, and probably another priority target, most likely nuclear under certain circumstances.

But just down the road the US has built a giant and highly advanced space telescope.

That doesn’t sound very much, does it.

But what it’s there for is our contribution to American plans for space warfare, to ensure what the US calls ‘space dominance’. And you understand perfectly well how critical space is for all militaries – and indeed our whole society – today.

We are deeply and increasingly plugged into that activity.

All governments have talked for the last thirty years about ‘the joint facilities’ – we don’t have any American bases, of which Australia has full knowledge and concurrence of any activities conducted at these bases.

When you peel that back, and when you talk to ministers – I can tell you I am continually shocked by their ignorance, as well as their deceptions………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. more

March 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles is a master of “weasel words”

I’ve been underestimating this guy.

I thought that he was just just emotionally ignorant, just a bit stupid in that area of thought. Well, he probably is, anyway.

But Richard Marles is not stupid. He is very clever in that way that seemingly fair-minded , oh-so-reasonable people, can manage to put across militaristic, propagandist, right-wing views. He’s got a great new term for US military bases in Australia –collaborative facilities

I think that they’re a rising breed – these nice-looking, clean-cut, pleasantly spoken types like the USA’s Anthony Blinken, who go around persuading everybody that it’s a good idea to pay $squillions of tax-payers’ money to their friendly USA and UK weapons company, and to move towards the brink of war against China, Russia or whoever.

At times, I almost yearn for the straightforwardness of the publicly admitted extreme right – in Australia, we have the lovely Peter Dutton, Leader of the Liberal Opposition, and an out and proud spokesman for militarism. At least we know where we are with these types.

“Weasel words” are very valuable currency in the present day and age. Look at the value to the warmongers of White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby . I mean some people have been anxious in learning that depleted uranium weapons are to be used by the Ukrainian troops. But Mr Kirby was able to reassure us – “The ammunition, which enhances ability to overcome defenses on tanks, ‘is not radioactive’ –  a commonplace type of munition

Alas the Labor Party of Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating is long gone.

The Albanese Labor government is all about strategy and cunning manipulation of policies. This is a style in which the weasel-word likes of Richard Marles thrives. I’d like to think that Albanese has some long-term goal of thwarting the militaristic control of Australia by the USA.

But for now, Labor has lost me.

March 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Richard Marles’ ill-advised spending on completely inappropriate Tomahawk missiles for Australia’s existing submarines

Marles the drunken sailor: Rex Patrick on Defence Minister’s haste to defence spending waste

by Rex Patrick | Mar 22, 2023

News yesterday that our Collins Class submarines will get fitted with Tomahawks reveals a serious lack of understanding about the tactical use of land attack missiles on submarines. Exposing the blithe war enthusiasts of the Murdoch press, former submariner Rex Patrick explains why Tomahawks on a Collins is a dumb idea.

Richard Marles is behaving like a drunken sailor as he spends your money. Drunken sailors, most of whom are happy souls, buy things like several rounds for everyone in the bar, pink Hawaiian t-shirts for themselves and their families, or tattoos of the name of the girl they met the night before. Upon sobering up they realise that what they had purchased was a hole in their wallets.

And that’s what Mr Marles will discover in time. The Tomahawk missiles he’s purportedly buying for our Collins Class submarines, as reported in The Australian yesterday, are not a good match.

Let me explain why.

Submarines and Tomahawk Missiles

Just after noon on 19 January 1991, during operation “Desert Storm”, USS Louisville became the first submarine to launch a land attack missile in anger, when she fired eight missiles at targets in Iraq. She did this operating from the Red Sea. Shortly afterwards, USS Pittsburgh became the second submarine to launch Tomahawks when she fired four more missiles from the Mediterranean Sea.

Submarines have subsequently fired land attack missiles in a number of other operations.

USS Miami fired some into Iraq In 1998 at the start of “Desert Fox” (the 4 day bombing operation undertaken in response to Iraq’s failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions). USS Albuquerque, USS Miami and HMS Splendid fired some into Kosovo a year later as part of “Allied Force” during the Balkan war. HMS Trafalgar and HMSTriumph fired them into Afghanistan. In 2001 as part of operation “Enduring Freedom,” and in 2003, 12 US Navy submarines and the Royal Navy submarines HMS Splendid and HMS Turbulent attacked land targets in Iraq as part of “Iraqi Freedom”.

Finally, in March 2011 guided missile submarines USS Florida, and nuclear attack submarines USS Providence, USS Scranton and HMS Triumph fired some into Libya as part of operation “Odyssey Dawn”.

The role of land attack from submarines is clearly established.

Why land-strikes from submarines?

A submarine’s endurance, autonomy and relative impunity to detection allow pre-strike positioning to occur several weeks or months prior to the commencement of hostilities. This can occur without the “presence” of a force that might otherwise negatively influence diplomatic efforts to resolve an issue. The submarine can also conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance until such time as the land strike capability is needed. The submarine can be discreetly withdrawn if offensive action is not required.

The submarine also allows a land strike capability to be deployed into an area of operation where there is a lack of sea or air control, with the aim of attacking enemy defences to make the area safer for other more vulnerable units to enter. This includes ships with larger missile magazines and aircraft who can return the next day to launch more missiles.

Finally, when the strike order is given, having an undetected submarine very close to shore provides an advantage when striking the most sensitive of military targets or executing the most time critical attacks. Launch surprise maximises targeting effectiveness and minimises the chance of the weapons being intercepted. Close-to-shore submarines can also reach targets that are further inland.

Collins submarines’ limitations

Almost all submarines fitted with Tomahawks have nuclear propulsion, The Spanish S-80 submarines are the exception.

That’s because conventional submarines have their limitations………………………………………………………………………………………

Defence of Australia or like a tattoo?

There’s hardly a case to argue that our Collins class submarine’s need land attack cruise missiles to help defend Australia.

They would only be acquired to assist in a conflict with China, where we’re acting as part of a coalition. But even then, the issues associated with conventional submarines armed with Tomahawks are highly challenging and make the choice highly questionable.

So is Richard Marles behaving like a drunken sailor? Yes. But with some difference. Mr Marles seems loose with the money, but can’t really bring himself to look back on his commitment to spend.

March 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The cost and unnecessary suffering of military spending

By Brian Toohey, Mar 14, 2023,

The authoritative Peterson Foundation calculates that last year the US spent more on its military than the next nine countries together. This means more than China, India, Russia, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan and South Korea combined. In 2023, the US allocated $US 858 billion to military spending compared to China’s $US224 billion. China’s spending is 1.7% of GDP compared to 2% for Australia and 3.5% for the US.

Military spending accounts for nearly half the discretionary spending in the US budget. The President could redirect over two thirds to deprived areas of the budget and still have the most powerful military forces in the world. Until something like this happens, many Americans will suffer unnecessarily and the country experience continuing internal turmoil. The US has been in far more wars that China.

The Costs of War project at Brown University revealed in 2021 that the US was involved in eight wars in the previous 20 years, costing it an estimated $8 trillion and killing more than 900,000 people. Earlier, Australia joined the US in losing a war of aggression in Vietnam that cost lives of 3 million people.

China has not been in a serious conflict since 1979 when it made a brutal incursion into Vietnam before withdrawing. The US and Australia didn’t object strongly because they supported China’s intention to punish Vietnam for overthrowing Pol Pot’s appalling regime in Cambodia.

Unlike the US and Australia, China has not been involved in a war of aggression since the Communist party came to power in 1949, except for of its takeover of Tibet in 1950. Tibet had been under the control of Chinese emperors from 1720 until the early 1900s. The anti-Communist Republic of China then claimed Tibet was part of China, without trying to enforce this. Otherwise, China has not tried to take over any country.

If China were an expansionist power, it would have already taken over bordering Mongolia, a defenceless, democratic state with abundant mineral deposits. Nor would it have made several important concessions to settle land border disputes.

China announced recently that its defence spending will increase by 7.2% in 2023 compared to 7.1 % in the previous year. This minor increase hardly suggests China is building up to attack Taiwan, let alone go to war with Australia which is committed to spending billions more on its military, supposedly to deter China. Contrary to the situation in the US, numerous underwater choke points bottle up China’s naval forces close to its shores.

However, China’s spending is now widely asserted to show it is about to engage in a campaign of aggressive expansion. Instead, it is reacting to the fact that it is surrounded by US military bases and those of its allies, as well being beset by constant military patrols along its borders. US has more than 700 overseas military bases, including many on Pacific Islands countries and on others such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines. China doesn’t have the capability to patrol off the American coastline which is over 15,000 km away as the crow flies. Nor does it have any bases close enough to operate from. China’s sole overseas base is at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

A recent three-part series in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age claimed China would attack Australia within the next three years, well before any nuclear submarines are delivered well over $200 billion. The series said the government would have to reintroduce compulsory conscription and invite the US to base nuclear armed missiles on Australian territory. Anthony Albanese has not rejected these proposals.

The series made the bizarre claim that “recent decades of tranquillity were not the norm in human affairs, but an aberration.” The reality is that tranquillity did not exist for Australian military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor for civilians caught up in these events.

As a result of US-led sanctions before the invasion of Iraq, UN agencies calculated that 500,000 Iraqi children had starved to death. When the then US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright was asked on America’s 60 Minutes program if she thought that the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying, she said: “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” Most seem to have forgotten that governments killed these children.

In Australia, most also seem to have forgotten that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on shonky intelligence, easily exposed as such. Perversely, many Australia journalists, who now rely on anonymous intelligence reports, take it for granted the intelligence is accurate.

They also swallow propaganda claiming that China is “aggressive” and a “threat” to Australia and that Taiwan is independent country, which China now claims. Taiwan is not formally independent. Almost every country on earth, including Australia and the US recognise it as part of China. After the losing the Civil War, the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) party Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan, where he not only claimed Taiwan was part of China, but insisted that it ruled the whole of China from its capital Taipei. To its great credit, Taiwan became a healthy democracy in 1996, but its Constitution still states it is part of China.

When he was China’s leader in Beijing in 1947, Chiang Kai-shek announced that country would control its territorial waters within a U-shaped “Eleven dash line”. The subsequent Communist government adopted a “Nine dash line”, while Taiwan has retained eleven. Given it already has de facto independence, the pragmatic position in Taiwan now seems to be that it’s not worth rocking the boat by declaring formal independence.

March 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian military looks to build crucial space capabilities that will support Aukus nuclear subs

Don’t the military boys love these games? war in space and undersea.

Defence department puts out call for satellites that can talk to each other and to the ground, are ‘scalable, rapidly deployable and reconstitutable’

Tory Shepherd, Thu 23 Mar 2023 

Defence is looking for a mesh of military space satellites that can talk to each other as well as to the ground, and is “scalable, rapidly deployable and reconstitutable”.

The system, in other words, would need to be able to be made bigger, to be quickly put into action and to be repaired in case of attack or accident.

The military network could include the ability to track high-velocity projectiles and the use of infrared, would need to be “resilient to cyber and electronic warfare attacks”, and would need to transmit and receive data from assets “at any global position”…………………..

The Aukus submarines have been dominating defence-related conversations recently, because of the enormous $368bn price tag and concerns that the first Australia-made nuclear submarine will not be ready until the 2040s.

Meanwhile, Guardian Australia has spoken to people in the space industry who feel the other parts of Aukus – the so-called “pillar two” – are being overlooked. Pillar two includes artificial intelligence, drones, cyber capabilities and other technologies, all of which use space-based assets and many of which are likely to be realities years before the submarines.

Satellites, and therefore space, are critical for surveillance, navigation, weapons guidance and communication already, and will become more so in the future.

Defence projects already under way include Def799 for space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and JP9102 for satellite communications systems.

A senior defence strategy and capability analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Malcolm Davis, said while space was critical for Aukus’s pillar two, it would also be crucial for pillar one, in terms of communicating with submarines………………………….

March 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Ivan Quail’s Submission – a devastating fact-filled critique of the costly, dangerous unhealthy nuclear industry.

One year of operation of a single, large nuclear power plant, generates as much of longpersisting radioactive poisons as one thousand Hiroshima-types atomic bombs. There is no way the electric power can be generated in nuclear plants without generating the radioactive poisons.

France’s troubled nuclear fleet a bigger problem for Europe than Russia gas. France caps its consumer power bills – to maintain the myth of “cheap” nuclear and to protect French pride .

In 100,000 years’ time the planet would still not have recovered from Mayak, Chernobyl, Doenreagh, Hanford, Rocky flats, Marshall Islands, Montebello, Maralinga and Fukushima; to name a few.

Average life expectancy in Ukraine and Belarus has REDUCED 4 yrs to age 68. Each year 6000 babies are born with “Chernobyl Heart” Half of them die! Children born since 1986 are affected by a 200 percent increase in birth defects and a 250 percent increase in congenital birth deformities.• 85 percent of Belarusian children are deemed to be Chernobyl victims. UNICEF found increases in children’s disease rates, including 38 percent increase in malignant tumours, 43 percent in blood circulatory illnesses and 63 percent in disorders of the bone, muscle and connective tissue system.

Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022

Submission No 61 [This submission contains numerous links which are all visible on the original, but not all here]

A few words about myself on this issue. I have been studying the Uranium fuel cycle,
nuclear energy and the biological and genetic effects of radiation for over 40 years. I
have read a dozen or more books and hundreds of scientific and medical papers on
the topics.

Continue reading

March 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

AUKUS nuclear subs deal should torpedo Kimba radioactive waste plan.

23 Mar 23, A new federal government process to identify a site for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste from future nuclear submarines should signal the end of the push for a national radioactive waste facility at Kimba on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, environmentalists say.

The Australian Conservation Foundation yesterday joined with peak state group Conservation SA to deliver a petition from 10,000 people calling on Resources Minister Madeleine King to ‘stop the double-handling and relocation of radioactive waste to a highly contested facility proposed near Kimba.’

Defence Minister Richard Marles has announced the search for a new site to store high level radioactive waste will commence next year.

“It makes no sense to have multiple federal processes in train seeking to find sites to store and dispose of radioactive waste,” said ACF nuclear policy analyst Dave Sweeney.

“The federal nuclear regulator has stated existing intermediate level waste can be securely managed at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisations (ANSTO) Lucas Heights facility for ‘decades to come’.

“This waste should be kept at ANSTO and moved only when a future site has been selected for high-level waste.

“This would avoid unnecessary duplication, cost and risk and would recognise and respect the clear opposition of the Barngarla Traditional Owners to the current waste plan.”

Federal government ministers have repeatedly said AUKUS is a game-changer. ACF is calling for the government to demonstrate this in relation to radioactive waste management by changing the present deficient and divisive waste game around Kimba.

“Against the backdrop of escalating cost and complexity associated with future AUKUS waste it makes no sense to maintain a politicised and piecemeal approach to radioactive waste management in Australia”.

Watch New Barngarla video calling for an end to the Kimba proposal:

March 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Some Labor and Independent members of parliament not happy with AUKUS nuclear submarine deal

Above – Labor MP Josh Wilson not happy about the nuclear submarine deal

Labor’s old guard follow Keating into the trenches over $368b submarine deal The Age, 22 Mar 23


  • Kim Carr has called AUKUS a “huge leap into the dark”, joining other high-profile Labor members in criticising the deal.
  • Labor MP Josh Wilson told Parliament that Australia is yet to solve the problem of dealing with radioactive waste.
  • Teal independents have raised concerns over nuclear proliferation and how AUKUS will be funded.

