15 March 2023
Paul Keating attacked the AUKUS submarine deal at a conference at the National Press Club today. He was at his scathing best, and put together the arguments well, as he always does.
In essence he said that a scare campaign had demonised China with a lot of Cold War rhetoric from the ‘spooks’ and convinced Morrison, who was always happy for a headline to get some publicity for his flailing government.
Labor was scared to losing the election by being ‘soft on defence’ so went along with whatever the Liberals wanted. So Labor has been conned by the spooks and the Liberals as well.
Keating says we have a defence policy, rather than a foreign policy, and Senator Wong running around the Pacific ‘handing out money with a lei around her neck’ is not a foreign policy.
The US wants bases here, to lock Australia into their side in the confrontation with China and to sell expensive submarines. As Keating points out, at the circus in San Diego, only one country was actually paying- Australia.
He also ridiculed Australia for involving Britain, pointing out that in 1942 they left Singapore and in 1968 announced an ‘East of Suez’ policy that meant that they would not do much here. They then joined the EU, leaving the Commonwealth to its economic fate, and would have stayed with the EU, but for the mistake of Brexit, created by Boris Johnson et al who had silly dreams of bygone Empires. Since the UK has left the EU they are trying to have a ‘global strategy’, but they do not have much choice. But this is not economic relevance, and Australia is just being silly to go back to there for its military security.
As far as the submarines are concerned, he points out that the cost of 9 nuclear submarines would pay for about 45 conventional ones. If one about 1 in 3 can be at sea at the same time, which is what most navies manage, that means 3 nuclear at sea rather than 15 conventional ones. And even if the 15 have to surface, this is only about every 3 days if they are cruising, and there are 15 for an enemy to worry about. The nuclear subs are 8,000 tonnes as opposed to 4,000 tons, so are likely to be able to be found almost as easily as the conventional ones as detection technology evolves. They will also only carry the same torpedoes as the conventional ones, so their strike power will be 3 v 15.
Some years ago, I read an excellent book, ‘The Secret State’ by Richard Hall published in 1978 which looked at the reports from the spy agencies during the Cold War in the 1950 and 1960s and contrasted these with the conventional media editorials and opinion pieces of the time. The spy analyses were full of paranoia and worries about the Russian threat if we did not immediately spend a lot of money on defence. The major newspapers looked at what was happening and made more sanguine comments about economic and trade relations. Years later, things had panned out much as was expected in the major media. The spy scare stories were almost absurdly laughable. It seems that in this case the spies have convinced Morrison, who has taken the Liberals, now Labor down this absurd path that we and our children will pay for.
The Liberals have said that they will be bi-partisan as Labor makes budget cuts to pay for it. What will go? Stage 3 tax cuts? Jobseeker pay rises? Pensions? Medicare? NDIS? Subsidies to private schools or private health insurance? Tax exemptions to religious organisations or Super contributions? The Liberals were happy to cut all social welfare, but no doubt having made the initial commitment to bipartisanship will still criticise any actual cuts as they come along.
The Chinese, presumably will now continue to make our trade difficult. They are a rising power that is unlikely to invade us, and we should work within this framework. It is called realism.
Here is an article on SBS: ww.sbs.com.au/news/article/former-colonial-master-paul-keating-launches-astonishing-attack-on-labor-aukus-deal/we38qsi9s
Here is the interview on youtube: