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AUKUS, Technology and Militarising Australia

Thinktanks across Australia, tanked with cash from US sources and keen to think in furious agreement, are all showing how delighted they are with the AUKUS security pact and what potential it has for local, if subordinated industry. The United States Studies Centre, a loudspeaker for Washington’s opinions based at the University of Sydney, has added its bit to the militarising fun with a report on what AUKUS will be able to do.

The author of the report, non-resident fellow of the US Centre’s Foreign Policy and Defence program Jennifer Jackett gushes about the “more consequential” nature of various “technological developments in quantum, cyber, artificial intelligence, undersea, hypersonics and electronic warfare” than nuclear-powered submarines. The latter are, after all, slated to appear much later on the horizon. In the meantime, warring potential could be harnessed in other realms.

Jackett stresses the urgency of appreciating these fields, given that Australia faces “a more hostile Indo-Pacific.” No ironic reflection follows that such hostility has been aided, in no small part, by the AUKUS security pact that has put countries in the region, with China being the primary target, on military notice.

In dealing with such threats, the AUKUS partners – the US, UK and Australia – had to “understand areas of comparative advantage, complementarity, and potential gaps or overlaps, between the three industrial bases.”

Reading, at points, like an intelligence comb through of local assets and wealth resources by a future colonising power, the report is revealing about what Vince Scappatura called that “loose networks of elites and institutional relationships” that nourish Australia’s umbilical cord to Freedom Land.

Australia’s population is described in glowing terms, with some nose-turning suggestions for improvement for the happily compliant subjects. “Australia stands out for the quality of its educational institutions and skilled workforce. Australian scientists are renowned for the global impact of their research in fields such as quantum physics and artificial intelligence.” There is, however, a belated admission that Australia’s STEM workforce, with 16 per cent of qualifications in the field, come behind that of the United States, “where around 23 per cent of the total workforce has a university-level or below STEM qualification.”

Then comes a mild rebuke in terms of Australian approaches to venture capital. One can see Jackett shaking her head in disapproval in writing this: “Australia remains an attractive destination for foreign direct investment, but the venture capital industry – the sort of financial entities willing to make riskier investments on unproven technology – remains small, less than half of the OECD average.” (Come on, Aussies, whole frontiers of lethal technology await your dosh.)

This is not a meditation about peace, about miracle responses to climate change, poverty or wretched disease. It has nothing to do with harnessing the technological potential to aid good causes. This is the paid-up chit-chat of imperial militarisation, and how “innovation” aids it.

Similar remarks have been made by Admiral Mike Rogers, former chief of the US National Security Agency, who has given a stirring performance on his visit to Australia in praising his hosts. “I applaud Australia’s willingness to make that sort of commitment [to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines] and to speak about it so frankly,” he told Australia’s premier Murdoch rag, The Australian (paywalled)

What troubles Rogers, as with those at the US Studies Centre and similar groupies, is a concern about what to do before those white elephants of the sea make their ponderous appearance. He cites various other weapons capabilities as “alternatives in the interim.” There are, for instance, options in “autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors, situational awareness technologies.” AUKUS was, and here, the warning is clear to us all, “much more than submarines.” AUKUS needed to be used “to drive change.”

The disconcerting blindness to local security elites in turning Australia into something even more of a fortress for foreign military operations is palpable. Its corollary is the idea that the United States does not get into the empire business. The mechanism of kitting out Canberra as yet another appendage of US strategic operations and interests was already well underway with such fora as the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, which makes it very clear who the leaders are.

As things stand, the current makeup of the AALD features appropriately qualified vassals for the US mission. There is Tony Smith, former Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, who is the CEO of the group. On being appointed to the position, he claimed it would “enable me to continue my service to our democracy and our nation in this vitally important, unique, bipartisan, private sector diplomatic endeavour.” Grovelling journalists wondered if Smith got along with his future masters. “Pretty good, I think,” came his response.

The newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Glyn Davis, also appears as a prominent member on the advisory board, linking one of the most important civil service roles in Canberra to the US administration. The grouping is secretive and observes non-disclosure rules that would make any official in Beijing proud.

From the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to the US Studies Centre, we are meant to celebrate the prospect of Australia as a military annexe to US power in the Asia-Pacific, its sovereignty status subsumed under the ghastly guff of freedom lovers supposedly facing oriental barbarians. The analysis is then crowned by the praise of former US defence and security officials who ingratiatingly speak of Australian potential as they would mineral deposits. The lie, packaged and ribboned, is duly sold for public consumption. Australian sovereign capability becomes the supreme fiction, while its subservience is hidden, only to be exposed by heretics.