Former federal cabinet minister Kim Carr has joined Labor colleagues in raising deep concerns about the AUKUS pact after federal MPs questioned the deal in parliament and some party members sought to mobilise against the decades-long commitment.

Carr voiced doubts about the $368 billion cost of the agreement on nuclear-powered submarines as well as the strategic risk of a “forward defence” policy that he compared to the approach that drew Australia into the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

The comments intensify the row over the sweeping defence plan after former prime minister Paul Keating, former foreign minister Bob Carr and former foreign minister Gareth Evans challenged it with opinions ranging from ferocious criticism to cautious doubt.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese backed the defence policy in the regular Labor caucus meeting in Parliament House on Tuesday after three MPs raised questions about its cost, the concerns from voters about Australian sovereignty and the need for 20,000 workers to complete the task.

But Kim Carr, who held portfolios such as industry and defence materiel during the Rudd and Gillard governments and left parliament at the last election, said AUKUS was a “huge leap into the dark” that depended heavily on the United States.

“The fundamental question is whether this is the best use of $368 billion of public money in defence of Australia,” he said.

“I don’t believe the question has been answered. And I am deeply concerned about a revival of a forward defence policy, given our performance in Vietnam, so there are several levels on which we should question this plan more closely.

“Given it’s 20 years since Iraq, you can hardly say our security agencies should not be questioned when they provide their assessments.”

The growing public debate highlights the unrest within the party membership and the test for Albanese in shoring up support from Labor voters who may shift support to the Greens after the smaller party came out strongly against AUKUS.

Bob Carr, who was premier of NSW for a decade before serving as foreign minister in the Gillard government, also expressed concern about the way the AUKUS agreement could take Australia into a conflict alongside the United States.

“I want upheld the notion that even under ANZUS, there should be no assumption of Australian engagement,” he said.

Last Friday, former Gillard government environment minister Peter Garrett voiced his own objections to the deal, saying in a social media post that “AUKUS stinks”……..

Western Australian Labor MP Josh Wilson aired his concerns on the floor of Parliament on Monday night by saying Australia was yet to solve the problem of low-level radioactive waste, let alone the waste from a future fleet with nuclear reactors

…………………………….. members of the crossbench expressed concerns about the implications.

“I’m concerned about the cost/benefit analysis of AUKUS and the risk of losing sovereignty over Australian defence resources,” said Zali Steggall, the member for Warringah.

Zoe Daniel, the member for Goldstein, said constituents had been in touch about the major shift in Australia’s strategic approach.

“On their behalf, I will be seeking to understand whether such an unequivocal and long-term alignment with the United States is in Australia’s best interest,” she said.

Kylea Tink, the member for North Sydney, said she was worried about nuclear proliferation and Sophie Scamps, the member for Mackellar, said she wanted more information about funding.

“The Albanese government needs to explain to the Australian people how it intends to pay for this program,” she said. “The vulnerable should not be sacrificed to pay for this additional budgetary spending.”

March 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Guardian Essential Poll: AUKUS support collapses, 3-in-4 oppose

The cacophony of media, think tank, and political voices cabal haven’t yet convinced the Australian public of the need to rush into war alongside the US. But if the trend in opinion on our previous disastrous policy of following the Americans is any guide it is very likely that a majority of Australians will rate a war over Taiwan as a big mistake.

Pearls and Irritations, By Noel TurnbullMar 23, 2023

Reflecting the diminishing public support for the AUKUS deal, a new Guardian Essential Poll has found that only one quarter of Australians support paying the $368bn price tag to acquire nuclear submarines.  For decades Australians were gung ho about going to war – almost any war. Today – despite the best efforts of the Nine Media (Peter Hartcher in particular) and other media – they are now far more hesitant.

Indeed, an analysis of community opinion from the start of the Vietnam war to the likelihood of war over Taiwan, shows hesitancy translates into opposition the longer the war lasts…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Now we face another possible war – this time with China – and it is worth examining what both Australians and Taiwanese think of that prospect.

In June 2021 the Lowy Institute’s annual poll showed that, for the first time, more Australians view China as a security threat than an economic partner, despite the country remaining Australia’s biggest trading partner.

In June 2022 the Lowy Institute found that the majority of Australians (56%) said China was ‘more to blame’ for the tensions than Australia while 38% said Australia and China were equally to blame. Just 4% said Australia was more to blame.

A slim majority of the 2022 respondents (52%) viewed a potential military conflict between the US and China as a critical threat to Australia’s interests over the coming decade. But the poll also showed the public wants to avoid being dragged into war. More than half those polled (57%) said that in such a conflict “Australia should remain neutral”. Some 41% said Canberra should support the US and 1% said it should support China.

The Lowy study showed the public also had strong views on our relations with the US and China policy with 77% agreeing with the statement: “Australia’s alliance with the United States makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in Australia’s interests” – up eight points since 2019.

As for the US-Australian motivation for the next war, Taiwan, opinion there has been developing in strange ways. According to an Economist special report on Taiwan (11 March 2023) in 1992 only 17.3% the Taiwan population identified as Taiwanese compared with 25.5% as Chinese and 4.4% as both. By 2022 a National Chengchi University study found 61% of respondents identifying as Taiwanese, 2.7% as Chinese and 46.4% as both.

Polls indicate that more than half of Taiwanese support the status quo of de facto independence and don’t have a lot of faith in whether the US would support them against a Chinese invasion with the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation finding that between 2021 and 2022 confidence in whether America would send troops to defend Taiwan against an invasion fell from 65% to 34.4%. They were actually more confident of Japanese support than American.

Meanwhile we wait to see what the next substantial polls say about the Albanese Government and Taiwan. We know from Vietnam to Iraq Australians start off by opposing the proposed wars; support them when troops are actually fighting; and, then begin to oppose them as the promised victory doesn’t eventuate.

This new potential war is on a scale, though, which makes Vietnam and Iraq seem insignificant.

The cacophony of media, think tank, and political voices cabal haven’t yet convinced the Australian public of the need to rush into war alongside the US. But if the trend in opinion on our previous disastrous policy of following the Americans is any guide it is very likely that a majority of Australians will rate a war over Taiwan as a big mistake.

It may also be an indicator of how attitudes to the Aukus deal might evolve. A Guardian Essential poll in 2021 disclosed Australians’ worries that the project would strain relations with China and Europe……………………..

March 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

PM flags nuclear prohibition treaty still on agenda despite AUKUS subs deal

Anthony Albanese has signalled Labor still plans to sign an international treaty on nuclear weapons amid concerns about the AUKUS deal.

Catie McLeod, 23 Mar 23

Anthony Albanese has signalled Labor still plans to sign a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons amid concerns the AUKUS submarine deal will breach Australia’s international obligations on the issue.

Under the trilateral security agreement with the United States and the UK, Australia will become the first non-nuclear weapon state to acquire nuclear-powered submarines by seeking an exemption from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The government has said the submarines will only use nuclear propulsion and would not have nuclear weapons.

Despite this iron-clad assurance, some countries in the Indo-Pacific have raised concerns the submarine deal is a breach of Australia’s existing nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations, and that it might stop it from ratifying an additional treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Australia made a binding commitment to never acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the international treaty on non-proliferation 50 years ago but it is yet to sign or ratify a newer treaty created in 2017 that binds member countries to outlawing nuclear weapons all together.

Labor first committed to signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its National Conference in 2018 and reaffirmed that commitment in 2022.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said Labor would stick with the commitment and said Australia’s clear position was that a world without nuclear weapons “would be a very good thing”.

“We don’t acquire them ourselves, we wish that they weren’t there,” Mr Albanese said after independent Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel asked him if Labor would sign the nuclear prohibition treaty.

“We will do is we will work systematically and methodically through the issues and in accordance with the commitments that were made in the national platform.”………………….

March 23, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment