Australian news, and some related international items

Australian readers condemn the Morrison government’s AUKUS deal

Below are just a few of the many comments that readers made, on the article about Australia’s devious nuclear submarine diplomacy.

My own comment – going to the issue of whether the nuclear submarines would be obsolete before ever in use, was not published.

Still, the overwhelming content of the published comments was condemnation of the AUKUS deal. (I’ll publish more comments later, on this page)

KEEPITREAL Super power toys and massive debt.

Social D-Greaser benefit of the termination of the contract with the French will flow to the UK or US or both. Naturally, they both will be happy.
The new nuclear sub contract either with the US or UK, could cost Australia hundreds of billion dollars more than than that with the French.

In thirty/forty years time when we could expect the delivery of these nuclear subs, the technology could already be obsolete. China could operate their subs from the moon by that time, because they make things themselves.
All these maneuvering (changing the diesel propulsion to nuclear) is aimed to scare China. Does Australia think that it will have to face China in a war really? Why are we then, unnecessarily annoying the Chinese where our business interest heavily lies. Therefore AUKUS is all loss – loss for Australia.

Trim the cat The whole world now knows you can’t trust the duplicitous Australian government.

KEEPITREAL. Just get one thing straight, me may get into a hard and bloody conflict with China , however our Trade Minister is sure that our major exports of Coal and Iron ore to China will not be affected

Petra665 Way to go Mr Morrison. You’re duplicitous handling of this I suspect is related to your quest for your own power ambitions and hanging with the “big boys”.

You managed to put a key strategic partner in an embarrassing situation damaging their diplomatic relations with a key NATO member which Biden was keen to repair. Particularly as one of his key promises to the US electorate was that he would seek to mend the US relationship with NATO after Trump had trampled all over it. Well Done clap….clap…..

No vision- No policies- No direction – How good is that! This is Morrisons $5 billion lie.
He doesn’t care as it is not his money.

Figment. Anyone who is considering employing Morrison after 22 May should think again after reading this article.

Sir Rex So the short version is… the Morrison government was willing damage a range of long-standing and critical international relationships to play wedge politics for personal advantage on the home-front.
Gee Scotty, I hope those triumphant headlines uncle Rupert gave you were worth selling-out your country for…

Social D-Greaser Remember, the Chinese will be on Solomon Island now. If they have a military base in Solomon Island with 300 fighter planes, 20-30 nuclear propelled subs fitted with nuclear missiles, will we think of fighting with China. The US has a power rivalry. The US would want to dominate in the South China sea, China is aware of it. China is unstoppable, it will find its way out to reach its goal.

Australia joined the US in Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and any other wars the US asked for, led the Covid -19 investigation on its origin (thereby annoying China), terminated the 90 billion dollar sub contract with the French (only to please the US and UK) etc, still the US Secretary of State failed acknowledge the Australia’s contribution in the Afghanistan war.

Every time the US asked Australia to jump, Australia did not ask why but asked how high. That’s a bit shame. Nobody will give you respect, you have to earn it. The US would, probably, respect NZ more than Australia. Late NZ prime Minister David Lange (rest in peace David) resolutely opposed the entry of US nuclear arm ships in NZ port and still a good friend to the US. The US now , probably, considers NZ, a country with some backbone.

Question: Do you do anything that doesn’t involve how it can benefit yourself?

Alan This is a decision that needs to go to the Australian people, as the country’s political class in particular Morrison and Dutton who have shown the contempt they hold us in given the lies Morrison told the French in backing away from the conventional sub deal last year leaving us with a $5 billion compensation bill all for Morrison to be seen as a winner on a tiny world stage.

This is one decision that should never have been made by the partisan Morrison who has made the play just to further his time as prime minister which has only made us a target of the Chinese, has pissed off most of our Asia Pacific neighbours including France and has the potential to contaminate and make an Australian city off limits for decades if there is a operational or maintenance accident with the submarines – all of this because the erstwhile prime minister decided that it will help him remain the favoured incumbent after this election.

Morrison’s wedge tactic over the nuke sub deal failed with the small target stance of Labor, but it leaves the country in a horrible scenario, one that should never have been allowed to happen without every voter being consulted over.

Morrison has saddled the country with a ticking time bomb likely to blow up in 2040, long after he is booted in 7 days time.

Relotra No matter how you look at it, it was poorly done by the ‘only-ever-announcements, no-substance-ever’ incompetents of the Coalition led by a man who cannot apologise for his mistakes even in the face of his own unrelenting incompetence.
The Coalition’s eternal claim to be the masters of national security (& the economy) has been shown quite substantially to NOT be the case whatsoever. And when has it? Only ever in their own opinion.
And for the PM of Australia to be called a liar by another country’s leader is just extraordinary. Unheard of in public & the point made most clearly to the press. What an embarrassment for Australia.
It’s Time!!!!!!!!

May 16, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, opposition to nuclear, politics international | Leave a comment

AUKUS nuclear submarine fallout: double-dealing and deception came at a diplomatic cost

When this masthead’s then Europe correspondent Bevan Shields asked Macron if he thought Morrison had lied to him, the French leader replied: “I don’t think, I know.”

In the White House, everyone who’d worked on the deal felt let down by the Australians. Biden felt blindsided

AUKUS fallout: double-dealing and deception came at a diplomatic cost,   Scott Morrison’s efforts by stealth to secure the AUKUS deal had global ramifications, with the French president enraged and the US president blindsided. SMH, By Peter Hartcher, MAY 15, 2022  

While Scott Morrison was secretly pursuing the AUKUS deal with Washington and London, the French ambassador in Canberra was starting to fret. President Emmanuel Macron had charged him to act with “ambition” in expanding the relationship with Australia, yet Jean-Pierre Thebault was finding it impossible to get access to cabinet ministers except for fleeting handshakes and “how-do-you-dos” at cocktail parties.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne would not agree to see him, nor would then defence minister Linda Reynolds. Yet the nations were supposed to be strategic partners on a high-stakes, $90 billion “Future Submarine” project. As 2020 became 2021, Thebault was feeling stonewalled. What was going on?

Morrison was confidentially exploring the prospect of nuclear-propelled submarines with the US and Britain. Yet a Defence Department official says: “The PM was still telling us, ‘I’m not cancelling anything ……… The Defence Department handled the duality – or perhaps duplicity – of the two projects by setting up compartmentalised working groups.

One, led by former submarine skipper Rear-Admiral Greg Sammut, continued working with the French towards the delivery of 12 French “Shortfin Barracuda” subs.

Sammut had no knowledge of the other project, led by one-time clearance diver Rear-Admiral Jonathan Mead, who was pursuing the idea of nuclear-powered subs with the Americans and the British.

The two were kept in strict separation. Both reported to defence secretary Greg Moriarty and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell…………..

Morrison saw an opportunity. US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be at a G7 summit in the quaint English seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall in June. Australia, not a member of the G7, was invited as a guest, along with India and South Korea.

Morrison used the meeting of 10 democracies to highlight the China threat………..

Morrison organised a smaller meeting with Biden and Johnson to drive his submarine ambition. Biden and Johnson had been briefed.

Morrison pitched two ideas. One was the request for the two countries to help Australia get nuclear-propelled subs. The other was a wider project for the three nations to develop other, cutting-edge technologies crucial to future warfare, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other undersea capabilities…..

Morrison wanted a commitment; he didn’t get it. Biden’s big concerns remained. He said that he needed to be satisfied that the three countries would meet their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He wanted more work done on this in the White House.

The British were keen to proceed. Johnson even told Morrison that the UK would be prepared to build nuclear-propelled subs for Australia….. Johnson also saw it as an opportunity for British industry.

Morrison started to think of a British sub – smaller than the American nuclear-powered subs (SSNs) – as the working model for Australia’s fleet………

But the nuclear-propulsion technology was American and veto power rested with Washington…………

After Carbis Bay, Morrison had a dinner date with Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. ………  he might have been honest, but not fully so……………..  He left open the prospect of walking away. Deliberately.

That gate was three months away. Morrison pushed hard to get the assurances Biden needed. He had a vital friend at court: Kurt Campbell, the White House’s Indo-Pacific Co-ordinator and the man the Lowy Institute’s head, Michael Fullilove, calls “Mr Australia in Washington”.

Agreement had to be reached between the three countries, but, just as importantly, within the US group. The director of the US Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Frank Caldwell, custodian of the late Hyman Rickover’s crown jewels, had to be thoroughly satisfied. It took four consecutive full-day sessions to complete the work.

The nuclear Navy, once committed, committed fully………

Each government sent a team of 15 to 20 people drawn from multiple agencies. They were told to set aside eight to 10 business days.

Secrecy was paramount. The naval officers, led by Mead in Australia’s case, were told to wear civilian clothes so as not to draw attention to themselves in the streets of Washington.

………..They met at the Pentagon in August………………

The delegations initially sat in national groups around the room, co-chaired by Campbell, Mead and Vanessa Nicholls, the British government’s Director General Nuclear. 

One by one, Biden’s four big concerns were met. Experts on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were consulted. They agreed that if the reactors on the submarines were run as sealed units, installed and later removed by the US or UK at the end of their 30-year life, then the treaty would not be breached. Australia may have use of, but not access to, the nuclear technology and materials. “The Australians will never have to handle any of this material, it can’t be lost or stolen,” a US official explained…………..

The second concern was China’s reaction. “We assessed with our intelligence community that blowback from China would be manageable,” says a White House official……..

Third was Australia’s capacity. There were questions about Australia’s ability to recruit, train and retain the talent needed to maintain SSNs. However, the Americans’ biggest reservations were over Australia’s finances and politics. 

The US wanted to avoid being entangled in any local budgetary disasters. A preliminary guess at the price of acquiring the nuclear subs ranges from $116 billion to $171 billion, including anticipated inflation, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Incidental extras would include the $10 billion cost of a new subs base on the east coast, as flagged by Morrison in March. The cost of training, crewing, operating and maintaining the boats would not be small

………. Ultimately, Washington decided that Australia could manage the cost, but it was an act of faith in Australia’s future economic strength.

Of the hot potatoes tossed around by the US administration, Australia’s political commitment was the hottest of all. The Americans had tested their own political support. The White House confidentially consulted Trump-aligned Republican senators. They found them supportive, even enthusiastic.

But Biden’s people had reservations about Australia’s political stability. There were concerns about the Labor Party, about the churn of prime ministers in both parties in the last decade, and about the Coalition’s serial dumping of submarine agreements, first with Japan and now with France.

The cone of silence prevented direct US contact with Labor. They called on a National Security Council staffer who’d been posted to Australia, Edgard Kagan, for his view. He consulted the US embassy in Canberra and observed that the Australian government seemed confident that Labor would support such a deal when they were eventually informed.

The Americans could see that if Labor baulked, Morrison would use it as a wedge against opposition leader Anthony Albanese in the approach to an election, to frame him as weak on national security……………

That just left Paris. The White House had pressed the Australians on the need to consult closely with the French. To satisfy the Americans, Canberra went so far as to give the NSC a list of all dealings the Australian government had had with the French on the submarines.

In the end, France’s Naval Group gave Morrison no excuse for detonating the deal. It delivered all its contracted work on time. Australia’s Admiral “Greg Sammut reported that we’d received the report from the French and it met our requirements,” a department official said. “The reply was, ‘very good, the government will be advised’.”

………..  Macron felt set up nonetheless. Payne and new Defence Minister Peter Dutton had met their French counterparts just two weeks earlier and given no sign of what was to come.  Admiral Morio de l’Isle had been in Canberra just a week earlier to make sure that Naval Group was delivering as agreed, and the Australians had certified that they were. It was scant comfort that Moriarty confirmed that “the program was terminated for convenience, not for fault”.

It was a harsh blow to French pride and to Macron personally. He felt the US had connived with Australia against France. He withdrew his ambassadors from both countries in protest. When this masthead’s then Europe correspondent Bevan Shields asked Macron if he thought Morrison had lied to him, the French leader replied: “I don’t think, I know.”

In the White House, everyone who’d worked on the deal felt let down by the Australians. Biden felt blindsided. He mollified Macron. It was “clumsy, it was not done with a lot of grace,” Biden said. “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the [French] deal was not going through.”

Macron relented with the Americans. Morrison could not bring himself to show remorse. Macron has not yet forgiven him…….

May 16, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

DEMOCRACY IN DANGER — Declassified Australia

Upon leaving parliament, former Liberal party Defence Minister Christopher Pyne was immediately employed with corporate consultants EY Defence (Ernst & Young) to help them grow their defence business, and Adelaide-based arms industry lobbyists GC Advisory.

Brendan Nelson, former Liberal Party leader, Defence Minister, and director of the Australian War Memorial, is now president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, a top five contractor to Defence. Nelson is also on the board of defence advisory and weapons lobbyist Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Former Labor senator and chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Stephen Loosley joined the board of French arms multinational Thales Australia.

Former Liberal defence minister  Robert Hill is on the  board of German weapons-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles.

Former Labor defence minister and Labor leader Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley joined the board of Lockheed Martin Australia and was the chair of EY Defence lobby group

State capture’ by private interests explains why, no matter which major party forms government in Australia, powerful and well-connected industries always seem to win

FELICITY RUBY and SCOTT LUDLAM16 MAY 2022 ‘State capture’ by powerful corporate and political players is a major existential threat to democracy and communities across the world. It is fast becoming […]

DEMOCRACY IN DANGER — Declassified Australia

State capture’ by fossil fuel, defence and other powerful industries is more systematic and entrenched than corruption but falls short of the definition of oligarchy, or corporate dictatorship. It exists in a distinct place in the middle, where private sector actors get hold of democratic levers to shape policy in their interest, no matter the outcome of elections. 

The World Bank coined the ‘state capture’ phrase when observing private sector actors in former eastern bloc states shaping policies to serve their narrow interests. The power comes through control over resources, the threat of state violence, or other forms of influence on the judiciary, bureaucracies and government. 

In Australia, state capture explains why no matter which major party forms government, powerful industries always seem to win. 

Fighting state capture at election time means voting for people who don’t bank cheques from the huge companies, and who are not part of the revolving door between industry and politics.

Opinion polling and the surge in volunteers working to elect independents and Greens indicate that more Australians understand that a big, uncaptured and raucous crossbench can restore some integrity to parliament and fight corporations undermining democracy.

Early in 2022, the Australian Democracy Network published a report titled ‘Confronting State Capture’ which outlined six channels of state capture: financial, lobbying, revolving doors, institutional repurposing, research and policymaking, and public influence campaigns. 

The foundation of state capture is money: using it to fund political parties, buy access to decision makers and wage third party attack campaigns. Lobbying is then used to build relationships, either through consultancies, direct CEO-Minister contact, or peak bodies.

Revolving doors, the great merry-go-round or golden escalator, sees people working as Ministers or advisers one day and company directors or lobbyists the next, providing familiarity with process and people in decision making roles. 

The mostly observable work of policy and research involves the think tanks, the ‘Big 4’ professional services consultancies, and industry peak bodies. They allow these companies to cover every Senate inquiry, every piece of legislation, and infiltrate every regulatory body – unlike affected populations, community groups or social movements.

Institutional repurposing occurs when public authorities like the CSIRO or Bureau of Meteorology, or environmental protection authorities or universities are hollowed out through placing industry people on the board, changing underpinning legislation, gradually diverting them from the public interest to serving private industry. Finally, there are the public influence campaigns that are run on traditional media platforms and social media.

Revolving doors and golden escalators

When senior public officials and politicians ‘retire’ from public service and move into lobbyist roles in industry, they take with them an extensive contact network, deep institutional knowledge, and rare and privileged personal access to people at the highest levels of government.

Their presence in the private sector entrenches the influence of industry over policymaking and government procurement decisions – decisions that should be entirely unmoved by commercial imperatives.

The ministerial code supposedly requires ministers to not lobby government for industries connected to their portfolio for a period of 18 months, and yet some politicians don’t even wait before they have left office.

In defence of the realm 

  • Former Liberal Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb on the day before his resignation, took up a job with Chinese-owned developer Landbridge, the leaseholder of the strategically important Port of Darwin.
  • Upon leaving parliament, former Liberal party Defence Minister Christopher Pyne was immediately employed with corporate consultants EY Defence (Ernst & Young) to help them grow their defence business, and Adelaide-based arms industry lobbyists GC Advisory.
  • Former Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop overseeing the Australian Aid agency, became a director with private aid contractor Palladium.
  • Labor MP Mike Kelly went in 2020 directly from the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security into the arms of Palantir, a creepy US global surveillance consultancy.
  • Brendan Nelson, former Liberal Party leader, Defence Minister, and director of the Australian War Memorial, is now president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, a top five contractor to Defence. Nelson is also on the board of defence advisory and weapons lobbyist Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
  • The former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith, chairs the Perth-based cybersecurity company Sapien Cyber.
  • Former Labor senator and chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Stephen Loosley joined the board of French arms multinational Thales Australia.
  • Former Liberal defence minister  Robert Hill is on the  board of German weapons-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles.
  • Former Labor defence minister and Labor leader Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley joined the board of Lockheed Martin Australia and was the chair of EY Defence lobby group.
  • Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had been closely involved in negotiations on the Timor Sea boundary, to the ultimate advantage of Woodside Petroleum. As an ex-MP, he established a political advisory consultancy, Bespoke Approach, which was contracted by Woodside to lobby the East Timorese government to accept the basing of Timor’s LNG processing in Darwin rather than in Timor. Downer’s former departmental head also retired and joined the board of Woodside.

It’s not just ministers who seem to struggle on the Commonwealth pension, but also senior military and intelligence heads who pick up work with their former clients.

Former Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin, exactly a year after he retired as Defence Force Chief, was appointed as ‘non-executive director, defence and national security policy’ at BAE Systems Australia, one of Australia’s top three defence contractors. BAE Systems is in the running to provide Australia’s planned nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS military pact.

  • Five months after leaving his post as ASIO chief, Duncan Lewis joined the Australian board of Thales, a French arms and security multinational and a top three Australian defence contractor.
  • Former defence secretary, head of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) and director general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Nick Warner, joined the board of defence lobbying firm Dragoman Global, whose clients include French submarine company, Naval Group Australia.
  • Former defence secretary and ASIO boss, Dennis Richardson, joined the board of Vault Cloud, which provides high-security cloud infrastructure for government and critical industries.
  • Former chief of army, Lt Gen Ken Gillespie, chairperson of ASPI’s council, has joined the boards of Naval Group Australia and cybersecurity firm Senetas Corporation.
  • Retired Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib joined the board of QinetiQ, a British defence multinational that is deeply embedded with Defence’s weapons arm, Defence Science and Technology.
  • Former defence secretary Allan Hawke joined the Lockheed Martin Australia board as well as the military advisory and lobbyist group, ASPI.
  • Chief of Army Peter Leahy soon joined the boards of Codan, manufacturer of military communications equipment, and Electro Optic Systems, manufacturer of machine guns exported to UAE and Saudi Arabia, both at war against Yemen.

Fossil fuelled influence

 key weakness in the Lobbying Code is that it only applies to ministers, and has no application to senior public servants, nor to MPs who have spent years on relevant committees.

While the defence and intelligence industries are renowned for making astute appointments of former ministers and senior bureaucrats, the fossil-fuel industries are also keen to exchange personnel with governments to share the knowledge and contacts that secure their deep influence…………………………..

The use of ‘institutional repurposing’

One of the most threatening aspects of state capture is the manipulation or ‘repurposing’ of government agencies set up to serve the public interest, through a process of board appointments, legislative amendments or cultural drift.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) have been persistent targets for repurposing by fossil industries……………….

May 16, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Radioactive: Inside the top-secret AUKUS nuclear submarines deal

A nuclear subs deal would lock Australia more tightly into the US bloc.

Shearer managed to sidestep the Russian roulette of Australia’s vaccine rollout with the help of doctors at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.……….

My sources didn’t put it quite this bluntly, but everyone in the room understood that this was about Australia acquiring the power to pose a direct threat to China’s forces and the Chinese mainland.

 Campbell made a crucial choice by appointing Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead…...

Secret meetings and subterfuge over many months shored up Australia’s “40-year fantasy” of a mighty nuclear marriage with the US and the UK.

SMH, By Peter Hartcher MAY 14, 2022 When Joe Biden was first briefed on Australia’s request for nuclear-powered submarines, he did not say “yes”. He was cautious, even sceptical. Among his doubts was whether Australia was up to it………….

The Australians were asking for the crown jewels in the national security vault. one of America’s remaining decisive advantages over China. The US had shared its nuclear sub secrets with only one nation, Britain, in 1958. Much had changed since.

The transformational power of nuclear-propelled subs is that they could allow Australia to pose a direct threat to the Chinese mainland. For the first time. It had come to that.

With unlimited range because they never need to refuel, and with vertical launch tubes for firing missiles, a nuclear-propelled submarine could stand off China’s coast and threaten it with cruise missiles.

Australia’s existing fleet of submarines, the six diesel-powered Collins class, is equipped with torpedo tubes only. Which means it can fire torpedoes at targets in the water but not missiles at targets on land.

But it had been a 40-year fantasy of Australian governments to get American nuclear propulsion. Canberra had been turned down every time. Indeed, no earlier request had even reached the president’s desk. The US Nuclear Navy, guardians of the technology, had ruled it out of the question.

Now the Australian appeal had the president’s full attention. The briefing paper in front of him ran through the positives and negatives of such an arrangement –it did not contain a recommendation.

On the positive side of the ledger, the top consideration was that it would help counter China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has the advantage over the US in warfighting on and above the ocean. Arming an ally with nuclear-powered subs would help blunt China’s edge.

Nuclear-propelled submarines “are fast, they have stamina, they bring a whole spectrum of weapons, and if you are China, how are Australian and US forces working together?” poses the former chief of US Naval Operations, retired Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

“You don’t know their sovereign decisions. Your imagination is your biggest nightmare – what could they be doing? They can reposition fast, 25 knots [46km/h] for a full day. If an adversary says, ‘I’ve got a detection of a nuclear sub’, great – when? Two days ago. Then you draw a circle on the map and see where it might be. It’s a big circle.”

The US today has 68 submarines, all nuclear-powered. China has an estimated 76 subs, of which 12 are nuclear-powered. But the US fleet is shrinking as it retires older subs faster than it can build new ones. China’s nuclear-powered fleet is expanding. The AUKUS agreement aims to help Australia acquire eight.

Second, it would cement the alliance with Australia. Just a few years earlier, many in the US foreign policy community including Campbell had tipped Australia to be the ally most vulnerable to China’s influence, that it would “flip” and align with Beijing.

Instead, Australia had “set an incredibly powerful example” for the world in standing up to China, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview this year. A nuclear subs deal would lock Australia more tightly into the US bloc.

Third, it would help the US to deter China’s expansion through the Indo-Pacific. It would signal US commitment to the region and to US allies, reassuring other Indo-Pacific nations who might be doubting American staying power. “The president said, ‘this could be quite powerful’,” according to an official who was present.

But on the other side of the ledger, Biden himself raised four big concerns with the Australian request. First was nuclear proliferation. Since the deal with Britain in 1958, Washington, London and Canberra, among others, had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If we give the Australians this technology, won’t we be in breach of the treaty, Biden wanted to know?

Second was the response from China. How will Beijing react if we agree to this? Will it provoke Xi Jinping into accelerating his own naval build-up, into getting more aggressive?

Third was Australia’s capability. Would the Australian political system be capable of bipartisan commitment for the decades required? Is Australian politics stable enough? Could Australia afford the price tag?

Fourth, would the US Nuclear Navy be prepared to deliver? This had been the obstacle to every other Australian inquiry. This elite priesthood is the guardian of the fast, stealthy, underwater Doomsday machines that are America’s last line of defence.

America’s nuclear warfighting is structured on a “triad” – ground-based, airborne and undersea forces. The ground-based and airborne forces are the most vulnerable to enemy attack. But even if these are destroyed in a surprise first strike by an enemy, its nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed subs are designed to survive, undetected in the dark depths, to deliver annihilation to the enemy. By guaranteeing “second strike” capability, they deter any adversary from even thinking about launching a first.

Australia was not asking for nuclear weapons; it was content to arm its subs with conventional missiles. And Canberra was not so much concerned about nuclear Armageddon. Australia has entrusted that responsibility to the US, sheltering under America’s nuclear “umbrella”. Australia was feeling threatened by China and wanted the capacity to threaten it in return.

As the discussion around the White House table unfolded last year, other concerns emerged. The group included Secretary of State Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley.

What if we attempt this three-way agreement with Australia and Britain and it fails? The credibility of all three nations would be damaged. Have the Australians consulted fully with the French about their contract? Do we risk alienating one ally to gratify another?

The meeting broke up without a decision and with big questions needing to be answered. In the meantime, Australia had a contract with Paris – and French President Emmanuel Macron was deeply invested in it………..

In France, national pride and national honour were engaged, not to mention French economics – it was the biggest defence export contract France had signed, and the biggest Australian acquisition. The contract value was $50 billion but adjustments for inflation and extras took the total deal to at least $90 billion.

………………………………… Towards the end of 2019, Morrison started to ask his closest advisers about fallback options, including nuclear-propelled ones.   They told him of the joyless history of Australian requests for nuclear propulsion and that the likelihood of getting the technology from the US or Britain was “very, very low”. And they warned him that Australia would need a civil nuclear industry. Without one, it couldn’t maintain the nuclear reactors that drive the boats. On March 19, 2020, two months after the Audit Office report, the prime minister took the first formal step towards exploring contingencies.

…….  Secretly, he asked the secretary of the Defence Department, Greg Moriarty, for a discussion paper about all the options, including nuclear-propelled ones. He had the result within a fortnight……

Morrison decided to take the next step regardless. In May, 2020, he asked Moriarty and the military co-leader of the Defence Department, Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, to form a small, expert group to see whether it was feasible for Australia to acquire and operate nuclear-powered subs. The top-secret exercise was led by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan.

It came back with the conclusion that it was potentially feasible, but on two conditions. One, it was only possible with the help of the US, Britain or both. This was the only way Australia could operate nuclear-powered subs without setting up a civil nuclear industry to support them.

America and Britain use highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium to run their subs’ reactors. That means the reactors don’t need refuelling for the life of the boat itself, some 30 years.

Two, the same consideration ruled out the French nuclear-propelled sub, the big Barracudas Macron had launched so proudly, as an option. The French use low-enriched uranium, meaning their reactors need to be refuelled every decade or so in a lengthy process called full-cycle docking. This would keep the Australian fleet permanently dependent on Paris.

Moriarty’s opinion was that this would not be a sovereign Australian capability. Unless Australia started its own civil nuclear industry to refuel and maintain the reactors, something which Morrison would not countenance.

Tantalised, Morrison immediately asked Defence to contact the Pentagon to test its assumptions. Through a series of secure video conferences between the Pentagon and Defence’s headquarters on Russell Hill, the US Navy gave a guarded endorsement, summarised by an Australian official: “There’s nothing in your thinking that’s completely implausible”. But there was no enthusiasm from the Americans and certainly no commitment to help.

For the prime minister, this was a “game changer” nonetheless, as he’s described it to colleagues. The revelation: It was possible to have a nuclear-powered attack submarine, or SSN as navies call it, without needing to service the reactor.

To now, Morrison had briefed only two members of his cabinet, Linda Reynolds and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne. But now that he envisaged raising the idea with the American president and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he decided to widen the circle.

When he briefed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, he met an enthusiastic response. He remarked that the politics in the three capitals of Washington, London and Canberra seemed to be in alignment. “You could never do this deal with (the former leader of British Labour) Jeremy Corbyn,” said Frydenberg. “When a gate like this opens, you go through it.”

But what of the multibillion-dollar cost of cancelling the French deal and the far greater cost of building SSNs? “Everything is affordable if it’s a priority,” was the treasurer’s attitude. “This is a priority.”

Morrison then took it to the National Security Committee of his cabinet. This is the overarching mechanism for co-ordinating defence and security and includes top officials and ministers responsible for defence, foreign affairs, home affairs and intelligence. It gave Morrison the green light to take it further. “It was a high level of secrecy because there was no guarantee we could pull it off,” Morrison told colleagues. He didn’t want to disrupt progress with the French toward a conventional sub in case he failed with the Anglo American nuclear option, and end up with neither.

Morrison kept it so tight that the PM’s personal permission was required before any official could be brought into the charmed circle, a top civil servant explained. “So if anything leaked, you knew you’d be personally accountable to the PM himself,” said the official.

………….  Australia then, and now, had no long-range strike capability whatsoever. None on land, none in the air force, none in the navy. The ADF was set up for counterinsurgency wars as part of a US alliance like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and low-level conflict in the Pacific Islands like the missions in East Timor and the Solomons, but was unprepared for high-intensity warfighting with a capable nation state.

Reynolds tasked the Capability Enhancement Review with recommending the strike power Australia needed. One part was to be the nuclear subs project. Campbell made a crucial choice by appointing Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead………

Eventually, the moment arrived for Australia’s first approach to the Biden White House. ……

In May 2021, the moment came. The director-general of Australia’s peak intelligence assessment agency, the Office of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, was planning a routine visit to Washington to consult with his US counterparts. He’d been briefed on the nuclear subs project. Would you like me to broach it with the White House, he asked the prime minister? Morrison agreed. Shearer managed to sidestep the Russian roulette of Australia’s vaccine rollout with the help of doctors at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade………..

Shearer and Campbell had known each other for decades. He explained what Australia wanted. “As China’s capability advances, we need to have submarines capable of meeting it. We need to be able to operate without the risk of easy detection by the Chinese,” Shearer said, according to the participants.

…………..  My sources didn’t put it quite this bluntly, but everyone in the room understood that this was about Australia acquiring the power to pose a direct threat to China’s forces and the Chinese mainland.

Sullivan and Campbell immediately were interested. Biden has described the US rivalry with China as “the competition for the 21st century”. With this request, Australia was choosing sides emphatically.

……………  Shearer emphasised that Australia had no intention of developing a civil nuclear industry or developing nuclear weapons. He said that Canberra was satisfied it could operate the subs while preserving Australia’s strong record on nuclear non-proliferation.

Sullivan and Campbell had lots of questions about Australian technological, personnel and financial capacity but the potential killer at this threshold meeting was Australian politics. “We asked lots of questions about politics,” said Campbell. “Would this be contentious? Would this hold?”

Bipartisan political commitment, Labor and Liberal, was a prerequisite, the Americans said. “This would be a military marriage. It would have to hold over decades.”

………….   when Shearer returned to Canberra he made clear to Morrison and his other colleagues that the White House had set political bipartisanship as a non-negotiable condition. “If Albo says ‘no’, the deal will be dead,” as Australia’s ambassador to Washington, Arthur Sinodinos, put it to colleagues.

……..  the prime minister decided not to brief Labor leader Anthony Albanese for five months. He briefed him on the day before the deal was to be announced in a three-way piece of theatre with Morrison, Prime Minister Johnson and President Biden. It was high stakes on a very tight deadline.

This is part one of a two-part series by Peter Hartcher examining the AUKUS deal. The series concludes on Sunday, May 15.

May 14, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Biden demanded bipartisan support before signing AUKUS. Labor was not told for months

By Peter Hartcher, May 14, 2022 The Biden administration insisted from the outset that it would only consider pursuing the landmark AUKUS project if it had solid support from both major Australian political parties, yet Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose not to consult Labor until the day before its announcement.

By waiting four-and-a-half months, the prime minister made AUKUS into a high-stakes, last-minute political gambit.

And, when Morrison later challenged Labor publicly over whether it fully supported the deal, he seemed to be looking for a way to politicise the security partnership.

White House officials emphasised the point as a deal-breaker in the very first discussion on Australia’s request for nuclear-propelled submarines.

The prime minister sent a special emissary, Australia’s spy chief Andrew Shearer, to broach the topic with two senior officials, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and the White House US Indo-Pacific Co-Ordinator, Kurt Campbell on May 1 last year………….

The Democratic White House were frustrated at the lack of clarity from Australia. They called on a special assistant to the President who had been posted to Australia, Edgard Kagan, for his view.

They called on a special assistant to the President who had been posted to Australia, Edgard Kagan, for his view.

He observed that the Australian government seemed confident that Labor would support such a deal when they were eventually informed.

The Americans could see that if Labor baulked, Morrison would use it as a wedge against Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in the approach to an election.

They would frame him as weak on national security.,………………………..

May 14, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Election 2022: Anthony Albanese says John Howard is wrong about Australia’s nuclear future


Anthony Albanese has labelled the view of one former prime minister as “wrong” – and he has support from an unlikely corner. Ashleigh Gleeson @ashleighgleeson, May 9, 2022

NCA NewsWire   Anthony Albanese has labelled John Howard’s view that the AUKUS pact means it is “inevitable” Australia will develop a civil nuclear industry as “wrong”.

The Labor leader shared the view of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who also rejected Mr Howard’s prediction on the nation’s nuclear future at an American Australian Association function in Sydney on Sunday night.

There, the former prime minister said the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with the US and Britain “will make inevitable the arrival of a nuclear power industry in Australia”.

But Mr Albanese said Labor stood by its position to only support the AUKUS agreement if there was no requirement of a domestic civil nuclear industry and there was no acquisition of nuclear weapons.

He spoke alongside South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas at Flinders Medical Centre in the marginal Adelaide seat of Boothby, held by the Liberals by just 1.4 per cent.

There he was announcing $400m to upgrade the facility but did not give a straight answer on whether a federal Labor government would increase the commonwealth’s share of public hospital funding.

No, I think Mr Howard’s wrong,” Mr Albanese said.

“And, indeed, the advice and part of the decision-making process in the briefings that we had about AUKUS were that you didn’t need a domestic civil nuclear industry in order to support the nuclear submarines.

“We made very clear our support for nuclear subs. We made that on the basis of the advice that we received. And we stand by it.”

Mr Morrison had earlier said he didn’t’ agree with Mr Howard.

“The fact we were able to go forward with nuclear-powered submarines without having a civil nuclear industry was one of the key changes that enabled us to go forward with the agreement itself,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he therefore saw the issues as separate

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong labelled reports in The Australian about a draft maritime co-operation agreement between the Solomon Islands and Beijing outlining plans for China to build wharves, shipyards and submarine cables as “serious”.

“If it’s true, it demonstrates the seriousness of what has occurred on Mr Morrison’s watch,” she said.

“It also demonstrates that the sort of tough words he’s talking about, or trying to use about red lines, don’t appear … to be the way forward or appear to have much affect.

“This is a very serious problem which has occurred on Mr Morrison’s watch. It will take, if we are elected, it will take a lot of work to address it.”

May 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Dissecting Vice Admiral Jonathon Mead’s Nuclear submarine zealotry

Australia considering next-generation US and UK designs for nuclear submarines, The Strategist, 10 May 2022, Brendan Nicholson, Brendan Nicholson is executive editor of The Strategist.   Australia is involved in complex negotiations to ensure that its plan to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines doesn’t weaken the international non-proliferation regime.

Of course it will weaken the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The fuel required for these submarines’ nuclear reactor is highly enriched uranium – at risk of being acquired by other countries. Of course others will want these types of nuclear submarines, once Australia is getting them

The chief of the Royal Australian Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine taskforce, Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, tells The Strategist talks are underway with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the project embraces such high safety standards that it sets a rigorous new benchmark under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Nuclear Weapons, or NPT.

The submarines are to be built in Australia under the AUKUS arrangement with the United States and United Kingdom.

Oh yeah.where does he get that from? Most bexperts are saying that they’ll be built in UK or USA

Australia is yet to choose a US or UK submarine, but reactors on both use highly enriched, or ‘weapons grade’, nuclear fuel that does not need to be replaced for the boat’s 30-year life. There’s concern that the use of this fuel could wreck the global non-proliferation machinery by opening the way for other nations to obtain it as a step towards manufacturing nuclear weapons………

To complete a defence project on this massive scale, says Mead, Australia must build ‘a nuclear mindset’……….

What is he talking about? Australians are not so stupid. So there’ll be a massive propaganda campaign? How’s he going to do iy?

Mead is aiming for the RAN to have its first submarine by the end of the next decade, but says he’s ‘seized by the strategic need to drag that date left as much as is safely possible’……..

He notes that an interim submarine capability is likely to include Australians co-crewing with American and British submariners, and other more advanced options.

Those options will not include another conventional submarine.

However, The Strategist understands that the navy may be offered a nuclear-powered boat to use through the 2030s—once Australia’s nuclear stewardship has been certified.

Mead says it’s too soon to say whether Australia will end up with US Virginia-class or British Astute-class vessels, but he concedes that new versions, the American SSNX and the British SSNR, will be in the mix.

‘We are doing deep-level analysis of all these options—maturity of the design, when are they going to start building it, what’s its affordability, how we’d do it—to present by the first quarter of 2023 an optimal path to the three governments. We then begin to deliver the submarine.’

‘To train personnel’, Mead says, ‘we could embed sailors and officers in a US or UK boat to the point where we may have a 50% UK or US crew and a 50% Australian crew.’ When the first submarine is launched in South Australia, the goal is to have the crew trained, the industrial base ready to maintain it and the regulatory system set up. ‘We have exchange officers on board our submarines and ships all the time.’……….

‘So we need to set up a system supported by the US and UK to provide our people with reactor training. If you’re the engineer, you may be a nuclear physicist. If you’re working at the front end of the boat, you require some knowledge of the reactor in case there’s an emergency, but not to the same level.

‘The commanding officer will require a very deep level. We are mapping out every person on the submarine and what type of nuclear training they require and how we deliver that.’

Succeeding in the submarine enterprise will take a major national effort, says Mead.

The decline in the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, students in schools and universities will have to be arrested. The Australian Defence Force needs to attract individuals who see nuclear-propelled submarines as state of the art, as exciting, as something they want to work in for many years.

STEM education is a very good idea – Science Technology, Maths, Engineering – and should be encoursaged. But, at the same time, these nuclear zealots are down-grading biology history, social studies, ecology, the arts – all the humanities – equally, perhaps more than equally, necessary

………   ‘That will be the key to success. We need to harness Australia’s youth now so that they see a very clear and satisfying career path in the submarine program. I want to develop my own sovereign and independent system where I have someone at school right now. She could be 15 and wondering what to do. I tell her I want her to command submarine number one in 15 years.  “You’ll need to do some STEM subjects and you’ll join our program and I’ll send you overseas. I’m going to send you to MIT, potentially, and then on a UK boat, then bring you back to Australia.” Or, “I want to prepare you to be a manager in the shipyard, an engineer or a naval architect looking after the reactor—or part of the regulatory system.”’

Mead needs thousands of specially trained people in the industrial base, navy workforce, broader ADF and crew from the sharp end of the submarine and the reactor through to safety regulation and monitoring and environmental protection and, ‘if we have a defect, an Australian company that’s nuclear certified and able to provide parts’.

He’s talking to universities that are developing courses ranging from doctoral and research degrees in nuclear physics down to graduate certificates or introductory courses on reactors.

His taskforce already numbers 226 specialists in areas ranging from engineering to international law and nuclear proliferation. Many have already been on global research trips. ‘I have people embedded from the Attorney-General’s Department and legal experts from the Solicitor-General, legal people from the navy and from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and we bring in other experts when needed.’

……………………………….   To assess whether Australia could build these submarines without a civil nuclear industry, Defence sought advice from the US and UK. Because the reactors don’t need to be refuelled and come as a sealed unit, the strong advice was that a civil industry was not required to build and operate the submarines. Mead has sought advice from nuclear physicists and technicians at the Lucas Heights reactor near Sydney. ‘They’ve been dealing with nuclear waste for many years, so we talk to them as we look at our own solutions for nuclear waste”………………………………..

So, Vice Admiral Mead and co are going to solve the nuclear waste problem. Australia can do it? When highly qualified scientists across the world have not been able to?

 Mead will take a big team to UK shipyards soon to map out a pathway to Australia’s new submarines.

Who’ll be on this team? Anyone with any common sense? Or just another pack of nuclear zealots?

I wake up every morning thinking I’ve got to find that optimal pathway, not just to the submarine itself, but what is the optimal workforce?’ says Mead. ‘What’s the best way to train these people over 20 years? How do we set Australian industry up for success?

The plan for that whole system must be provided to the three governments early next year so that the decision on the choice of submarine can be made. Then the process to build begins.

In the US and UK, Mead says he’s sensed an unwavering commitment from everyone he’s talked to, civil and military.

‘They see great strategic benefit in what we’re doing…….   How we will develop a sovereign capability.’

What’s he talking about – ”a sovereign capability”? So Australia is to be a great world military power? This guy has delusions of grandeur

…………….   He says the boats must be built in Australia to ensure Australia has a sovereign capability. That will make it much easier to sustain them ……………  Could Australia then become a sustainment hub for US and UK submarines? Absolutely, says Mead. A US nuclear submarine visited Western Australia recently and a British Astute-class boat came last year.

May 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Far from having a leftwing bias, the ABC has been tamed by cuts and incessant attacks

So what is to be done? One recommendation I have made to the parliament is to enshrine in legislation the ABC’s funding so that it cannot be stood over by future conservative governments. Such legislation would set a minimum level of ABC funding, indexed for the future, which the government could not fall short of without passing legislation through the Senate.

Second, the independent selection panels for the ABC must be strengthened. When Labor designed the panels, we did not imagine that a future government would be so brazen in ignoring their recommendations. This could include legally limiting the proportion of directors who could be appointed outside the panel process.

Finally, the ABC’s leaders need to toughen up and actually show some leadership in defence of their own institution. They are under attack every single day – whether by the Liberal party, the National party, the Institute of Public Affairs, the Murdoch media, or myriad other arms of the rightwing establishment – and should learn to fight back.

The alternative is to continue seeking to appease the far right. And that only ends badly.


Kevin Rudd, 10 May 22, Under the Coalition, the national broadcaster has been domesticated to the point of overcorrecting for perceived partisanship.

When your opponent is determined for war, history teaches us appeasement does not work. Indeed, unilateral concessions are often counterproductive: they weaken your position and embolden your adversary.

Sadly, these are lessons that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, by and large, has failed to learn. Over the past decade of conservative rule, the national broadcaster has been gradually tamed by an unrelenting campaign of bullying, intimidation and delegitimisation.

The clearest example is the ABC’s budget. Despite a crystal-clear election promise in 2013 of “no cuts to the ABC”, the national broadcaster is facing $1.2bn of cumulative cuts over a decade. These cuts have felled two television programs that were crucial to government accountability, Lateline and the state-based 7.30 program (once known as Stateline), among many others.

Most government ministers, no matter their level of ability, can navigate a short daily press conference or a local radio interview. But you can’t fake your way through a 15-minute grilling on live television where premiers and prime ministers have their mastery of the issues put to the test. Also gone are statewide radio bulletins, digital transcripts and programs like the Media Report, which examined the rapid changes to how information flows in our democracy.

The cuts have not stopped at our water’s edge. Our national security has been undermined by the axing of the ABC’s Australia Network, which broadcast high-quality television throughout the Pacific while adding to the ABC’s overall pool of foreign correspondents. Radio Australia’s shortwave radio service – an essential lifeline that amplified our national interests and democratic values to remote Pacific Island countries – has also been axed. And while Australia has retreated, China has spent billions to expand its global media presence with Xi Jinping vowing to “tell Chinese stories well” and “make the voice of China heard”.

The Coalition government also exerts control by quietly stacking the ABC’s board with directors hand-picked by the minister, directly ignoring the recommendations of independent merit-based selection processes established under legislation by my government. This includes Ita Buttrose, a former Murdoch editor and Liberal party fundraiser, as its chair. At one stage, five of the eight government-appointed board members were not recommended on merit.

These appointments risk affecting decision-making at the highest levels. One apparent example was when Buttrose’s predecessor, Justin Milne, responded to government complaints by demanding journalist Emma Alberici’s head. “They hate her,” Milne reportedly wrote in an email to then managing director Michelle Guthrie. “We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they will lose the next election.” Alberici was eventually forced out. Milne denied there had been any interference by the government in the ABC and said the “interests of the ABC have always been utmost in my mind”

But the most insidious way the government domesticates the ABC isn’t through budget cuts or board appointments; it is through incessant attacks on the national broadcaster over alleged systemic leftwing bias in its news and current affairs.

These attacks have always been fanciful. There have always been prominent conservatives at the ABC. Consider two of the ABC’s recent chief political correspondents: Mark Simkin later became Tony Abbott’s press secretary; Chris Uhlmann was a protege of deeply conservative MP Paul Osborne. Other presenters include Tom Switzer, who sought preselection for the Liberal party and runs the Centre for Independent Studies. Some ABC staff, like Phillip Adams, have been involved in left-of-centre causes over the years.

Nonetheless, the Liberal party attacks persist because they serve multiple purposes. First, they delegitimise the ABC, fuelling the idea that reporting that exposes the government’s failures cannot be believed. The ABC’s critics often claim to detest cancel culture, but they would love nothing more than to cancel the ABC.

Second, by doing so, the Liberals curry favour with Rupert Murdoch, who has a direct financial stake in undermining public broadcasters, be they the ABC in Australia, PBS and NPR in the United States, or the BBC in the United Kingdom. Murdoch hates any media he can’t control, and he wants the ABC privatised.

Third, they normalise the idea that Murdoch’s national stranglehold on print media is OK because it’s merely a rightwing counterbalance to the leftwing ABC. This is ludicrous; the ABC has robust standards, rigorous complaints processes, and is accountable to parliament. News Corporation is functionally unregulated, its political bias is way off the Richter scale, and it acts like a petulant child at the very suggestion that it be compelled to answer questions at a commission of inquiry about their monstrous levels of monopoly.

The Murdochs insist they have nothing to hide, while claiming the ABC is compromised. If they actually believed this, they would have welcomed a wide-ranging media royal commission years ago.

Fourth, and most importantly, the Liberals use these tactics because they subtly condition the ABC’s staff to be hyperconscious about confirming the stereotype. You can see it in the eyes of television reporters who, having caught themselves in the act of saying something that could be construed as vaguely leftwing, will rush to invoke a Coalition talking point (even if they know it is false) or engage in facile “both sides” arguments that draw a false equivalence between the two parties.

Continue reading

May 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics | Leave a comment

The ‘climate election’ we need to have 9 May 22, As pre polling opens for the 2022 federal election, climate change and the environment have been largely missing from the mainstream debate.

Yet what happens at this election will impact climate and environment, in a time where science makes it abundantly clear that we don’t have time to waste if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.


Why does climate and environment matter when there are so many pressing immediate issues, like the cost of living, health and employment?

  • Global monthly average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have reached above 420 parts per million (ppm) for the first time on record.
  • Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016.
  • There is scientific consensus about the risk of irreversible climate impacts if 1.5C of warming is passed for even a short period of time.
  • Since colonisation, more than 100 native species have been made extinct and more than 1,900 Australian animals, plants and ecological communities are at risk of extinction.
  • According to the Vote Compass surveys, climate change is the top issue for voters.

How do the parties rate on climate?

A key issue to look for in judging how seriously political parties take climate change is to look for their promised emission reduction targets.

The emission cuts the four major parties promise for 2030 are:

  • Greens:  75%
  • Labor:  43%
  • Coalition (Liberal/ National):  26-28%

Recent research by Climate Analytics found neither major party had emissions reduction goals that lived up to the commitment that was made in the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, and strengthened in last year’s Glasgow climate pact, to aim to limit heating to as close as possible to 1.5C.

For reference, the Climate Analytics analysis found that Australia should cut its emissions by 57% by 2030 to be compatible with a 1.5C heating goal.


According to analysis by Climate Analytics, the Morrison government’s climate change commitments are consistent with more than 3C of global heating, bordering on 4C, a level that would lead to catastrophic damage across the planet.

The Liberal’s environment and energy policies can be found here.

The Nationals don’t have a specific policy covering climate change. Climate change is not one of the Nationals top five priorities. You can find their policies here.


The ALP has reaffirmed its plans to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030, and ensure 50% of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030. Additionally, it has announced a long term target of net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.

Labor’s climate target was found to be consistent with about 2C of heating above pre-industrial levels. Both would be expected to lead to the loss of tropical coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, and a significant rise in the number of extreme heat events in Australia, assuming other countries took equivalent action.

The ALP’s climate platform can be found here.

The ALP’s environment policies can be found here.


The Greens say Australia should be cutting by 75% by 2030.

The Greens climate platform is available here.


The ‘teal’ independents largely support a climate bill proposed by Zali Steggall that includes a 60% target.

There are more than 22 candidates covered under the Climate 200 umbrella. They are self described as being ‘pro-climate, pro-integrity and pro-gender-equity Independent candidates’.  

You can details on them, and their individual policies, here.


Be aware that many of the micro parties are deeply anti environment and opposed to government taking meaningful action on climate change. These include

  • Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
     (PHON is a climate change denialist party)
  • Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  • The Liberal Democrats (who advocate for the deployment of nuclear power)
  • Far right independents like those associated with ‘Australia One’ who have been focusing on harvesting anti-vaccine-mandate and anti-lockdown sentiment. The Australian Federation Party is conservative, anti-public health, and has no formal climate, energy, environment policies. There are many candidates running on a ‘Freedom platform’ against public health orders and vaccination mandates. Most of them have no climate or environment policies. This is a good (Melbourne focused) assessment of the policies of many micro parties.

Most of these groups hold climate denier/ anti environment positions. If you are considering voting for them, we urge you to check their policies on climate, energy and environment.


Friends of the Earth has not produced a scorecard for this election. Here are some links to other groups assessments.

Vote Climate. Available here.

Climate and Health Alliance. Available here.

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. Available here.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

The Greens oppose nuclear waste dump on Kimba, South Australia

May 5, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

This black smoke rolling through the mulga’: almost 70 years on, it’s time to remember the atomic tests at Emu Field

The Convesation, Liz Tynan, Associate professor and co-ordinator of professional development GRS, James Cook University: May 4, 2022 

The name Emu Field does not have the same resonance as Maralinga in Australian history. It is usually a footnote to the much larger atomic test site in South Australia. However, the weapons testing that took place in October 1953 at Emu Field, part of SA’s Woomera Prohibited Area, was at least as damaging as what came three years later at Maralinga.

The Emu Field tests, known as Operation Totem, were an uncontrolled experiment on human populations unleashing a particularly mysterious and dangerous phenomenon – known as “black mist” – which is still being debated.

Operation Totem involved two “mushroom cloud” tests, held 12 days apart, which sought to compare the differences in performance between varying proportions of isotopes of plutonium. The tests were not safe, despite assurances given at the time.

Between 1952 and 1957, Britain used three Australian sites to test 12 “mushroom cloud” bombs: the uninhabited Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast and the two South Australian sites. (An associated program of tests of various weapons components and safety measures continued at Maralinga until 1963.)

The British government, with loyal but uncomprehending support from Australia under Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies, proceeded despite incomplete knowledge of atomic weapons effects or the sites’ meteorological and geographical conditions.

The British government, with loyal but uncomprehending support from Australia under Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies, proceeded despite incomplete knowledge of atomic weapons effects or the sites’ meteorological and geographical conditions.

The first British atomic test, Operation Hurricane, held in 1952, was a maritime test of a 25 kiloton atomic device detonated below the waterline in a ship anchored off part of the Monte Bello Islands.

Operation Totem was designed to test two much smaller devices – 9.1 and 7.1 kilotons respectively – by detonating them on steel towers in the desert.

At the time, Britain was in the process of commissioning a new reactor at Calder Hall in Cumbria (designed to make plutonium for both military and civilian uses) that would produce nuclear fuel containing more plutonium-240 than a previous reactor.

Totem was intended to test “austerity” weapons made from nuclear fuel eked out of this reactor. (Plutonium-240 can potentially make nuclear weapons unstable, in contrast to the fuel of choice for fission weapons, plutonium-239, which is more controllable.)

Totem was a “comparative” test. Its innermost technicalities are still kept secret by the British government.

A greasy black mist

The two tests at Emu Field were fired at 7am, on 15 October and 27 October.

The first test, Totem I, produced a mysterious, greasy “black mist” that rolled over Aboriginal communities around Wallatinna and Mintabie, 170 kilometres to the northeast of Emu Field. The black mist directly harmed Aṉangu people. Because no data was collected at the time, it is impossible to quantify precisely, however, the anecdotal evidence suggests death and sickness occured.

The British meteorologist, Ray Acaster, gave an account of the phenomenon, and its possible causes, in 2002:

The Black Mist was a process of mist or fog formation at or near the ground at various distances from the explosion point … Radioactive particles from the unusually high concentration in the explosion cloud falling into the mist or fog contributed to the condensation process … The radioactive particles in the mist or fog became moist and deposited as a black, sticky, and radioactive dust, particularly dangerous if taken into the body by ingestion or breathing.

The black mist was an horrific experience for all in its path. Survivors gathered at Wallatinna and Marla Bore in 1985 testified to the Royal Commission into the British Atomic Tests in Australia on its effect on individuals and communities.

Among those who testified was Lallie Lennon, who lived at Mintabie with her husband and children in 1953. After breakfast on 15 October they heard a deep rumble, followed by weird smoke that smelt of gunpowder and stuck to the trees. Lallie, her children and the others with her all got sick with diarrhoea, flu-like symptoms, rashes and sore eyes. Lallie’s skin problems were so severe, it looked like she had rolled in fire.

Another witness, the later tireless advocate for the survivors of the British atomic tests, Yami Lester, was a child at the time of Totem and lost his vision after the tests.

He recalled his experiences in testimony to the royal commission, and elsewhere. Interviewed by two London Observer journalists in a story republished in the Bulletin under the title “Forgotten victims of the ‘rolling black mist’”, he said:

I looked up south and saw this black smoke rolling through the mulga. It just came at us through the trees like a big, black mist. The old people started shouting ‘It’s a mamu’ (an evil spirit) … they dug holes in the sand dune and said ‘Get in here, you kids’. We got in and it rolled over and around us and went away.

Contaminated planes
The second test, Totem II, took place on October 27 in completely different meteorological conditions and did not produce a black mist. Its cloud rose quickly into the atmosphere and broke up soon after. However, radioactivity from both Totem I and Totem II travelled east across the continent, crossing the coast near Townsville.
Air force crews from both Britain and Australia flew into the atomic clouds. A British Canberra aircraft with three crew aboard entered the Totem I cloud just six minutes after detonation, far earlier than any of the other cloud sampling aircraft.

For a brief period the radioactivity to which they were exposed was off the scale. The aircraft was flown back to the UK, where it was found to carry extensive residual radioactive dust despite having been cleaned in Australia.

While air crew were exposed to contamination in flight, RAAF ground crew were worse affected, since they were largely unprotected and worked for hours on the contaminated planes. The risk to both air and ground crew was extensively examined by the Royal Commission.

One account by Group Captain David Colquhoun, head of RAAF operations at Emu Field, mentioned a gathering of crew in a hangar at Woomera, where a doctor ran a Geiger counter over those present.

As it reached the hip of one man, “the Geiger gave a very strong number of counts”. The young man then said he had a rag in his hip pocket he had used to wipe grease “off the union between the wing and the fuselage”. This rag was heavily contaminated.

Abrogating responsibility

After America’s McMahon Act of 1946 made it illegal for the US to work with other countries on atomic weaponry, a secret British Cabinet committee made the decision to conduct tests of a British bomb – but not on its own territory.

Britain explicitly abrogated all responsibility for those who lived near the Emu Fields site. Britain maintained through to the royal commission – and in years beyond – that it was not responsible for Aboriginal welfare in the face of atomic weapons tests.

The extent of the huge British atomic weapons testing program here is still largely unknown by Australians. The Australian government forced the British government to contribute to the cost of remediation of Maralinga in the mid-1990s, although Monte Bello and Emu Field were largely left untouched.

The story of Emu Field has been forgotten for nearly 70 years. Bringing it back into our national consciousness reminds us the costs of harmful political decisions are often not borne by the decision-makers but by the most powerless.

The author would like to thank Maralinga Tjarutja Council for allowing access to the Maralinga lands, including Emu Field.

The Secret of Emu Field: Britain’s forgotten atomic tests in Australia, by Elizabeth Tynan, has just been published by NewSouth

May 5, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A Secret Australia Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés Edited by Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau Also available as an ebook from your favourite retailer.

In A Secret Australia, eighteen prominent Australians discuss what Australia has learnt about itself from the WikiLeaks revelations – revelations about a secret Australia of hidden rules and loyalty to hidden agendas. However Australians may perceive their nation’s place in the world – as battling sports stars, dependable ally or good international citizen – WikiLeaks has shown us a startlingly different story.

This is an Australia that officials do not want us to see, where the Australian Defence Force’s ‘information operations’ are deployed to maintain public support for our foreign war contributions, where media-wide super injunctions are issued by the government to keep politicians’ and major corporations’ corruption scandals secret, where the US Embassy prepares profiles of Australian politicians to fine-tune its lobbying and ensure support for the ‘right’ policies.

The revelations flowing from the releases of millions of secret and confidential official documents by WikiLeaks have helped Australians to better understand why the world is not at peace, why corruption continues to flourish, and why democracy is faltering. This greatest ever leaking of hidden government documents in world history yields knowledge that is essential if Australia, and the rest of the world, is to grapple with the consequences of covert, unaccountable and unfettered power.

The contributors include author Scott Ludlam, former defence secretary Paul Barratt, lawyers Julian Burnside and Jennifer Robinson, academics Richard Tanter, Benedetta Brevini, John Keane, Suelette Dreyfus, Gerard Goggin and Clinton Fernandes, as well as writers and journalists Andrew Fowler, Quentin Dempster, Antony Loewenstein, Guy Rundle, George Gittoes, and Helen Razer, and psychologist Lissa Johnsson.

May 5, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Sydney University fined for carelessness with a radioactive device

The fallout of the University’s radiation case, by Bella Gerardi, May 2, 2022,

Last week, the University of Sydney was fined $61,000 for failing to properly dispose of a radioactive source belonging to a decommissioned medical imaging machine. For an institution that claims to have a strong commitment to the environment, conviction of a criminal environmental offence appears at odds with its sustainability strategy.

The source, which contained a sealed radioactive isotope, was found when a truck delivering scrap metals to a recycling yard set off alarms during a routine radiation check. 

Identified as belonging to a PET scanner owned by the University, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged the University with four individual breaches of the Radiation Control Act. The case didn’t go to court as the University pled guilty, and in exchange the EPA dropped two of the four charges. 

So, how did this happen? 

By accident, the court ruled. 

…………… the court noted that if the source had not been detected before entry to the second metal recycling yard, environmental contamination would have been “very likely”. In this scenario, the source would have gone on to be reprocessed, a procedure that would involve breaking the seal of the source and dispersing the material into usable metal. It would have ultimately ended up in consumer material, which the court noted has occurred overseas.

………… It is disappointing, but not surprising, that it took a criminal conviction to reach the safeguards imposed today. Unfortunately, the University’s prior lack of clear procedure is indicative of the broader attitude institutions and corporations hold toward environmental crimes. Environmental crimes are often entangled with accidents, negligence, or oversight, and are often not viewed as holding the same gravity as other offences.

Corporations and institutions are responsible for the majority of environmental harm, yet complex corporate hierarchies make it uncommon for individuals to face repercussions for offences, which in turn promotes a lax attitude toward environmental damage. ………………………………….. more

May 5, 2022 Posted by | legal, New South Wales | Leave a comment

 Unions NSW opposes nuclear powered submarines and the AUKUS treaty.

Paul Keating ,Branch Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney Branch, 26 Apr 22,

Unions NSW declares its total opposition to the reckless announcement by Scott Morrison that Australia would be developing nuclear-powered submarines as part of a military alliance with the US and UK.

 At a time when Morrison should have been pursuing vaccination supplies and providing maximum support to our health system and millions of people in lockdown, he has been pursuing secret military deals. The deal will continue to escalate unnecessary conflict with China.  Workers have already been impacted with seafarers stranded on coal ships and some trades shut down.

Extraordinary sums of money have been wasted with the previous submarine contract scrapped only five years after it was signed. That contract was worth $90 billion – nuclear submarines will cost much more.

 Only six countries in the world have nuclear submarines, and they all have nuclear power stations. Advocates for nuclear power and nuclear weapons have been emboldened. The submarines will use highly enriched uranium ideal for nuclear weapons.

  The Australian government has repeatedly tried to set up nuclear waste dumps on First Nations land. This will intensify that pressure.

  The billions wasted on submarines should be spent on:

Building an Australian strategic shipping fleet in Adelaide that could operate in cabotage and international trades;

·         Building renewable energy and offshore wind turbines to ensure we prevent global heating from exceeding 1.5°C;

·         Raising Jobseeker payments to well above poverty levels;

·         Pay increases for health workers and investments in our health systems;

·         Pay increases for teachers and investments in public schools to make them covid-safe;

·         Investing in firefighting capacity and ensuring we are ready for the next bushfire season.

 Workers have no interest in war with China or any other country. Every effort should be made to pursue peaceful relations.

 Unions NSW stands in solidarity with workers in all countries in opposing war and wasteful environmentally harmful military spending.

We pledge our opposition to oppose the development of nuclear submarines in Australia, and the development of any other nuclear industry.

May 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, employment, Opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Various groups oppose plan for nuclear submarine base – ”a military target” at Port Kembla, New South Wales

Planes, trains, automobiles … and nuclear subs: the local issues at play in the federal election

Guardian  Stephanie Tran and Khaled Al Khawaldeh, Mon 2 May 2022

 ………….Submarine base in Port Kembla

Max, 26, works for a non-profit and lives in the electorate of Cunningham, held by retiring Labor MP Sharon Bird. He is worried about the prospect of a base being built in Port Kembla to house the future nuclear-powered submarines to be built under the Aukus agreement.

“This announcement was made with no consultation with the community, no proposal for consultation moving forward and a potential for my home to have a giant target on its back,” he said.

The Wollongong suburb, 100km south of Sydney, was flagged by the Coalition as the potential home of its new nuclear-powered submarine base. However, experts have raised concerns that the base could endanger the community by making it a military target, and some in the community are wary over the safety of the submarines’ nuclear reactors.

Alison Byrnes, the Labor candidate for Cunningham, said that if elected she would ensure that the community was consulted on the decision.

“I will make it a priority to seek a detailed briefing from the minister for defence on this plan, as well as Defence’s proposed assessment process,” she said.

The Liberal party emphasised the economic benefits of the project, but did not address the community concerns……..

Greens candidate Dylan Green said he did not want to see his community “getting caught up in a nuclear arms race”.

“Our government should be strengthening diplomatic ties with neighbouring states, not inviting conflict by investing in warships with primarily offensive capabilities,” he said.

Alexis Garnaut-Miller, from the Australian Citizens party, was “absolutely and resolutely opposed to this nonsensical proposal of building nuclear submarines or any development of nuclear submarine presence in Port Kembla”……

May 2, 2022 Posted by | New South Wales, Opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment