Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s new Prime Minister backs the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty 24 May 22, The election of the Albanese Labor Government heralds a new era in Australia’s approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. While the previous government shunned the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Australian Labor Party has committed to sign and ratify it in government. Recent polling demonstrates ¾ of the Australian public support this action. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a long-term champion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, inspired by his late mentor Tom Uren, a former Labor Minister who witnessed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as a prisoner of war. In proposing the resolution committing to the treaty in 2018, he said the new policy is “Labor at its best” and that “nuclear disarmament is core business for any Labor government worth its name”. In 2016 Albanese launched the Tom Uren Memorial Fund with ICAN, and has spoken out in support of the treaty in parliament, at public events and demonstrations since its negotiation in 2017.  

A majority of the new government members have signed the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge to work for Australia to sign and ratify the Treaty. It has been backed by two dozen unions, including the national peak body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Victorian, Tasmanian, Australian Capital Territory, South Australian, Northern Territory and Western Australian Labor branches, as well as over 50 local branches have passed motions declaring their support and calling upon Australia to join the ban without delay. Many have called for signature and ratification to be completed in the first term of the new government.

Following a decision of the Australian Parliament, signature and ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can now proceed under the Albanese Labor Government. 

In addition to the incumbent signatories of the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge, we are delighted to welcome the following new parliamentarians that have committed to work for Australia to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:

Boothby, SA         Louise Miller-Frost, Labor

Bennelong, NSW          Jerome Laxale, Labor

Chisholm, VIC          Carina Garland, Labor

Cunningham, NSW          Alison Byrnes, Labor

Goldstein, VIC         Zoe Daniel, Independent

Higgins, VIC         Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Labor

Hunter, NSW          Daniel Repacholi, Labor

Kooyong, VIC          Dr Monique Ryan, Independent

North Sydney, NSW         Kylea Tink, Independent

Pearce, WA          Tracey Roberts, Labor

Robertson, NSW          Gordon Reid, Labor

Wentworth, NSW          Allegra Spender, Independent

ENATE, ACT          David Pocock, Independent

SENATE, QLD          Penny Allman-Payne, Greens

SENATE, NSW          David Shoebridge, Greens

SENATE, SA          Barbara Pocock, Greens

SENATE, VIC          Linda White, Labor

May 24, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Extraditing Julian Assange would be a gift to secretive, oppressive regimes

Handing over the WikiLeaks founder to the US will benefit those around the world who want to evade scrutiny

Peter Oborne 22 May 22, more

In the course of the next few days, Priti Patel will make the most important ruling on free speech made by any home secretary in recent memory. She must resolve whether to comply with a US request to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges.

The consequences for Assange will be profound. Once in the US he will almost certainly be sent to a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life. He will die in jail.

The impact on British journalism will also be profound. It will become lethally dangerous to handle, let alone publish, documents from US government sources. Reporters who do so, and their editors, will risk the same fate as Assange and become subject to extradition followed by lifelong incarceration.

For this reason Daniel Ellsberg, the 91-year-old US whistleblower who was prosecuted for his role in the Pentagon Papers revelations, which exposed the covert bombing of Laos and Cambodia and thus helped end the Vietnam war, has given eloquent testimony in Assange’s defence.

He told an extradition hearing two years ago that he felt a “great identification” with Assange, adding that his revelations were among the most important in the history of the US.

The US government does not agree. It maintains that Assange was effectively a spy and not a reporter, and should be punished accordingly.

Up to a point this position is understandable. Assange was anything but an ordinary journalist. His deep understanding of computers and how they could be hacked singled him out from the professionally shambolic arts graduates who normally rise to eminence in newspapers.

The ultimate creature of the internet age, in 2006 he helped found WikiLeaks, an organisation that specialises in obtaining and releasing classified or secret documents, infuriating governments and corporations around the world.

The clash with the US came in 2010, when (in collaboration with the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, the New York Times and other international news organisations) WikiLeaks entered into one of the great partnerships of the modern era in any field. It started publishing documents supplied by the US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Between them, WikiLeaks and Manning were responsible for a series of first-class scoops that any self-respecting reporter would die for. And these scoops were not the tittle-tattle that comprises the daily fodder of most journalism. They were of overwhelming global importance, reshaping our understanding of the Iraq war and the “war on terror”.

To give one example among thousands, WikiLeaks published a video of soldiers in a US helicopter laughing as they shot and killed unarmed civilians in Iraq – including a Reuters photographer and his assistant. (The US military refused to discipline the perpetrators.)

To the intense embarrassment of the USWikiLeaks revealed that the total number of civilian casualties in Iraq was 66,000 – far more than the US had acknowledged.

It shone an appalling new light on the abuse meted out to the Muslim inmates at Guantánamo Bay, including the revelation that 150 innocent people were held for years without charge.

Clive Stafford Smith, the then chairman of the human rights charity Reprieve who represented 84 Guantánamo prisoners, praised the way WikiLeaks helped him to establish that charges against his clients were fabricated.

It’s easy to see why the US launched a criminal investigation. Then events took an unexpected turn in November 2010 when Sweden issued an arrest warrant against Assange following allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange refused to go to Sweden, apparently on the grounds that this was a pretext for his extradition to the United States and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Sweden never charged Assange with an offence, and dropped its investigation in 2019.

This was an eventful year in the Assange story. Ecuador kicked him out of the embassy and he was promptly arrested for breaching bail: he’s languished for the past three years in Belmarsh prison. Meanwhile the US pursues him using the same 1917 Espionage Act under which Ellsberg was unsuccessfully prosecuted. Assange’s defence, led by the solicitor Gareth Peirce and Edward Fitzgerald QC, has argued that his only crime was the crime of investigative journalism.

They point out that the indictment charges Assange with actions, such as protecting sources, that are basic journalistic practice: the US alleges that “Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records”. Any journalist who failed to take this elementary precaution when supplied with information by a source would be sacked.

The US stated that Assange “actively encouraged Manning” to provide the information. How disgraceful! No wonder Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, has warned that: “It is dangerous to suggest that these actions are somehow criminal rather than steps routinely taken by investigative journalists who communicate with confidential sources to receive classified information of public importance.”

Despite all this, there’s no reason to suppose that Patel will come to Assange’s rescue – though there may yet be further legal ways to fight extradition.

Even if Patel wasn’t already on the way to winning the all-corners record as the most repressive home secretary in modern history, the Johnson government, already in Joe Biden’s bad books, has no incentive to further alienate the US president.

If and when Assange is put on a plane to the US, investigative journalism will suffer a permanent and deadening blow.

And the message will be sent to war criminals not just in the US but in every country round the globe that they can commit their crimes with impunity.

May 23, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

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!!!!!!!!

Misnomerthey could allow Australia to pose a direct threat to the Chinese mainland”

Exactly. Our war mongers in Canberra aren’t interested in defence, they want war with China. They have written a $100+ billion blank cheque for the “crown jewels” (seriously?), leaving us without subs and defence for decades so hairy-chested Morrison and Dutton can bang the defence drums for an election.

The subs are a political play from a reckless, spendthrift government beholden to the US, which is happy to take a huge chunk of our debt-fuelled cash and let us fight their war against China.

Ditch the subs. They are a folly from an out-of-control government and should be the first thing Labor axes in the name of debt repair.

Inner West Andrew….  The French option should not have been discarded so readily on what appears to be a political process instigated by scotty from marketing in secret and using notes on the back of a beer coaster. The lack of proper policy development on the AUKUS deal is truly astonishing. Neither Britain or America are likely to have the spare capacity to help us obtain a fleet of even just 3 nuclear submarines for decades. meanwhile we have a massive capability gaps, just as Dutton appears determined to start a war.

Budawang The momentous decision to bankroll the US projection of power against China in the Western Pacific for decades to come was made without any public debate and without even consulting with Labor. This is not the sign of a well-functioning democracy.

lets be frank. Since ScoMo didn’t talk to Albo . Albo as PM should bite the bullet and CANCEL THE NUCLEAR DEAL . Its too far above our budget and capability. It will bankrupt us . Scomo has shown himself to be the most incompetent reactive idiot in a conga line of LNP incompetent reactive idiots. This is what happens when you have amateurs in the Lodge

Inner West Andrew….  The French option should not have been discarded so readily on what appears to be a political process instigated by scotty from marketing in secret and using notes on the back of a beer coaster. The lack of proper policy development on the AUKUS deal is truly astonishing. Neither Britain or America are likely to have the spare capacity to help us obtain a fleet of even just 3 nuclear submarines for decades. meanwhile we have a massive capability gaps, just as Dutton appears determined to start a war.

Budawang The momentous decision to bankroll the US projection of power against China in the Western Pacific for decades to come was made without any public debate and without even consulting with Labor. This is not the sign of a well-functioning democracy.

lets be frank. Since ScoMo didn’t talk to Albo . Albo as PM should bite the bullet and CANCEL THE NUCLEAR DEAL . Its too far above our budget and capability. It will bankrupt us . Scomo has shown himself to be the most incompetent reactive idiot in a conga line of LNP incompetent reactive idiots. This is what happens when you have amateurs in the Lodge

Phil 1943 Why wouldn’t the US and UK rush to accept the offer of a base – or bases, for their naval assets in Australia without the inconvenience of having to pay for them? If all goes as vaguely announced by the LNP, Australia will fork out big bucks for a smallish fleet of nuclear subs that will be serviced here in ‘joint’ facilities that will be shared with those two nuclear-experienced nations while we learn how to operate our submersible purchases.

During the twenty or so years while we wait for this questionable deal to coalesce, our allies will have new Australian bases to show on the maps of their global military facilities. And it’s going to cost us billions of dollars in the interim. We can only hope Albo says ‘no’.

mmanuel Can. The fact it makes us more of a target doesnt seem to have been given too much weight.

Allan Woodley. I guess that’s what he was doing in Hawaii during the bushfires

Southerner. So this puts into perspective China’s reaction to Australia, the trade bans and the Solomons and China’s spy ships cruising in international waters off Australia’s coast. Why does Australia need an attack capacity? Why would a nation of 25 million seek to be a protagonist? Why didn’t Morrison and Co spend the time building constructive, healthy relationships with the Pacific, our SE Asian neighbours and all our trading partners including China? Once again Morrison was playing domestic politics, keeping Albanese out of the picture, pursuing a fait accompli to reap what he saw as glory. Has Morrison made Australians safer? That is uncertain. Hopefully, this very dangerous man and his very bad government will be gone in 7 days 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

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

Hysteria over the Solomon Islands-China security pact

Independent Australia, By Binoy Kampmark | 28 April 2022, Visits to Honiara are part plea, part threat. Delegations are equipped with a note of harassment. 

That was the initial Australian effort to convince the Solomon Islands that the decision to make a security pact with Beijing was simply not appropriate in the lotus land of Washington’s “Pacific empire”. ………………

Having not convinced Honiara to change course, a range of reactions are being registered. David Llewellyn-Smith, former owner of the Asia Pacific foreign affairs journal The Diplomat, took leave of his senses by suggesting that a Chinese naval base in the Solomons would see ‘the effective end of our sovereignty and democracy’. 

In a spray of hysteria, he suggested that this was ‘Australia’s Cuban missile crisis’.

The Labor Opposition, desperate to win office on 21 May, are calling this one of the greatest intelligence failures since World War II, which perhaps shows their somewhat tenuous command of history.  Their leader, Anthony Albanese, seeking some safe mooring in a campaign that has lacked lustre, was particularly strident.

It was a chance to show that Labor was not shaky or wobbly on national security. 

…………..This belligerent, simple note might have been stronger were it not for the fact that his deputy, Richard Marles, had previously made the unpopular suggestion that the Pacific islands were somehow sovereign entities who needed to be treated as such while China, in providing development assistance to them, should be “welcome” in offering it. …………………….

With Australia failing to change minds, the paladins of the U.S. imperium prepared to badger and bore Honiara. On the list: President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink; and National Security Affairs Indo-Pacific chief Kurt Campbell. It seemed like an absurd gathering of heft for a small Pacific Island state.

The theme was unmistakable. A bullying tone was struck in a message from National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, who seemed to forget the Solomons was not some ramshackle protectorate of the Five Eyes. 

Officials from the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia had ‘shared concerns about [the] proposed security framework between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific’.…………………………….

As for the Solomon Islands itself, divided, fragmented and vulnerable to internal dissent and disagreement, Sogavare is unrepentant

He has already told his country’s Parliament that there is no intention “to ask China to build a military base in Solomon Islands”.  He felt “insulted” by such suggestions and felt that there was only one side to pick: “our national security interest”…………………,16302

April 28, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian government will not intervene as Australian citizen Julian Assange is extradited from UK to USA

Australia won’t interfere in Assange case, By Dominic Giannini, April 21, 2022 The Australian government will not make any representations to the British home secretary after a UK court approved the extradition of whistleblower Julian Assange to the US.

A British court has sent Mr Assange’s extradition order to Home Secretary Priti Patel, but the whistleblower can try to challenge the decision by judicial review if signed.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government maintained confidence in the UK’s justice system.

“We trust the independence and integrity of the UK justice system. Our expectation is that, as always, it operates in the proper and transparent and independent way,” he told the ABC.

“It, of course, has appeal processes built into it as well. This is the legal system upon which our own has been built on and established and we have confidence in the process.”

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was ultimately a decision for the UK home secretary.

“I do understand why not only Mr Assange’s personal supporters but many Australians more generally are worried about this. It has dragged on a long time,” she told the ABC.

“As an Australian citizen, he is entitled to consular assistance. We also expect the government to keep seeking assurances from both the UK and US that he’s treated fairly and humanely.”

But Senator Wong stopped short of saying a Labor government would make specific representations about the case. 

“Consular matters are regularly raised with counterparts, they are regularly raised and this one would be no different,” she said.

The development comes 10 days after Mr Assange surpassed the three-year anniversary of his arrest.

The 50-year-old Australian was dragged from London’s Ecuador embassy on April 11 in 2019 to face extradition to the United States on espionage charges over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has previously called for an end to Mr Assange’s extradition.

Mr Joyce said Mr Assange didn’t steal secret US files but only published them, which did not breach any Australian laws at the time, and he was not in the US when leaks were put online.

The Greens have criticised the extradition of Mr Assange, with senator Peter Whish-Wilson saying the US Espionage Act wasn’t intended to be used against publishers.

“We must support press freedoms and those who hold the powerful to account,” he said.

“Julian Assange’s prosecution has always been political. It needs political intervention of the highest order from our government to get justice for him.”

Assange Australia campaign adviser Greg Barnes says it’s important the matter has moved back into the political realm.

“Previously the Australian government has said we can’t even intervene because the matter is before the courts. It is no longer before the courts in that sense,” he told Sky News.

This is a political decision that will be made by Priti Patel and it’s a decision which the Australian government, and of course in this context the opposition, could influence.”

The Greens, crossbenchers such as Andrew Wilkie, and Liberal and Labor backbenchers had expressed support for Mr Assange, which could potentially influence a hung parliament in May, Mr Barnes said.

“That’s also an interesting factor as to what pressure is going to come on whoever gets elected in May to bring this Australian home.”

with Reuters

April 22, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, secrets and lies, Wikileaks | Leave a comment

Pine Gap’s role in China–US arms race makes Australia a target

Rakesh, April 15, 2022

Developments at the U.S.-Australian satellite intelligence base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs give the United States an unprecedented ability to detect Chinese spacecraft from space and potentially destroy them.

Previously, detection was mainly based on ground-based radars, which are no longer seen as suitable for identifying these spacecraft if they were weapons. China has said it has only tested new space vehicles.

As shown below, two different versions of the latest Pine Gap satellites can do this job together. The difficulty is how to further destabilize the nuclear balance between China and the United States in order to help maintain peace.

Last October, it was reported that China had tested a nuclear-capable highly maneuverable hypersonic glider after it was lifted into space by a missile. The nuclear warheads released from US intercontinental ballistic missiles are also manoeuvrable and independently targeted. But the United States sees a serious threat from these hypersonic vehicles that can drive at more than five times the speed of sound.

This development makes Australia more closely integrated with any American offensive in space, as well as with defensive capabilities. Yet there has been no political debate in Australia about the consequences of avoiding war. No senior politician is trying to create momentum to support a new arms control deal, as Presidents Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev did in 1971, when the number of nuclear weapons escalated alarmingly, to more than 30,000 each.

The latest arms build-up is highlighted by a meeting in late March between Australian intelligence and military officials and senior US military officers at Pine Gap. Although the United States clearly considers Pine Gap to be crucial in fighting war in space, these military officers did not speak to the Australian media. Instead, they choose to talk to a London-based journalist Financial Times.

It is unclear whether the government intends to inform the Australian public about developments at Pine Gap. These have implications for Australia’s own security and its potential obligations under the outer space treaty, which limits the militarization of space without completely banning it. If Pine Gap was not already a Chinese nuclear target, it probably will be now.

That Financial Times reported the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, said the United States wanted to integrate all elements of the U.S. military power with its allies. In this context, Aquilino said Australia has capabilities that make it an “extremely advanced partner”. He said increased visibility in space would help counter Chinese hypersonic weapons. “The ability to identify and track and defend against these hypersonics is really key.”

The head of the U.S. Space Command, General James Dickinson, was also interviewed for the play, saying Australia was a “critical partner” in efforts to improve space domain awareness and monitor Chinese space operations. He said, “This is the perfect place for many things to do.”

The deputy head of the U.S. Cyber Command, Lieutenant General Charles Moore, said digital convergence between the United States and Australia gives the Unit

Pine Gap’s own satellites also pick up signals from radars and weapon systems, such as ground-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, fighter jets, drones and spacecraft, along with other military and civilian communications. From Pine Gap, a huge amount of military data is fed into the American war machine in real time.ed States “the potential to conduct offensive operations.” He added that cooperation with allies created an “asymmetric advantage” over China, which lacks similar partnerships. One consequence is that China cannot gather near as much electronic intelligence from across the globe as the United States.

An idea of the growing importance of Pine Gaps for the United States is given by its extraordinary growth. Originally, it was a ground station for a single satellite to collect what is called signal intelligence as it orbited 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. There are now at least four much more powerful satellites connected to the base. Their antennas automatically intercept everything that is transmitted within their frequency range. This includes a large selection of electronic signals for intelligence analysis, including text messages, emails, phone calls and more. In addition, terrestrial antennas at Pine Gap and other Australian locations pick up a large amount of information transmitted via commercial satellites.

Pine Gap’s own satellites also pick up signals from radars and weapon systems, such as ground-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, fighter jets, drones and spacecraft, along with other military and civilian communications. From Pine Gap, a huge amount of military data is fed into the American war machine in real time.

Pine Gap operates in connection with similar interception satellites attached to a base at Menwith Hill in England. Their use to lead counterfeit drone strikes that have killed a large number of civilians has been much debated in England. The combined coverage of the two bases includes the former Soviet Union, China, Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Atlantic landmass.

Pine Gap is also linked to infrared satellites, which are of great interest to Americans. Their original function, which is still important, is to provide early warning of the firing of nuclear-armed Russian or Chinese ballistic missiles. Added options now allow them to use their infrared telescopes to detect and track heat from spacecraft as well as from large and small missiles and military jets. Some satellites have very elliptical orbits that can go close to Earth instead of being 36,000 kilometers above Earth.

These satellites now provide highly coveted information about Chinese spacecraft, amplified by the data from the signal intelligence satellites. Taken together, this gives access to signals and infrared intelligence, and its location relative to China, Pine Gap plays a crucial role in the United States’ plans to fight wars in space. This capability will be enhanced by a new space-based detection and tracking system called Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR).

On April 6, the leaders of the AUKUS pact – Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison and Joe Biden – announced that they would develop hypersonic missiles and subterranean robots after previously promising to supply Australia with nuclear submarines from around 2040.

These new missiles will also travel at more than five times the speed of sound, but are air-breathing unlike those designed for use in space. The United States and Australia had already developed hypersonic cruise missiles using ramjet engines.

No figures are available, but the cost of developing, building and testing very long-range missiles will be high. A large part of the test is expected to take place in Australia. The new missiles are also intended for use against Chinese targets.

Again, China can be expected to build more missiles with the ability to target Australian and US forces in the region. Separately, Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton announced that the Australian government will spend $ 3.5 billion on new missiles with a longer range of 900 kilometers for Australian ships and fighter jets.

The background to what is happening at Pine Gap illustrates how much more important the base is to the United States than any contribution Australia may have made by a pair of fighter jets or frigates to the United States’ integrated international force that was at a distance from China. At this stage, neither side of Australian policy seems willing to refuse participation in yet another US-led war that violates Australia’s obligations under both the UN Charter and Article 1 of the ANZUS Treaty. Both documents oblige Australia to reject the use of force in international relations, other than defensively.

Although rarely mentioned, Pine Gaps’ growing importance to the United States increases Australia’s leverage with the United States to refuse to contribute ships, aircraft and troops to an integrated military force should it violate international rules. It may be harder to dismiss some aspects of Pine Gap’s operations. But there are provisions in the ground rules that Australia only acts with “full knowledge and agreement” with what is happening. Australia does not have to agree.

A further question is how to revive arms control negotiations between Russia and the United States and include China. The two large ones have 1550 intercontinental warheads, but they also have smaller ones. According to the Pentagon, China had only about 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2021 and about 200 smaller warheads. This gives China reasonable cause for concern that it does not have enough strategic warheads to be able to retaliate against a US first attack and thus perpetuate deterrence.

To overcome this, the Pentagon projects that China will have around 1,000 intercontinental warheads by 2030. All sides must reach a new agreement to make major cuts in the number of warheads if the chances of nuclear war are to be reduced.

Whether or not China develops hypersonic spacecraft, it is already committed to getting more traditional intercontinental ballistic missiles that can disperse maneuverable warheads. Restraint on all sides is necessary.

I asked the Secretary of State, Marise Payne, and her Labor counterpart, Penny Wong, if Australia could refuse to integrate with the United States and other forces if they considered a proposed deployment in violation of Article 1 of the ANZUS Treaty or the UN Charter. I also asked if Australia could withdraw its military assets from integrated US operations if there was a more urgent need for Australia to confront a local threat that was not of interest to the US. None of them responded before the print deadline.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 16, 2022 as “Mind Pine Gap”.

April 18, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, religion and ethics, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Propaganda on Ukraine – preparation for Australia fighting USA’s war against China?

At some point, Australia armed to the teeth with US nuclear armaments will be targeted. From a strategic viewpoint, Australia is the low hanging fruit. The US will bluster but eventually come to a truce with China/Russia/India etc. Meanwhile Australia will be reduced to charred remain but will have Pine Gap and other US assets intact. It is a price the US is willing to pay.

Claudio Pompili, 17 Apr 22,  

Ukraine has become the biggest fault line of our times…the US-led western powers and vassal states on one side; the BRICS and others on the other.

I’ve never experienced such blatant propaganda and censorship from the West in my lifetime. On the other hand, the West has played its trump card and, if there were ever any delusion about the US Imperial project. Concerns about global reach of the US military-industrial-complex, tech platforms and oligarchs have been validated.

Our Lib/Lab parties and state-controlled media ABC/SBS along with The Guardian, The Conversation etc have fallen into line with our Imperial master. Shockingly and sadly, so too have many of the faux Left such as Socialist Alliance, Red Flag and in Italy ‘il manifesto’ including global intellectuals eg Noam Chomsky.

Fortunately, the 100% wall to wall Australian MSM propaganda machine has thrown up indie/dissident voices, eg Caitlin Johnstone, John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations, and globally: in the North America, Counterpunch, The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), The Saker, Jacobin etc; and in Europe A Time To Rage: Blog of the Solidarity Socialist Network, Freenations, Contropiano: Giornale Communista Online, L’Antiplomatico etc.

Fortunately too, for now in Australia we can still access voices from the other side of the US divide eg Sputnik, TASS, PRAVDA, Global Times, China Daily etc.

Our Lib/Lab political class, worryingly even The Greens, have joined the US-led chorus of evil Putin/Russia haters and have committed our foreign policy as a co-belligerent to being the US Deputy Sheriff especially against China (it was never about Ukraine and Russia) and made us a nuclear target. Inevitably, Australia will provoke an military conflict with conventional arms in the South China Seas around Taiwan threatening China’s sovereignty. China will have no option but to retaliate militarily with conventional arms. When the body bags of Australian ADF personnel return to our shores, the Lib/Lab/Greens troika will go apoplectic and ramp up even more aggressive military threats including nuclear strikes.

At some point, Australia armed to the teeth with US nuclear armaments will be targeted. From a strategic viewpoint, Australia is the low hanging fruit. The US will bluster but eventually come to a truce with China/Russia/India etc. Meanwhile Australia will be reduced to charred remain but will have Pine Gap and other US assets intact. It is a price the US is willing to pay…to echo US war criminal Madeleine Albright.

April 17, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear risks, the war in Ukraine, and Australia’s significant contribution to these dangers

The war in Ukraine: Nuclear power, weapons and winter, Pearls and Irritations, By Jim Green, Apr 11, 2022,

Six weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the death and destruction has been devastating. In addition, the targeting of nuclear power plants by Russia’s military has raised the spectre of a nuclear disaster.

The Russian military’s seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ‒ at a time when at least one of the plant’s six reactors was operating ‒ was the most dangerous incident. The partial loss of power to the plant further raised the risk of a disaster.

To say that the seizure of the Zaporizhzhia plant was reckless would be an understatement. Dr. Edwin Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists summarised the risks:

“There are a number of events that could trigger a worst-case scenario involving a reactor core or spent fuel pool located in a war zone: An accidental ‒ or intentional ‒ strike could directly damage one or more reactors. An upstream dam failure could flood a reactor downstream. A fire could disable plant electrical systems. Personnel under duress could make serious mistakes. The bottom line: Any extended loss of power that interrupted cooling system operations that personnel could not contain has the potential to cause a Fukushima-like disaster.”

The Russian military also seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident. Workers were held hostage for 25 days. Off-site power was lost for five days, but generators supplied the necessary power to cool nuclear waste stores. It has been difficult to extinguish forest fires in the contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone due to military conflict.

Several other nuclear facilities have been hit by Russian military strikes, including a nuclear research facility at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, and two radioactive waste storage sites.

At the time of writing, there haven’t been any major radiation releases resulting from Russia’s invasion. But the risk remains, and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi continues to express “grave concern” and to note that “an accident involving the nuclear facilities in Ukraine could have severe consequences for public health and the environment.”……………….

The risk of nuclear warfare is low, but it is not zero. It doesn’t help that NATO and Russian military doctrines allow for the use of tactical nuclear weapons to fend off defeat in a major conventional war. It doesn’t help that some missiles can carry either conventional weapons or nuclear weapons, increasing the risk of worst-case thinking and a precipitous over-reaction by the adversary.

And it doesn’t help that Putin’s statements have included threats to use nuclear weapons, or that a referendum in Belarus revoked the constitution’s nuclear-weapon-free pledge, or that Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenko joined Putin to watch the Russian military carry out a nuclear weapons exercise, or that Lukashenko has said Belarus would be open to hosting Russian nuclear weapons.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, points to other concerns:

“Russia and Belarus are not alone in their aggressive and irresponsible posture either. The United States continues to exploit a questionable reading of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that prevents states from ‘possessing’ nuclear weapons but allows them to host those weapons. Five European states currently host approximately 100 US nuclear weapons: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey.”

In a worst-case scenario, the direct impacts of nuclear warfare would be followed by catastrophic climatic impacts known as ‘nuclear winter’. Earth and paleoclimate scientist Andrew Glikson noted in a recent article:…………………….

The myth of the peaceful atom

Russia’s deliberate and accidental strikes on nuclear sites in Ukraine aren’t the first attacks on nuclear facilities by hostile nation-states……….

For decades, the nuclear industry and its supporters denied and trivialised the connections between ‘peaceful’ nuclear programs and weapons proliferation. But nuclear power has been in such a desperate state in recent years that the industry now acknowledges and even celebrates the connections between power and weapons. Those connections are said to justify greater taxpayer bailouts and subsidies for nuclear power programs in the UK, the US, France and elsewhere.

In the UK, Rolls-Royce is promoting small modular reactors (SMRs) on the grounds that “a civil nuclear UK SMR programme would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability”. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a 2020 speech that without nuclear power there would be no nuclear weapons, and without nuclear weapons there would be no nuclear power (“Sans nucléaire civil, pas de nucléaire militaire, sans nucléaire militaire, pas de nucléaire civil”). In the US, the Nuclear Energy Institute argues that a failure to provide further subsidies for nuclear power would “stunt development of the nation’s defense nuclear complex”…………………………..

Australia’s contribution to global nuclear risks

Australia has uranium export agreements with all of the ‘declared’ nuclear weapons states, all of them breaching their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; countries with a history of weapons-related research based on their civil nuclear programs; countries that have not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; countries expanding their nuclear weapons capabilities; and undemocratic, secretive states with appalling human rights records.

Australia’s uranium export agreements with Russia and Ukraine were much of a muchness: federal parliament’s treaties committee issued strong warnings about the inadequacy of nuclear safeguards, the government of the day ignored those warnings, and no-one has any idea about the security or whereabouts of Australian uranium and its by-products in Russia or Ukraine.

Australian governments, and uranium companies operating in Australia, also contribute to global nuclear risks by exporting uranium to countries with lax safety standards and inadequate nuclear regulation. The most dramatic illustration of that problem is the fact that Australian uranium was in the poorly-managed, poorly-regulated Fukushima reactors during the explosions, meltdowns and fires in March 2011.

Ukraine provides another example. Even before the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s nuclear industry was corrupt, regulation was inadequate, and nuclear security measures left much room for improvement.

Australia also contributes to global nuclear risks because of the bipartisan support for the US alliance and ‘extended nuclear deterrence’. As a result, Australia routinely undermines global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives. A case in point is Australia’s efforts to undermine the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the government’s refusal to sign or ratify the treaty.

And the Australian government’s pursuit of submarines powered by weapons-useable, highly-enriched uranium undermines global non-proliferation efforts. If it’s okay for Australia’s military to have access to weapons-useable nuclear material, then it’s okay for the world’s other 190-or-so countries to have access to weapons-useable nuclear material. What could possibly go wrong?

 Detailed information on nuclear threats resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is posted at

April 12, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

AUKUS in the hypersonic missile wonderland

Pearls and Irritations By Binoy Kampmark, Apr 9, 2022,

As this idiotic, servile venture proceeds, Australian territory, sites and facilities will become every more attractive for assault in the fulness of time.

If further clues were needed as to why AUKUS, the security pact comprising the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, was created, the latest announcement on weapons would have given the game away.  Australia, just as it became real estate to park British nuclear weapons experiments, is now looking promising as a site for hypersonic missile testing, development, and manufacture.

In a joint statement from US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a commitment was made “to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defence innovation.”

To this can be added February efforts of officials from all three countries to, according to the ABC, scour Australia for sites best suited for the nascent nuclear-powered submarine program that seems all but pie in the sky. To date, the country has no infrastructure to speak of in this field, no skills that merit mention for the development of any such fleet, and a lack of clarity as to when the vessels might make it to sea. Nor is there any clear sign what model of submarine – UK or US – will be preferred…………………

The Morrison government is trying to leave the impression that this will eventually realise the dream of self-sufficiency, a notion repeatedly fed by such think tanks as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. It describes this as “a major step in delivering a $1 billion Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise, officially announcing strategic partners Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia.” The Prime Minister also sees such weapons as part of a broader Australia “strategic vision” dealing with long-range strike capabilities.

…………. As this idiotic, servile venture proceeds, Australian territory, sites and facilities will become every more attractive for assault in the fulness of time. That may well be quite a way off and, judging by any military ventures in Australia of this kind, we can hope that this will be more a case of decades rather than years.

April 11, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

AUKUS hypersonic announcement will ‘escalate global tensions’, warns CND

”………………… In a joint statement on Wednesday, the trio announced that they would now “commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities. ”

Growing proliferation

Australia is already co-operating with Washington on hypersonic weapon development as part of the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE). UK officials said they will not be formally joining SCIFiRE. They will instead co-operate in research and development in the area so they can expand their options.

Hypersonic missiles travel at five times the speed of sound and can be armed with either conventional or nuclear warheads.  Faster than cruise missiles, they can in theory evade existing air defence systems. The US, Russia, and China have all  undertaken testing of the weapon.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “The latest expansion of the AUKUS military pact will further escalate global tensions, at a time when the threat of nuclear war is at its highest in decades. The announcement that a programme initially centred on providing a non-nuclear state with nuclear-powered submarines – in itself risking wider nuclear proliferation – will now include hypersonic missiles, is of great concern. This AUKUS expansion will accelerate arms racing in the Asia-Pacific region, leading to  increased militarisation, and potentially helping provoke conflict over Taiwan. Not to mention the fact that military budgets are already escalating – what will the opportunity cost be for embarking on a whole new class of weaponry be?”

April 7, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s Parliament has little control over military matters, and Prime Ministers kow tow to USA and the White Anglosphere to go to war

Australia is an “active, eager participant in the US-led order” and restricting the Australian parliament’s control over the military has been “… a decision taken by the Australian government — at a bipartisan level — and implemented by senior policy planners.

Meanwhile the Australian parliament has “deliberately restricted its own powers on intelligence matters”

,Australia has ”reaffirmed its whiteness in its commitment to expansion of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing arrangements between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and, of course, to the controversial 2021 AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, which was nurtured in great secrecy”

White and might is right: the secrets which push us into other people’s wars, By Zacharias Szumer|April 2, 2022 Is playing deputy to America’s sheriff the reason Australian war powers remain unreformed? It’s clear that our politicians remain muddled on this critical issue, writes Zacharias Szumer.

For decades, minor parties in Australia have introduced bills seeking to give parliament greater control over military deployments. In the debates and inquiries that have followed, a wide range of objections have been raised.

We are told that, as military deployments are often made on the basis of confidential information, this information cannot be publicly disclosed to the parliament. Another common objection is that parliamentary decision-making would reduce the flexibility and speed needed to carry out military operations safely and effectively.

Most of the opposition to war powers reform, received as part of Michael West Media’s ongoing survey of politicians, follows similar lines. You can see myriad responses here.

However, some experts think there might be another reason — one that Australian pollies may be uncomfortable acknowledging.

Kowtowing to empires

Clinton Fernandes, professor of international and political studies at the University of NSW and former Australian army intelligence officer, contends that the bipartisan reluctance to infringe upon this executive prerogative should be understood within Australia’s ”sub-imperial” geopolitical strategy.

In basic terms, Australia has sought to integrate itself into the global strategy of great powers — firstly the British and, from 1942 onwards, the United States. In a 2020 article, Fernandes argues that this sub-imperial strategy has meant the “effective exclusion of the legislative and judicial branches of government from Australia’s national-security policy”.

Fernandes does not believe that Australian politicians and policy officials have been forced against their will into this position. Rather, he argues that Australia is an “active, eager participant in the US-led order” and restricting the Australian parliament’s control over the military has been “… a decision taken by the Australian government — at a bipartisan level — and implemented by senior policy planners.

“Australian strategic planners understand that this means a reduction in sovereignty, but they accept it because it achieves a higher objective — upholding US imperial power.” 

In addition to limiting parliament’s control over military deployments, Fernandes argues that Australia’s position as a “sub-imperial power” also limits parliamentary oversight of intelligence gathering. In the US, “intelligence committees and judiciary committees in the Senate and House of Representatives are regularly briefed about all authorised intelligence-collection programs, and relevant members of Congress receive detailed briefings prior to each re-authorisation,” Fernandes says. 

Five Eyes and whiteness

Meanwhile the Australian parliament has “deliberately restricted its own powers on intelligence matters” through measures such as the  Intelligence Services Act 2001 which ‘prevents the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security from ‘reviewing the intelligence gathering and assessment priorities’ or ‘reviewing particular operations that have been, are being or are proposed to be undertaken’ by ASIS, ASIO and the other intelligence agencies, and likewise ‘the sources of information, other operational assistance or operational methods’ available to the agencies”.

Dr Greg Lockhart, an historian and Vietnam War veteran, supports Fernandes’ argument, but stresses the importance of seeing Australia’s sub-imperial strategy through the lens of a wider “cultural self-deception” around racial anxieties. “Fear of the ‘yellow peril’ meant that our Anzac expeditionary strategic reflex was from its inception race-based,” he says. ‘It was also primarily defensive; it depended on “great and powerful” white friends for protection in our region; it has always depended on being in the Anglosphere”.

Dr Lockhart argues that, although the overtly racist rhetoric of the White Australia policy is largely a thing of the past, “our strategic culture is still inseparable from the Anglosphere, from wherein we have never needed to reassess its whiteness”.

Recently, he says, Australia has ”reaffirmed its whiteness in its commitment to expansion of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing arrangements between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and, of course, to the controversial 2021 AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, which was nurtured in great secrecy”.

“And with secrecy comes deception. Sounding like a US proxy in the Pacific while asserting Australian ‘sovereignty’, Scott Morrison’s government “announces it is in ‘lockstep’ with “our allies”, while trumpeting the threat of China’s communism, territorial expansion, abuse of human rights, or its implied role as the origin of Covid 19 — anything but the anxiety about Chinese numbers, ethnic difference, and independent power that has shadowed Australian history since the 1800s – and that now determines the security culture’s mindless dependence on the US.’’   

Seen in this wider cultural context, Lockhart believes that “the Constitution was never going to impose legislative or judicial restraints on the autocratic war powers of the sub-imperial state. Since the First World War in 1914, almost every Anzac expedition has been a British or American imperial one. The exceptions are the Pacific campaign in 1942-1945 and Timor in 1999-2000. And in all those imperial campaigns the decision for war has been made undemocratically by the prime minister acting in secret conclave with only a handful of advisers”.

Parliamentary war powers

Fernandes and Lockhart aren’t alone in suggesting that there’s a relationship between strategic objectives and parliamentary control, or lack thereof, over the military. In their encyclopaedic 2010 study of war powers around the world, scholars Wolfgang Wagner, Dirk Peters and Cosima Glahn noted that several Central and Eastern European states — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia — abolished parliamentary approval for war in the process of joining the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The authors argue that ‘’NATO accession apparently amplified the trade-off between creating legitimacy through procedures of ex ante parliamentary control and gaining efficiency through lean, executive-centred decision-making. From NATO’s perspective, having the governments of some member state tied by domestic parliamentary veto power must seem highly unattractive.’’

However, many of the more powerful NATO countries have far more wide-ranging parliamentary war powers than Australia or the aforementioned junior NATO partners. Although contested, the US War Powers Resolution significantly limits the President’s freedom to order military action without congressional authorisation.

For almost two decades in Germany, all major military deployments have been put to parliament for a vote. In the UK too, a parliamentary convention of seeking approval for military deployments in the House of Commons has also evolved over the past two decades.

April 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Today’s thought: Australia, Liberal and Labor, mindlessly toes the USA propaganda line

Christina Macpherson 1 April 22, UKraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Australian Parliament – to enthusiastic applause, a standing ovation. Fair enough. He’s a brave guy, with a good cause.

Did any of those donkeys in the Parliament understand that Zelensky has been trying to negotiate a peace deal with Russia? A dea lthat would involve Ukraine NOT joining NATO, and would involve fair treatment and some autonomy for the ethnic Russian areas in the Donbas, and recognition of Crimea as part of Russia. (nb. Crimea was not ”annexed” by Russia. They overwhelmingly voted to join Russia).

Do Australia’s sycophantic politicians understand that Joe Biden refuses to join in those negotiations? Do they understand that this war could have been prevented by the USA? That this is another, more sophisticated version of the proxy wars that USA has been orchestrating for decades?

Anthony Albanese, spineless opponent of the Liberal’s blustering bully Scott Morrison, joined in the fervour, comparing Putin to Hitler. All agreed that Australia must send more weapons so Ukraine – must join USA in continuing its lucrative, preferably endless, fight against Russia – a fight to the last Ukrainian!

March 31, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews, politics international | Leave a comment

Report to U.S. Congress on AUKUS agreement, allows Australia access to Highly Enriched Uranium and Plutonium

Report to Congress on AUKUS Nuclear Cooperation, News USNI, March 16, 2022 On December 1, 2021, President Joseph Biden submitted to Congress an “Agreement among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information.” This In Focus explains the agreement’s substance, as well as provisions of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, as amended (P.L. 83-703; 42 U.S.C. §§2153 et seq.), concerning the content and congressional review of such agreements.

An accompanying message to Congress explains that the agreement would permit the three governments to “communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data as may be needed during trilateral discussions” concerning a project to develop Australian nuclear-powered submarines. This project is part of an “enhanced trilateral security partnership” named AUKUS, which the three governments announced on September 15, 2021. The United States has a similar nuclear naval propulsion arrangement only with the United Kingdom pursuant to the bilateral 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement.

The partnership’s first initiative, according to a September 15 Joint Statement, is an 18-month study “to seek an optimal pathway to deliver” this submarine capability to Australia. This study is to include “building on” the U.S. and UK nuclear-powered submarine programs “to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.” The study is “in the early stages,” according to a November 2021 non-paper from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which adds that “[m]any of the program specifics have yet to be determined.”

Agreement Details 

The agreement, which the governments signed on November 22, 2021, permits each party to exchange “naval nuclear propulsion information as is determined to be necessary to research, develop, design, manufacture, operate, regulate, and dispose of military reactors.”

As noted, this information includes restricted data; the AEA defines such data to include “all data concerning … the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy.” The AEA and 10 C.F.R. Part 810.3 define special nuclear material as plutonium, uranium-233, or enriched uranium.

The agreement, which entered into force on February 8, 2022, is to remain in force until December 31, 2023, when it will “automatically extend for four additional periods of six months each.” Any party may terminate its participation in the agreement with six months written notice. Should any party abrogate or materially violate the agreement, the other parties may “require the return or destruction” of any transferred data.

The agreement includes provisions to protect transferred data. For example, no party may communicate any information governed by the agreement to any “unauthorized persons or beyond” the party’s “jurisdiction or control.” In addition, a recipient party communicating such information to nationals of a third AUKUS government must obtain permission from the originating party. The agreement includes an appendix detailing “security arrangements” to protect transferred information.  Download the document here.

March 17, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, reference, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment