Australian news, and some related international items

AUKUS an unwelcome guest at the table of nuclear disarmament.

AUKUS is emblematic of a belligerence that is at odds with moral and ethical demands for the future. It posits a vision of military aggression and confrontation that increase the risk of war and war turning nuclear; and concedes authoritarianism and lack of debate as defining principles for the present

AUKUS an unwelcome guest at the table of nuclear disarmament, Pearls and Irritations,
By Sanjay BarboraJan 16, 2022
   Despite many shortcomings, the Non-Proliferation Treaty remains a symbol of an inconsistent effort to ensure a world without threats of nuclear war.

The 2022 Review Conference (RevCon) of the Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which was to meet from January 4 to 28 in New York has been postponed because of the resurgent virus. Consultations are under way to set a new meeting time.

………………As governments and civil society consider their priorities for the review conference, what then are we to expect? This question assumes greater significance for Australia, as the country’s leaders respond to the changing climate following the hastily announced AUKUS trilateral pact for the supply of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia in 2021.

Three closely related aspects ought to be considered by the country’s decision makers as they address the review conference. They are (a) Australia’s commitment to international obligations, (b) security implications of the proposed AUKUS submarines, and (c) reactions within civil society, either as they exist now or as may be anticipated in the future.

………………. In the past, Australia’s stated position was to aim for greater accountability from the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS), while widening the scope of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to pursue the development of domestic nuclear energy. However, this position was undermined by its active opposition to and attempts to derail the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017.

A decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS partnership would threaten this fraught history with further uncertainties. It would offer the United States an even greater say in Australian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific-Indian Ocean region.

The specious defence that eight-nuclear propelled submarines do not constitute a breach of Australia’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation has two obvious problems.

Firstly, politicians and political commentators have made it clear that current tensions with China have played a substantial role in the current government’s decision to override earlier agreements for creating domestic capacities to build submarines with French support.

Secondly, this dystopian vision of a future world of nuclear showdowns could encourage governments of other NNWS in the region and elsewhere to follow a similar disingenuous narrative for nuclear militarisation.

In any case, the pathway from civil use to military weaponisation remains an issue of concern, that any sovereign country might follow. This could undo several decades of Australian diplomacy that sought to place the country as a reliable partner for securing peaceful policies and development in the Asia-Pacific-Indian Ocean region.

AUKUS is emblematic of a belligerence that is at odds with moral and ethical demands for the future. It posits a vision of military aggression and confrontation that increase the risk of war and war turning nuclear; and concedes authoritarianism and lack of debate as defining principles for the present…………..

The NPT Review Conference, therefore offers an opportunity to revive Australian civil society’s responsibility to reiterate its commitment to regional and global peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.

Professor Sanjay Barbora, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India, is a Research Affiliate with the University of Melbourne’s Initiative for Peacebuilding. This article was stimulated by a closed-door roundtable discussion, “Would AUKUS undermine the NPT?” hosted by the Initiative for Peacebuilding on December 10.

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

TANKS A LOT SCOTT! $3.5 billion for tanks to replace a fleet we purchased in 2007, which never saw battle.

January 13, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s ambitious weapons plan -Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS) AIR-6500

Move Over Nuclear Subs & F-35 Stealth Fighters, This Weapon System Is The ‘Most Ambitious’ Military Project In Australia, The Eurasian By Sakshi Tiwari– January 4, 2022  Australia, a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, has been making concerted efforts to increase its military capability. From hosting the first Marine Rotational force in 2011 to signing the AUKUS pact for a nuclear submarine, Australia has come a long way. 

So far, the big projects the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has undertaken are for submarines, combat reconnaissance vehicles, F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters, infantry fighting vehicles among others.

Now, the country is pursuing its most ambitious military project — the indigenous Joint Air Battle Management System (JABMS), which could be a game-changer in the near future. The JABMS, also called AIR-6500, forms the core of the future Integrated Air and Missile Defense capabilities, according to the Australian Defence Magazine.

The AIR 6500 is the cornerstone of the Royal Australian Air Force’s fifth-generation archway. Its goal is to bring all platforms and sensors from all warfighting domains together in a single interface that can track threats, organize a combined response, and guide that response toward the target. It’s emblazoned with the phrase “all sensor, best shooter.”

In August of last year, the Australian Department of Defense (DoD) chose Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the AIR6500 Phase I project, as previously reported by Airforce Technology.

(Ed. note: They have the nerve to call this ”indigenous technology)

Australia currently relies on Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for surveillance, and one possibility for the next-generation OPIR satellites which are in the works would be to maintain this reliance. Both these systems are US-made………………..

The technology being provided to Australia comes from the US Army’s Integrated Air Missile Defense Battle Command System, which is at the heart of the US Army’s next-generation air and missile defense capacity, according to Zeitz. To put it another way, this model is an ‘all sensor, greatest shooter’ model.

“There are a large number of people who are actively working on AIR 6500 today and the majority of them are in Australia,” Steve Froelich, Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) program executive for AIR 6500, said………………

The relationship between Australia and China remains strained due to the former’s participation in Quad [US, Japan, Australia and India], which China has termed as the Asian NATO. Canberra becoming a part of AUKUS for the acquisition of nuclear submarines has made matters worse.

January 6, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australians, like other nationalities, need to put pressure on their government to join the  UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) 

Nuclear weapons free future ByThe Echo Mick & Deborah Stacey, Ballina , December 26, 2021  Whilst the federal government is ‘rattling sabres’, and spending more on so-called defence, the movement to abolish nuclear weapons is gathering momentum.

There are now 58 countries who have ratified the UN Treaty. Boston, New York City and Minneapolis have joined the ICAN Cities Appeal, along with Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore.

New York City have begun divesting public pension funds from nuclear weapons companies, as have a major Australian superannuation fund and the first Finnish pension fund. The Financial Times wrote a story about how weapons companies are starting to be impacted by this growing pressure from investors.

The first meeting of State Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will take place at the United Nations in Vienna, 22–24 March, 2022.

Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Germany and Norway are not yet ready to join the TPNW, but they have already announced they will attend the meeting as observers. So, it is up to us to put pressure on our government (whoever they may be) to do likewise.

Check out: Here’s to a safe nuclear weapons free future.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

We froze’: What was this 1.3-metre missile doing at an Aboriginal heritage site?

We froze’: What was this 1.3-metre missile doing at an Aboriginal heritage site?
EXCLUSIVE: An unexploded high-tech missile was discovered at a culturally significant Aboriginal heritage site in remote South Australia. Neither the company that is believed to have made it – nor the Department of Defence – have explained how it got there.
SBS,  Tuesday 21 December 2021By Steven Trask, Sarah Collard  A group of Aboriginal Traditional Owners was inspecting a culturally significant site in remote South Australia when they discovered a high-tech anti-aircraft missile, a joint investigation by SBS News and NITV can reveal. 

The 1.32-metre missile is believed to have been built by a subsidiary of Swedish weapons maker Saab and was found at a registered heritage site called Lake Hart West, about 40 kilometres from the small town of Woomera, in January this year.

Woomera is home to one of the largest weapons ranges in the world and the missile appears to be a similar model to those tested by Australia’s Department of Defence near the town in 2019. 

Lake Hart West is important to the Kokatha people of the Western Desert region of South Australia; it is scattered with artefacts, historic shelters and tool-making sites.

“It startled us. There were four of us and we froze about five metres away from it,” says Kokatha man Andrew Starkey, who registered Lake Hart West as a heritage site with the South Australian government in the early 2000s.

“We were worried that there could be other missiles covered by the sand and in the bushes.

“There are over 20 heritage features all within a one-kilometre radius. There are rock engravings only a couple of kilometres away – it’s only through luck that that was not destroyed.”

The conservation of Aboriginal heritage sites has been under intense scrutiny since mining company Rio Tinto blew up the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia in May 2020.

An inquiry into the disaster found that existing state and Commonwealth laws were failing to protect Aboriginal heritage areas.

The Defence Department maintains it does not test weapons at culturally significant Aboriginal sites. But neither the department nor Saab have addressed questions over why the missile was found at Lake Hart West………………………………………

Human rights lawyer John Podgorelec has been representing the Starkeys as they pursue a complaint under OECD guidelines that govern “responsible business conduct” by foreign companies operating in Australia.

The Australian National Contact Point, which runs the process, said a complaint had been received against an “Australian-based enterprise” in the “defence sector”.

SBS News and NITV have confirmed the complaint relates to Saab.

An entry on the OECD complaint database reads: “Specifically, the issues relate to the discovery of an unexploded ordinance in South Australia by the Starkey Traditional Owners, resulting in risk to personal safety and artefacts of cultural significance.”…………

December 23, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Protesters say no to AUKUS nuclear submarine deal

  • Protesters say no to AUKUS nuclear submarine deal,   Mandurah Mail, Claire Sadler   15 Dec 21,

Canning MP Andrew Hastie has hit back at the Greens party, calling members “nuts” following protests outside his Mandurah office this week.

The Greens, along with other community groups, say they are lobbying to stop the Liberal’s AUKUS deal – which would see Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines in WA waters under a partnership with the United States and United Kingdom…………

On Friday, Greens MP Jordon Steele-John, former MP Jo Vallentine, and Conservation Council nuclear free campaigner KA Garlick presented a dossier of statements to Mr Hastie – who is also Assistant Defence Minister.

The dossier outlined anti-AUKUS statements from groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, the International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons, and Amnesty International.

Mr Steele-John said the Liberal government was trying to implement the AUKUS deal for two reasons alone.

To be able to escalate tensions so they can use the threat of war to win an election and because their party takes money from the very weapons manufacturers that will profit from these projects,” he said.

“The Morrison government is engaged in war mongering with China and the Assistant Defence minister and the Defence minister are complicit in that war mongering.

“They’re using a faux threat of war for political purposes and it is a shameful thing to do.”

Mr Steele-John said the Liberals had proposed to base the nuclear submarines in WA with no community consultation, without mediating the danger, and without detailing how much money it would cost………..

An 18-month consultation period for the nuclear submarine deal would determine workforce and training requirements, production timelines and safeguards on nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

During this time, The Greens say they will continue to protest the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal.

December 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian taxpayers up for $170Billion, for American nuclear submarines. No problem?

Australia’s Aukus nuclear submarines could cost as much as $171bn, report finds

Australian Strategic Policy Institute report calls project ‘most complex endeavour Australia has embarked upon’ Guardian, Tory Shepherd, Tue 14 Dec 2021 

Australia’s eight planned nuclear submarines will cost $70bn at an “absolute minimum” and it’s “highly likely” to be more than that, defence analysts say.

With inflation, the cost could be as high as $171bn, according to a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The thinktank’s report contained a series of estimates ranging from low to high and conceded that estimating the final cost of the project is necessarily an “extremely assumption-rich activity”…………

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said the planned nuclear-powered submarines, part of the Aukus deal with the United States and the United Kingdom, would likely cost more than the scrapped plan for conventional submarines, which would have cost $90bn……..

Australia will partner with either the US or the UK to buy their boat designs, and a nuclear-powered submarine taskforce is working through the details

“We haven’t determined the specific vessel that we will be building, but that will be done through the rather significant and comprehensive program assessment that will be done with our partners over the next 12 to 18 months,” Morrison said in September.

“Now, that will also inform the costs that relate to this, and they are yet to be determined.”

The authors of the Aspi report, Implementing Australia’s Nuclear Submarine Program, wrote that while the Aukus deal has seemed to move fast, the enterprise would still be “a massive undertaking and probably the largest and most complex endeavour Australia has embarked upon”.

“The challenges, costs and risks will be enormous. It’s likely to be at least two decades and tens of billions of dollars in sunk costs before Australia has a useful nuclear-powered military capability…….

The Aspi report co-author Dr Marcus Hellyer told Guardian Australia the government needed to work out its priorities and would need to balance capability needs, scheduling and the Australian industry content. He emphasised that picking which submarine to build was “secondary” to picking a strategic partner.

The US is building submarines at a rate 10 times higher than the UK, he said……….

The report canvasses other issues that will need to be resolved.

There are likely to be legislative changes needed to allow nuclear reactors in Australia. The government should consider appointing an internal nuclear regulator, an inspector general of nuclear safety, and how it will responsibly dispose of radioactive waste once the reactors that power the submarines reach the end of their useful lives……..


December 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia has been warned, even from the militaristic Australian Strategic Policy Institute, on the problems and astronomic costs of the nuclear submarines

The price tag will be eyewatering, with an eight-boat programme costing Aus$116 billion (US$83 billion) “at an absolute minimum”, almost a tenth of annual gross domestic product.

“It’s likely to be at least two decades and tens of billions of dollars in sunk costs before Australia has a useful nuclear-powered military capability.”

Australia warned bid for nuclear subs carries ‘enormous’ risks  13/12/2021   Australia’s bid to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines will cost more than US$80 billion and take decades in the “most complex” project the country has ever embarked on, a study released Monday warned.

The report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute — an influential Canberra-based think tank — said ownership of the high-tech subs built with US or British know-how would offer a major advantage in deterring aggression from China or elsewhere. [Really?]

But it will also be a fiendishly difficult task requiring a step-change in Australia’s military and industrial capabilities.

It is “probably the largest and most complex endeavour Australia has embarked upon. The challenges, costs and risks will be enormous,” the think tank warned.

“It’s likely to be at least two decades and tens of billions of dollars in sunk costs before Australia has a useful nuclear-powered military capability.”

The project, announced last month, will make Australia the only non-nuclear weapons power to own nuclear-run submarines, which are capable of travelling quickly over long distances carrying long-range missiles and state-of-the-art underwater drones.

Canberra plans to equip them with conventional rather than nuclear weapons. It has yet to decide whether it will buy US or British technology, what class, size and capabilities the subs will have, where they will be built or how radioactive material will be handled.

Even under an optimistic schedule, the first submarines are unlikely to be operational before 2040, according to the report’s authors, who include former Australian defence department officials and an expert on nuclear physics.

The price tag will be eyewatering, with an eight-boat programme costing Aus$116 billion (US$83 billion) “at an absolute minimum”, almost a tenth of annual gross domestic product.

Among a litany of tasks ahead, the navy will have to triple the number of submariners it recruits, refurbish docks, and develop extensive nuclear safeguards.

On the diplomatic front, Australia will need to reassure neighbours and the International Atomic Energy Agency that the subs do not present a nuclear proliferation risk.

“Regardless of the Australian government’s declared intentions,” the report said, “once Australia possesses (weapons-grade enriched uranium), the breakout time to develop and construct nuclear weapons would be less than a year if a simple nuclear-weapon design were pursued.”

The submarine plan has already caused diplomatic headaches for Canberra, with nearest neighbour Indonesia expressing concern, and the decision to ditch a contract to buy French non-nuclear submarines causing fury in Paris.

December 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Protesters say ‘No’ to AUKUS, nuclear submarines and war with China

Protesters say ‘No’ to AUKUS, nuclear submarines and war with China Kerry Smith December 12, 2021Issue 1329Australia  A national weekend of action against AUKUS was organised over December 10-12 with protests in Canberra, Perth, Sydney, Wollongong, Hobart, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Around 40 people attended an action by the newly-founded campaign group Stop AUKUS – WA action in Boorloo/Perth on December 10 as part of a national weekend of action. The group’s three objectives are: No nuclear subs; No US bases; and No war with China. Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John called for a reduction in defence spending, more funds to international aid and proper care for veterans.

Other speakers included: Christopher Crouch from the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network; anti-nuclear campaigner Jo Vallentine; Socialist Alliance WA convenor Sam Wainwright; Elizabeth Hulm from the Communist Party of Australia; Peter Shannon from the Medical Association for Prevention of War and Steve McCartney from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

Around 200 people protested in Sydney on December 11. Speakers included Wongkangurru man Raymond Finn, an anti-nuclear campaigner, who acknowledged country; Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi; a speaker from School Strike 4 Climate; Lachlan Good from Young Labor Left and Warren Smith, Assistant National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

The lively protest, which marched through the CBD to Belmore Park, was endorsed by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia – MUA, United Workers Union, NTEU-NSW, as well as many anti-war and peace organisations and environment groups.

December 12, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body

AUSTRALIA CAPTUREDHow the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body, MICHELLE FAHY, DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA 9 DECEMBER 2021

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has veered away from its founding vision of providing an array of independent diverse views, to now promote an aggressive militaristic solution to the heightened tensions in Australia’s region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra is the government’s primary source of outside-government advice, research and analysis on military and strategic affairs. Since its establishment in mid-2001, it has veered away from its founding vision.

There is a jarring disconnect between the lofty goals of independence expressed in ASPI’s charter, and the infiltration of ASPI by tentacles of the military-industrial complex. This has been barely mentioned in Australia’s mainstream media.

Declassified Australia investigation has uncovered a casebook example of ‘state-capture’, with the development of deep connections between ASPI, and the world’s largest and most powerful military weapons manufacturers.

Australia is a significant participant in the global arms trade at present. Its $270-billion decade-long spending spree upgrading weapons and war machines is large by international standards, and Australia is increasingly becoming an arms seller too. As Australia moves militarily ever closer to the US, even defence insiders say the defence industry is ‘awash with money’.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen have made the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers richer, larger, and more influential. At the lesser-known end of the spectrum, the Yemen war is notable for its extensive human rights abuses and war crimes: it has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite pleas from the UN, the arms still flow and the war continues. The weaponry for this war has been supplied by the world’s top arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, and missile-maker Raytheon.

ASPI and the Weapons Lobby

The Australian subsidiaries of these and other global weapon-makers have been regular ASPI sponsors for years. Some of them have successfully used the back door to gain access to ASPI’s top table, its governing council. ASPI council members have included former senior military officers, defence ministers, and federal MPs who are also on arms and cyber company boards. It has also included former and current arms industry executives. The challenge to ASPI’s independence is large and real.

ASPI’s founding charter, since it was established in 2001 by then prime minister John Howard with bipartisan support from Labor leader Kim Beazley, declares it must ‘operate independently of Government and of the Defence Organisation’.

Further, it states that ‘the perception, as well as the reality, of that independence would need to be carefully maintained’. Thus, from the outset, the government was acknowledging how such an important think tank would be vulnerable to capture by vested interests, both ideological and commercial………..

Our investigation shows that the ASPI council has numerous members who represent or have close links to the military-industrial complex. Of the 11 non-executive directors on ASPI’s governing council, five sit on the boards or advisory boards of weapons or cybersecurity corporations, while numerous past council members have had similar connections.

The current council includes former Howard defence minister Robert Hill. He’s on the supervisory board of German weapon-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles, and will soon also produce and export ammunition for the US Joint Strike Fighter program. Hill is also chair of Viva Energy Group, a major supplier of fuel to the Australian Defence Force (ADF)…………………….

Declassified Australia put questions to ASPI and the current council members. Dr Nelson declined to comment. No other council member responded by deadline. ASPI replied saying it manages conflict of interest matters in line with other Australian proprietary limited companies, and that ‘Council members will recuse themselves from discussions which may give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest matter’.

ASPI has a history of council members with interests in the defence industry. Jim McDowell was chief executive of BAE Systems in Australia for a decade, and then ran BAE in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi military has since used BAE arms in the catastrophic war in Yemen. Returning to Australia, he was engaged by Liberal defence industry minister Christopher Pyne, and Defence, on numerous sensitive defence projects while also on ASPI’s Council. BAE Systems is in the running to provide Australia’s planned nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

Former Labor senator Stephen Loosley’s Council membership, including seven years as chair, coincided with board roles at French arms multinational Thales Australia, manufacturer of the Austeyr, the service rifle for all the Australian military, as well as armoured vehicles, submarine sonars and munitions. The Thales group has been accused of selling weapons to the Indonesian military who are running a war in West Papua against the independence movement.

Former Labor defence minister Kim Beazley was an ASPI distinguished fellow for two years in 2016-2018. For the majority of that time he was on the board of Lockheed Martin Australia while writing regularly for ASPI, without ASPI disclosing his board position at Lockheed.

………..ASPI’s independence is drawn into question not just by its board appointees but also by some research fellows. One recent example is the former director of cyber, intelligence and security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Rajiv Shah, who cowrote a report on collaboration within the intelligence community that was sponsored by BAE Systems. Shah is now an ASPI fellow and a consultant to government and industry. ASPI does not disclose either in the report nor in his website bio Shah’s previous employment with BAE Systems, one of the world’s top 10 arms companies. Dr Shah did not respond to questions.

Declassified Australia does not imply any illegality by any past or present ASPI council members, fellows, or staff. The issue is the deep involvement of people associated with global weapons manufacturers, and the potential for, and perception of, conflicts with ASPI’s charter of independence.

The Reshaping of ASPI

At its foundation, the ASPI Council was instructed by the government to ensure its independence. As set down by the defence minister, it is required not only to be ‘politically non-partisan’ but also, most crucially, to ‘reflect the priority given to both the perception and substance of the Institute’s independence’.

The Howard government had envisaged that ASPI would do this by maintaining a ‘very small’ permanent staff while relying mostly on short-term contracts, secondments and similar arrangements for its research work. It would not publish views in its own name but would provide a forum for the views of a wide variety of outside experts.

20 years on, ASPI has morphed into a very different organisation.

A decision by Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd to make Stephen Loosley the ASPI Council chair in 2009, while Loosley was on the Thales Australia board, tested perceptions of independence. Then, in 2012, the Gillard Labor government appointed the current executive director directly from the senior position of Deputy Secretary of Strategy in the Defence Department. In the late 90s, Peter Jennings had been chief of staff to Liberal defence minister Ian McLachlan when the Howard Government first mooted the idea of creating ASPI.

