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AUKUS, the Australian Labor Party, and Growing Dissent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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  1. Jack sprat

    The more things change the more they stay the same .Durring the Vietnam war following the flawed domino theory ,Harold Holt exclaimed “It’s all the way with LBJ”. Now it’s seems Australia is again applying the domino theory to China with a similar mantra,”it’s all the way with the USA”

  2. ajogrady

    The Albanese Labor governments
    AUKUS deal has not only betrayed the ideals and values of Albanese’s mentor Tom Uren but the Albanese Labor government has now betrayed Labor’s “true believers” who believed that Labor is the party of peace and prosperity that builds futures for our children. The Albanese Labor government has betrayed the trust given to them by the people who want peace and prosperity in our region that creates secure and prosperous futures forour children.
    The Albanese Labor government AAUKUS deal
    threatens the sovereignty of Australia, the peace and stability of the region, and the economic well-being of this and future generations of Australians. It serves the best interests of another country and not the best interests, needs and wants of Australians.
    Basically it is a betrayal of trust at best and at worse, treasonous

  3. RomeoCharlie29

    Continuing with Morrison’s shifty, deal on AUKUS and the subs might turn out to be a huge miscalculation on Albanese’s part. As a rusted on Labor supporter, though not totally blind to its shortcomings, I wanted to see Morrison and his cronies gone because I hated everything about them. I didn’t expect, and don’t want, Labor copying their policies, particularly regarding Defence and China. I don’t think Keating is blind to China’s shortcomings he just doesn’t think they are as scary as they are being made out by our warmongering security and defence apparatus and their boosters in the media. He is absolutely right that the subs are a dud deal. The fact that Albanese, Marles and even the sainted Penny can’t see that is a huge worry. Contemplating such a huge expenditure is little short of disgusting at a time when inflation is soaring, interest rates are causing mortgage stress for the group of people who will wear the cost most, homelessness is worsening, millions live below the poverty line and hundreds of thousands of children don’t have enough to eat. This deal must be one of the most insulting to a vast number of needy Australians it must surely come back on Labor.

  4. New England Cocky

    Relying upon Scummo’s USUKA submarine debacle to defend the Australian continent is about as naive as the WWII proposal that the Royal Navy would protect Australia with the HMS Re[pulse and Prince of wales. Both warships were sunk by the Japanese Airforce as England surrendered at Singapore, leaving Australia to stand alone as the land base for later US island hopping strategy until 1945.
    History shows that when a country has the USA (United States of Apartheid) as an ally then there is really no need for any other enemies.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Another day, darker than usual and full of unease about some very serious future problems for Australia. The AUKUS concept was always flawed, basically idiotic in most terms, easily shattered and dissected, based on very bad, unprofessional thinking here and cynical USA attitudes that suckers like us, Ukraine, Taiwan, etc, are expendable, cheap cannon fodder, write offs from now. We will be an atomised non-souvenir of a failed USA strategy to bolster an imaginary left wing line of subs.., SUBS, which cannot oppose missiles, ICBMs, artillery, tanks, cavalry even. The jobs to come might cost eighteen million each (prof Quiggin) and take needed work from renewables. And, our big trading partner, China. has been threatened and insulted, for no good reason. STUPIDITY.

  6. Andrew Smith

    One thinks from feedback since the PR launch of AUKUS that it may be unlikely to happen, why?

    Little if any evidence of defence & security analysis or strategy that fits optimal kit purchasing for Australia, from Morrison’s time AUKUS a ‘wedge’ that can be used against Labor (US Democrats too); echoes of old white Australia, empire and US, but great news for US/UK defence industries especially subs i.e. use Australia to defray finance & related costs of ageing kit and support for new developments over two generations.

    However, whether it goes ahead or not ignores the underlying issue, Australia’s lack of sovereignty on defence analysis, strategy and dud kit, while we still have a generation of MPs, especially LNP, who prefer dependence upon the mother country and/or the US (including related Koch linked think tanks & ASPI), but ignores coming generations, our region and immediate near relationships?

  7. Mike Smith

    Subs to protect our trading sea lanes, from who?
    Our biggest trading partner is China.
    SUBS, which cannot oppose missiles, ICBMs, artillery, tanks or even cavalry.
    Keating is right, 30+ conventional subs around the coastline along with an arsenal of long range missiles & smart drones would not only be more effective but cheaper.

  8. LambsFry Simplex.

    0ff topic a bit, but I’.\m having a break from perpetual McCarthyism for the consolation of watching the ABC Commentariat grim-faced, as the Tories slip to another defeat

    By the comments, still no concept on why they have been kicked in the arse again, even in their fortress NSW, low on both IQ and EQ.

    Was the Teal rejection of super changes the last straw?

  9. Paul Smith

    As an “everyday” bloke living in a country town, far from the corridors of power and the halls of academia, I could express an opinion about strategic matters but I’d be talking about something I know little to nothing about. Assuming the accuracy of my source* on the cost of rebuilding Ukraine, what I do know is that, juxtaposing that figure, $350 billion, with the cost of 8 submarines, $365 billion, begs a prophetic response. Add Keating to the list, beginning with Amos and Hosea whose message was: “Your burnt offerings stink in my nostrils. Give me just relationships: then I shall be satisfied.”
    *I provide the link specifically for the reference to the cost of rebuilding Ukraine at 49:15

  10. Fred

    Just imagine the teeth gnashing/sh1t that would be flung should we “lose” one of the new $45B (about the annual cost of Medicare) subs due to an accident (ref: HMAS Voyager). There was little to fault Paul Keating in his press club address apart from his “playing of the man” during the questions at the end.

    JS: Sad to think that in 2023 we still have ingrained colonial behavior subservient to the USA – like a silly puppy on a lead.

    Ajogrady, RC29, NEC, PP, AS and MS: Hear hear.

  11. Douglas Pritchard

    How about the fact that Albo knows that he made a wrong decision here, and the fact that he will not address the issues that PK has brought into the light reinforces our opinion that in time this arrangement will be annulled.
    MUST be annulled, by the arrival of Trump into the White office, or some similar unfortunate accident
    The only commentators who acknowledge PK, and his reasoning, attacks the man rather than his very valid points (thanks Fred).
    There is a fear factor that the truth may out.
    After watching both Scummo, and Albo fall into the same hole I am inclined to think that when a progressive power emerges from our great slumber, then a visit from the US ambassador quickly puts pay to thinking outside the box.
    Wasnt it the mafia who coined the auguement about not allowing the victim to win.

  12. Fred

    DP: Are you suggesting that I was having a go at PK? I wasn’t and let me explain: I largely agreed (could not find fault) with PK’s argument and submarine logic, though I have reservations we can find enough very special people to man 13 Collins class submarines with a complement of up to 58 fearless souls for each, at all times. It’s a job that no amount of money would get me to do. PK’s treatment of the journalists was disappointing, he could have been more diplomatic. (Ref: 52:45 treatment of Matthew Knott. Sure, Matthew deserved rebuke for the utter crap printed in the SMH, however the response could have been delivered without a personal attack on national TV.)

  13. Douglas Pritchard

    Fred, on the contrary, I was thanking you for your presenting “playing the man” POV which is common in the popular medium.
    Like you I followed his (PKs) interview and it made incredible sense, but he has reached a stage in life where he does not need to hold back, and we watch unfettered wisdom unfold regardless of consequence.
    He methodically gave us both the apparent problem, and a reasonable solution.
    Fred, we are on the same page.

  14. Pingback: Nuclear news – week to 27 March | Nuclear Australia

  15. Anthony Judge

    I am struggling to decode the meaning behind AUKUS as an acronym. Most appropriate seems to be: Alliance for Underwater Koordination of the Unconsciously Scared ( German spelling of coordination seems to carry the right flavour. Any other suggestions?

  16. Paul Smith

    AJ, I ran it through Enigma and got this: Arsembly of Unelected Kleptocratic Usurpers of Sovereignty

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