 

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11 comments

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  1. Douglas Pritchard

    I wholeheartedly agree with all that is said.
    From a MSM perspective AUKUS was dreamed up by the 3 smartest brains on the planet.
    Our ‘fella from down under” Morrison, who has been found out, and is now in the sin bin.
    Closely followed by Boris “the clown” Johnson, who is now looking for a job more related to his skillset.
    Leaving “sleepy Joe” who is hanging in there literally by his fingernails.
    In a democracy we should have the god given right to reverse decisions taken by complete fools, in the service of their Masters set on wealth earned from defence contracts, and not an atom of ethics.

  2. A Commentator

    Rational people recognise that autocratic regimes are seeking to expand.
    The CCP, for example has territorial disputes with 17 countries.
    The risk is that western democracies continue accept loss of democracy (and imposition of autocracy) as inevitable and “someone else’s problem”
    It appears that finally Australia and the west generally, has woken from its slumber, and is acting with a far greater degree of co-operation.
    Like it or it, this involves military co-operation and expenditure
    Flawed as it may be, the system of democracy in Australia and other western democracies produces a more satisfied and prosperous population than in any other system of government.
    It is ours to lose.

  3. Michael Taylor

    AC,

    Can’t say I vigorously disagree with you.

  4. Fred

    Some basic stats in the following country order USA, UK, Oz & China:
    Coastline (km) 19,924 : 12,429 : 25,760 & 14,500
    Population (M) 332 : 67 : 25 & 1,412
    GDP (Billion USD) 22,996 : 3,187 : 1,543 & 17,735

    Not sure where Dr Kampmark is suggesting the “think-tanks”/etc are supposed to take us, but we have the largest coastline to defend with the smallest military. From a military perspective our contribution to AUKUS is largely irrelevant as the key partner is the USA. If the countries all spend 2% of GDP on defense/offense our contribution is 7% to that of the USA (about what they spend on spare parts). For those that have illusions about defending ourselves against China by spending 8.7% relatively, please PM me with details of where I can get some of whatever you are smoking. Should China decide to spend the same as the USA per capita, they would be spending 11% of GDP or close to $2T USD, a scary thought.

  5. leefe

    Fred:

    Australia’s contribution is less about $$$ than about being a convenient – and conveniently distant from the US — base of operations.

  6. Douglas Pritchard

    And consequently we automatically become a conveniently situated, poorly defended, legitimate target for anyone who wants to plant a punch on USA, because we are the soft target, and USA remains an isolated country in so many ways.
    Not difficult to work out how many nations are not happy with USA as the worlds policeman, and so we have to bankrupt ourselves in some sort of futile illusion that we can take on all comers.
    To crown it all democracy could land us with a leader who declares we will defend the land to the last drop of Australian blood is spilled, because thats the crazy situation in a European democracy that makes daily headlines.

  7. Fred

    Leefe: Apparently China hasn’t yet developed long range cruise missiles (>2000km), but we are reachable by ICBMs.
    DP: Can I borrow your razor blade when you’re finished. Seriously, China isn’t going to attack us militarily – they will do it through economics. We are already giving the US energy corporations our gas to export for a song, once we’ve given China the rights to our rare-earths, lithium etc. there will be no need to invade.

  8. Douglas Pritchard

    Fred, You and I are on the same page. All we have to do now is to legislate for those who own shares is war hardware to have a voice with the same impact as those of us that are content with just 3 meals a day, and some shelter while we sleep.
    There is a slim chance that democracy could work then.

  9. Harry Lime

    Fred, how long have you been working the night shift? Keep up the good work,I’m really enjoying the conversation.I’d join in,only I can’t think of anything worthy to contribute…waiting for the muse.

  10. Fred

    DP: “democracy could work” – you’re dreaming. Democracy, what a strange beast. Sure, I got to vote at the last election but as luck would have it, I’m in a deep blue electorate, so nothing changed. If there are too many parties it’s chaos (ref Italy 30 PMs in 76 years and the last one wasn’t even elected). If the same party controls both houses it’s a recipe for rushed/lazy/poor legislation. Opposites in both houses is a recipe for gridlock. Does democracy really deliver better outcomes than other systems of government?

    We might vote them in, but once there it’s another matter. We just had 10 years of nothing achieved and finished with $1T debt. The US got Trump and the UK got Bozo (thanks Bozo, I now understand why like-minded political groups are called parties). We voted the duplicitous, lazy… (refer to Kathryn’s article for a full description) …rabble in 3 times – why? If I were to suggest that corruption must have been involved in some of the decisions made or intentionally not made while in office, I’d likely receive a defamation claim. Ask yourself “did my elected representative at ALL times act in the best interests of her/his constituents?”. I know mine didn’t, he just followed party lines.

    HL I’m retired. Now is the only time of day I get to myself.

  11. wam

    The order you seem to choose is always pertinent, Dr Kampmark. Today’s is spot on. “AUKUS partners – the US, UK and Australia” – U, SUKA?
    I think the Kiwi labour got it right in 87 and we should follow their lead.

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