Under this new leadership, ASPI set about expanding. Staff numbers have quadrupled in nine years from 14 to 60, plus there are now 29 research fellows and nine interns.

ASPI receives its core funding via a grant from the Defence Department. In 2018, the Morrison government approved a $20 million grant to cover five years’ of ASPI operations. In May 2021, this grant was increased by $5 million to cover two years of operations of a new Washington DC office.

Since 2012, ASPI has vigorously pursued additional funding. Within two years, annual income from commissioned research jumped from $37,000 to $1.1 million, and sponsorships were up 235% to $746,000. ASPI’s own-sourced revenue has continued to grow dramatically. In 2011-12, ASPI received less than $500,000 above its base funding, by 2020-21 it had exploded to $6.7 million.

The single largest source of ASPI’s funding in 2020-21, beyond its core funding, was from the US Government’s Departments of Defense and State ($1.58m), followed by additional funding from Defence ($1.44m) and other federal government agencies ($1.18m). The NSW and Northern Territory governments provided $445,000. In the private sector, the largest source was social media, tech and cybersecurity companies ($737,362), with Facebook ($269,574), Amazon ($100,000) and Microsoft ($89,500) being the largest. From the arms industry, ASPI received $316,636, with more than two-thirds of that coming from two of Australia’s largest defence contractors, Thales ($130,000) and BAE Systems ($90,000).

In 2019-20, Twitter gave ASPI $147,319 for its cyber research. Significantly, Twitter last week announced a partnership with ASPI said to be dealing with misinformation from the Chinese communist party that was seeking to counter evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. As a result of ASPI’s research, thousands of “state-linked accounts” were shut down by Twitter.

While the cash from the arms industry may not appear substantial, as we have seen, the arms industry wields its major influence via its representatives finding their way on to seats at the top table.

The substantial extra funding from the US government, Defence and other Australian government departments, as well as corporate interests, provides a real challenge to ASPI’s responsibility to remain independent. It raises serious questions about undue influence, including foreign influence, at ASPI.

ASPI responded to our questions about protecting the perception of its independence by saying it retains ‘complete editorial independence on the material we choose to research’. It said it would not accept funding from parties attempting to constrain its editorial independence.

But just what does the US government get in return for its $1.57 million funding of ASPI, beyond its research projects on human rights violations, disinformation, and cybersecurity in China?

And what might BAE Systems get for its $90,000 grant to ASPI, other than a new report on the need for a ‘collaborative and agile’ intelligence community?

And what about Thales Australia, in return for its $130,000 grant to ASPI, beyond just being lead sponsor of the 2020 ASPI Conference?

The answer for them all, is ‘influence’.

ASPI’s role in advising the Australian government on defence strategy and procurements and cybersecurity would better serve the Australian people if it was to return to its original charter of researching and publishing a diversity of views from a position of uncompromised independence.

MICHELLE FAHY is an independent writer and researcher, specialising in the examination of connections between the weapons industry and government, and has written in various independent publications. She is on twitter @FahyMichelle, and on Substack at

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

To suck up to the American government, Australia’s government leaders agreed to buy nuclear submarines, with no Parliementary discussion.

And as for the process, involving a sudden announcement to the Australian public, it is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny. 

Australia bows down to America for nuclear submarines, Independent AustraliaBy Lee Duffield | 10 December 2021,  As tensions between the U.S. and China grow, Australia’s nuclear submarine program has become less to do with our defence and more about placating the American Government, writes Dr Lee Duffield.

DEFENCE INDUSTRY MINISTER Melissa Price, on 9 November, declared the country’s nuclear-powered submarines would be built in South Australia. 

How would this be done? Constructing the ships around imported reactors? It added into the brewing of questions and arguments since the sudden announcement of the nuclear plan and immediate cancellation of the French contract for conventional submarines on 16 September. 

Trying to make sense of it all, several analysts, mostly through the Lowy Institute publication, The Interpreter, and at think-tanks to the Left and Right, have produced these main points:  

  • that American policy towards China is the main factor in this mix;  
  • that Australian sovereignty stands to be diminished, even if its security might be helped; and
  • that the insult to France and its consequences, while not the main game, remains important — especially as it affects the standing of the Australian Government.

Sam Roggeveen, Director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, contributed two articles, seeing the China-USA contest as the heart of it, with Australia now brought in more as a great power client, less as itself. 

Roggeveen wrote:

‘The defence deal is a clear escalation and indication that Washington views Beijing as an adversary. It also has thrust Australia into a central role in America’s rivalry with China.’  

U.S. reacts — Australia goes, too

The deal in question is the full package of the new tripartite defence arrangement, AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States), with Australia obtaining probably eight nuclear submarines at the centre of it.

As Roggeveen explains: 

‘…the scale of this agreement and the close strategic and operational links it implies will create expectations from Washington. Australia cannot have this capability while assuming that it does not come with heightened expectations that Australia will take America’s side in any dispute with China.’

And as for the process, involving a sudden announcement to the Australian public, it is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny. 

Allan Behm, Director of International and Security Affairs at the Australia Institute, gave a similar reading, seeing the decision to build long-range nuclear submarines for Australia as an American game, little to do with the defence of Australia: 

The aim is to make possible an Australian contribution to U.S. battle plans against China which that country will view as profoundly threatening with implications also for war planning by Russia, North Korea and other nuclear-armed states. 

Even leaving aside the fiscal profligacy and defence opportunity costs for Australia of the literal blank cheque issued by the Morrison Government, the nuclear submarine decision takes Australia into the heart of naval warfighting in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

“Step up to the bully”  

Some steps to the right of Behm at the Australia Institute is Rowan Callick writing for the Centre for Independent Studies, a neoliberal and anti-communist lobby, in the current debate articulating much of the confrontationist thinking on how to deal with Beijing. …………

For the U.S., AUKUS is a win. It exemplifies the importance Washington attaches to deepening cooperation with key allies and strengthening their military capabilities to assist in deterring the security challenges posed by China in the region.  

A very hard and costly undertaking 

Great difficulty running a nuclear submarine program is foreshadowed for a country with no nuclear industry, where the navy for several years was unable to provide specialist crews for each of its Collins class submarines — rotating them ship-to-ship as vessels took turns in maintenance. There is also the long lead time proposed for getting the nuclear boats into service, starting with 18 months reserved for more discussion, for official thinking to get clarified on such questions.  

Oriana Skylar Mastro and Zack Cooper have talked about many critics already raising valid concerns

Critics of AUKUS… worry that 18 months is a long time to wait for clarity on the plan, and 18 years would be too long to wait for submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines will prove difficult and expensive for Australia to master and could create non-proliferation concerns. Washington, Canberra and London will have to mend ties with Paris as well as concerned friends in Southeast Asia, especially Jakarta. Others have argued that the deal ties Australia too closely to the United States or creates unnecessary tensions with China (although we would dispute these last two assertions)…………

In the vanguard of concerns about the French connection, Richard Ogier saw further risks to Australia’s options as a sovereign state, and considered that:  

‘In Europe, and not only in France, the image of Australia has suffered a direct hit. Australia may be a staunch U.S. ally, but under certain circumstances, was prepared to go beyond the old ANZUS alliance. Australians may be warm and welcoming, is the message sent, but watch for the kick when your back is turned.’ 

A full version of this article has been published in   Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.,15832

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

For Australia, AUKUS and the planned nuclear submarines create more problems than solutions

Preposterous’: AUKUS creates more problems than solutions THE AUSTRALIAN,  
The timelines for Australia’s transition from ageing Collins-class to its first nuclear-powered sub just don’t add up. There is hardly a single strategist in the country who believes it will happen.

Now that Australia has finally weathered the diplomatic fallout caused by the creation of the three-nation AUKUS pact, it is time to work out exactly what it means for the nation’s security.

The Morrison government faces a series of critical multi-­billion dollar decisions in the coming year that will set the course of Australia’s maritime defence for the next half a century.

These will require Canberra to test the limits of its alliance with both the US and the UK to ensure they make good on their AUKUS promise to share their sensitive ­nuclear know-how to help Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

………….But the not-so-good news is that AUKUS has delivered as many conundrums for Australia as it has solutions.

………. the AUKUS announcement and the related scrapping of the French submarine project offers far more problems than solutions.

The timelines for Australia’s transition from its ageing Collins-class submarines to its first nuclear-powered submarine just don’t add up. Put simply, unless something changes, Australia risks having either no submarine fleet or a grossly antiquated one in the late 2030s and early 2040s……..

The government has given itself up to 18 months from the AUKUS announcement in September to study its options, although it says it hopes to decide on a plan of action earlier.

………………… The trouble is that the government’s initial projection for the completion of the first of eight nuclear-powered submarines, which it claims will be built in Adelaide, is not until 2038, meaning it would not be brought into naval service for another two years after that, in 2040, with one new nuclear boat every three years after that. This timetable is hugely ambitious and there is hardly a single strategist in the country who believes this will happen. The lessons of naval shipbuilding in Australia is that a first-of-class boat is never completed on time, much less the building of a nuclear submarine – easily the most complex construction of its kind in the country’s history.


The solutions that have been floated, in no particular order, are to shorten the process by building at least some of the nuclear submarines overseas rather than in Australia; lease nuclear submarines from the US or UK; build a new conventional submarine in Australia as an interim measure; or extend the life of the Collins for a second refit cycle, meaning they would be sailing into the 2050s.

Every one of these proposals is problematic.

………………….. if the government chooses not to build a new conventional submarine and it deems that the Collins can be extended only for a decade, rather than two decades, then the only option is to acquire nuclear submarines more quickly than the current 2040 guideline.

This is the option that Dutton is pursuing but it requires delicate diplomacy with Australia’s AUKUS partners. First, Dutton must decide whether to ditch the government’s intention to build the eight nuclear submarines in Adelaide. While building all boats here will maximise Australian defence industry content, it will almost certainly slow the project down compared to a decision which would allow at least the first few boats to be constructed in US or UK shipyards.

Second, Dutton must choose between acquiring the US Virginia-class or the UK’s Astute-class submarines. Neither the UK nor the US production lines have room to include Australian boats in the foreseeable future. Dutton would need to lean heavily on London or Washington to make room for Australian boats to be constructed in their own shipyards. In the US, it would probably require Australia to partly fund a third shipyard to build the Virginia-class boats because the current two shipyards are struggling to keep up with the orders of the US Navy.

Hellyer believes the choice between the two countries is simple. “With nuclear submarines, we are not just picking a boat we are picking a strategic partner and that can only be the US,” he says…….

However, ditching the British submarine option would require delicate diplomacy from Canberra given that Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson promised that the AUKUS deal would create “hundreds” of highly skilled jobs across the UK and would reinforce Britain’s place “at the leading edge of science and technology”.

The Morrison government appears to have gone cold on the option of leasing nuclear submarines to get them into the navy earlier. On closer inspection, neither the UK or the US have submarines available to lease. And in any case, Australia does not have the crews or the skills to sail them.

It will take at least a decade and probably longer for Australia to be able to train enough crew to the high levels required to man a nuclear-powered boat. A vast amount of that training will need to be done in the US or UK while Australia builds up the nuclear infrastructure and knowledge that will be needed to crew, maintain and manage a nuclear fleet.

All of these options amount to multi-billion dollar decisions by the government. If the wrong option is chosen, it will not only hit taxpayers, but it could severely compromise the country’s defence for decades.

The stakes could not be higher as the government moves to turn AUKUS from rhetoric to reality.

December 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian superannuation funds still have considerable investments in nuclear weapons companies: some are not disclosing this

John Buckley 9 Dec 21

  • Most major super funds have some kind of exposore to nuclear weapons.
  • Australian Super, the nation’s largest fund, was found to have $1.5 billion in nuclear weapons holdings.
  • Some omit nuclear weapons from their “controversial” investment exclusions.

Most of Australia’s major super funds continue to hold investments in nuclear weapons companies, almost a year after the UN Treaty on nuclear weapon prohibition came into effect.

According to new analysis from the Australia Institute and nuclear weapons prevention non-profit, Quit Nukes, 17 of Australia’s major super funds currently have holdings in nuclear weapons companies. 

The funds that do, the analysis found, make opaque attempts — if any at all — to disclose the investments to current and potential members, and in some cases go to great lengths to conceal them.

Australian Super, the nation’s largest super fund both by membership and funds under management, has close to $1.5 billion in nuclear weapons companies. 

The fund’s investment policy says Australian Super does not exclude nuclear weapons (or other controversial weapons technology) from its investment pot. 

For members with a higher conscience, Australian Super offers a “Socially Aware” membership, but even then, that only excludes landmines and cluster munitions. 

Moving through the list, the case was the same in most other corners across the market. Aware Super, Australia’s second largest fund, says that it excludes controversial weapons, but that definition doesn’t cover nuclear weapons. 

Aware invests in 12 nuclear weapons companies.

HESTA, meanwhile, only excludes investment in companies which earn more than 5% of their total revenue from nuclear weapons across the whole portfolio, but still has exposure to 14 nuclear weapons companies. 

Over at Hostplus, nuclear weapons aren’t classified as controversial weapons either, and therefore aren’t excluded from the fund’s investment prospects. 

But the fund says that it plans to recategorise nuclear weapons come January next year, at which point it’ll have to find a way to divest from eight nuclear weapons companies. 

It is a popular strategy at most of the market’s major players, where controversial weapons are excluded from investment, but nuclear weapons aren’t considered controversial. 

Among them are Rest Super, Telstra Super, and Mercer Super. At Cbus “controversial weapons” are explicitly excluded from fund investment opportunities, but there’s no mention of nuclear weapons. The fund has exposure to six nuclear weapons companies.

A survey undertaken by Quit Nukes found that just under 70% of Australians would expect nuclear weapons to be considered “controversial weapons”, while that same proportion of Australians, when asked, said they’d prefer their super not be invested in nuclear weapons.

Margaret Beavis, co-director at Quit Nukes, said Australia’s $3.4 trillion pension industry has phenomenal power, and their abstinence could go a long way in eliminating nuclear weapons, which are now illegal under international law. 

“While there is big money invested in nuclear weapons companies, these investments are usually a tiny percentage of the whole funds under management,” Dr Beavis said. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that divestment will negatively impact returns. Some funds are making change, including Hostplus, which recently decided to divest all nuclear weapons holdings by the end of January 2022,” she said. 

Bill Browne, a senior researcher at The Australia Institute’s Democracy and Accountability Program, said it’s clear that Australians don’t want their money “invested in weapons of mass destruction”, and that super funds should heed the warning. 

“Australians have the right to know exactly how their money is being invested, but most major super funds do not tell their members about their investments,” Browne said. 

“Superannuation is one of the great Australian projects, guaranteeing retirement income for millions of workers. Most Australians would have no idea that their retirement money is being used to finance nuclear weapons,” he said. 

“It is incumbent upon all funds to invest in the future of Australians — and that future does not include nuclear weapons.”

Some smaller, emerging funds have already pulled the rug on nuclear investments completely. The only six funds that that have either fully divested, or weren’t exposed to nuclear in weapons in the first place are: Active Super, Australian Ethical, Christian Super, Crescent Wealth, Future Super, and Verve Super.

December 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Union leaders demand super funds dump nuclear-linked companies

Six super funds have already divested from the 26 companies on the list, including Active Super, Australian Ethical, Christian Super, Crescent Wealth, Future Super and Verve Super.

CareSuper previously had holdings in Safran and Thales but has divested from these companies, according to the report.

Union leaders demand super funds dump nuclear-linked companies, , Michael Read Reporter, Dec 8, 2021  Hostplus has agreed to divest from companies linked to the nuclear weapons industry after coming under pressure from progressive think-tank the Australia Institute and Quit Nukes.

Other industry funds are being lobbied to follow suit, including AustralianSuper, which has $1.5 billion invested in 18 companies that critics say are linked to the nuclear weapons industry.

A new report by the Australia Institute and Quit Nukes says 17 of Australia’s largest super funds, including Aware Super and BT Funds Management, are investing in companies linked to the nuclear weapons industry.

The report argues that funds can divest from these companies without negatively affecting financial returns.

The report says Hostplus has agreed to divest by the end of the year, but The Australian Financial Review was unable to reach the fund to confirm.

“Just prior to the launch of this report, Hostplus confirmed with Quit Nukes that it has decided to include nuclear weapons in their definition of controversial weapons,” the report says.

It quotes Hostplus as saying: “Our Responsible Investment Policy and our Controversial Weapons Divestment Policy have both been updated and approved by the Board. Hostplus expects to be fully divested of their holdings in nuclear weapons companies by the end of January 2022.”

Wide range of investments

The Australia Institute classifies 26 companies as involved in the nuclear weapons industry. The companies are involved directly in the development, testing, production or maintenance of nuclear weapon-related technology, parts products or services.

The list includes defence industry giants such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and missile system producers Bharat Dynamics and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Some of the companies on the list are conglomerates such as Airbus and Boeing whose corporate activities extend well beyond their involvement in the defence industry.

The report finds that the nation’s largest super fund, AustralianSuper, has $1.5 billion invested across 18 companies linked to the nuclear weapons industry. The investments include a $1.6 million stake in BWX Technologies, which is involved in uranium processing and other site-specific services for the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

AustralianSuper did not respond to a request for comment.

Aware Super holds a stake in 12 companies on the list, including US firm Textron, which produces re-entry vehicles for intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Safran, which is involved in missile production for the French nuclear arsenal.

A spokesman for Aware Super committed to reviewing its investment framework and said nuclear weapons companies were already excluded from its socially responsible investment option.

AustralianSuper did not respond to a request for comment.

Aware Super holds a stake in 12 companies on the list, including US firm Textron, which produces re-entry vehicles for intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Safran, which is involved in missile production for the French nuclear arsenal.

A spokesman for Aware Super committed to reviewing its investment framework and said nuclear weapons companies were already excluded from its socially responsible investment option.

“BT excludes securities where industries or activities undertaken breach our ESG (environmental, social and governance) exclusions framework, this includes nuclear weapons activities in contravention of the UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” a spokeswoman said.

We have investment options available that exclude all nuclear weapons and we regularly review and refine our investment approach across a broad range of ESG issues … We haven’t seen the full report, so can’t comment on its findings,” she said.

Unions call for divestment

Union leaders are demanding that super funds divest from companies that critics say are linked to nuclear weapons production.

Electrical Trades Union national assistant secretary Michael Wright said it was “tough to claim industry funds are an ethical choice if they continue to invest in nuclear weapons”.

“I know a lot of our members are with funds called out in this report as investing in nuclear weapons. If these funds don’t divest soon our members may well look to place their retirement savings with funds that are more ethical,” Mr Wright said.

For union- and employer-backed industry funds, the equal representation board model means directors are sourced equally from the two groups.

Six super funds have already divested from the 26 companies on the list, including Active Super, Australian Ethical, Christian Super, Crescent Wealth, Future Super and Verve Super.

CareSuper previously had holdings in Safran and Thales but has divested from these companies, according to the report.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler said there was “an urgent need for superannuation funds to ensure their investments are safe and ethically sound – and not in industries which can ultimately cause so much devastation and misery to our populations”.

Australian Services Union national secretary Robert Potter said investments in nuclear weapons undermined the work done by the union’s members.

“We welcome the nuclear weapon ban treaty and we’re committed to steering workers capital to align with the objectives of our ASU national policy,” Mr Potter said.

The Australia Institute’s senior researcher, Bill Browne, said he hoped the report would act as a “wake-up call to all superannuation funds still investing in nuclear weapons companies”.

“Superannuation is one of the great Australian projects, guaranteeing retirement income for millions of workers,” Mr Browne said. “Most Australians would have no idea that their retirement money is being used to finance nuclear weapons.

“It is incumbent upon all funds to invest in the future of Australians – and that future does not include nuclear weapons.” 

December 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian government using a loophole to evade international non-proliferation treaties, to get nuclear submarines?

“interesting interpretation” that the government would try to qualify for an exemption from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection regime by claiming military submarines, which will be fuelled with weapons grade uranium, are for peaceful purposes.”

Labor questions whether nuclear subs breach international law,   AFR,  Andrew Tillett, Political correspondent, 30 Nov 21,  Labor MPs have raised concerns about Australia breaching its non-proliferation obligations under the Morrison government’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines from Britain and the United States.

Parliament’s Treaties Committee has begun a snap inquiry into the first element under the AUKUS deal, an agreement between the three countries to allow the sharing of highly classified nuclear technology with Australian officials.

The nuclear agreement also covers training opportunities for Australian submariners and technicians with the British and American programs.

Under the AUKUS pact, the government will acquire up to eight nuclear-powered submarines, promising they will be built in Adelaide. The first is due to be delivered sometime before 2040.

The government is adamant the nuclear submarine deal will not be a precursor to acquiring nuclear weapons.

The inquiry is due to report by December 17 but at its first hearing on Monday, Labor MP Josh Wilson highlighted significant uncertainty over the government’s plan to use a loophole in the international nuclear safety regime, which had never been used before, to acquire the submarines.

Mr Wilson and fellow Labor MP Peter Khalil grilled officials from the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General’s departments over how Australia could acquire nuclear-powered submarines while still complying with its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Training ‘needs to start now’

Mr Wilson said it was an “interesting interpretation” that the government would try to qualify for an exemption from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection regime by claiming military submarines, which will be fuelled with weapons grade uranium, are for peaceful purposes.

“If it was determined that was acceptable, we will have broken new ground in weakening the existing non-proliferation regime,” Mr Wilson observed………..

November 30, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, personal stories, weapons and war | Leave a comment