Media Analysis

Why we shouldn't sink $368 billion into nuclear submarines

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The surfeit of hurt feelings following Paul Keating's National Press Club address, plus some other things on which Australia could spend $368 billion. David Donovan and Michelle Pini reflect on the paucity of media analysis.


There are many things Independent Australia could say about the Labor decision to award the USA and UK, our perpetual colonial overlords, with $368 billion (before inflation and the inevitable adjustments) to build two or three submarines by around 2040 (barring delays).

But we don't think IA could add much to what former Prime Minister Paul Keating said at the National Just-Got-Ripped-A-New-One Pretend Journalist Club in Canberra (NPC), last Wednesday, 15 March 2023.

What we would like to say about Keating's comments at the NPC last week, is that they have been responded to by our nation's popular media in an entirely predictable way. That is, with a distinct paucity of analysis about his substantive and considered comments, and a decided surfeit of hurt feelings and bruised egos. It is almost like the Press Gallery had never come across Paul Keating before. Odd.

Here is some of the self-indulgent nonsense written by Australia's newly self-appointed submarine experts:

'Sad, isolated Paul Keating’s bile will divide his party' The Age


‘"Paul Keating has gone way too far": Concerns about former prime minister’s "outburst"' ~Sky News

Sydney Morning Herald''s Bevan Shields – editor of the classy publication where the "Red Alert" propaganda began – jostled for first dummy spit position with Sky News, whose journalistic standards Nine now aspires to emulate.

Here is an excerpt from Shields' editorial devoted to the unfairness of it all (IA emphasis):

'The Herald is not above criticism... However, I feel compelled to respond to two unfair and uninformed attacks levelled at international political editor Peter Hartcher and foreign affairs and national security correspondent Matthew Knott.'

Shields subsequently demonstrated his willingness to accept criticism by taking his mouse and keyboard and quitting Twitter.

ABC political editor Andrew Probyn gravely informed The Australian that Keating had "crossed the line":

"I have no issue with the backhanded way in which [Keating] dealt with my question..."

Probyn then detailed the many issues he had with the way Keating had dealt with his question, adding that the National Press Club "would be best served not repeating that format” — by which we can presume he meant they should not invite Keating to the National Press Club ever again. Not ever. 

Joe Hildebrand wrote on

'It is even more shameful that Twitter’s supposed hero of Australian journalism Laura Tingle, the president of the NPC and facilitator of Keating’s abuse, let this diatribe run free.'

If you want to see more shameful stuff run free, Joe Hildebrand has a regular column in the Daily Telegraph.

Enough said about that donnybrook, which could only ever have one winner, the gloriously acerbic Paul Keating.

No, what we wish to say is that $368,000,000,000 is a lot of money. So perhaps we could spend some time, as a country, to discuss what alternatives we might have to sinking vast amounts of our public money into just a few boats that can go underwater. 

Instead of building up our admittedly puny armed forces – to ingratiate ourselves to our glorious current and former imperial reptilian overmasters – perhaps we could spend some of those 368 thousand million dollars on housing for the homeless. Or essential surgery for those seemingly "inessential" segments of our society — the not-so-well-to-do. Schools are also good. As is free university tuition. Or simply lifting the income of our own most vulnerable citizens, 3.3 million of whom currently try to survive below the poverty line

The list is long and sort of makes subs seem a little substandard.

Here's another idea. Maybe instead of cutting our foreign aid spending including, importantly, in our own neck of the Archipelago, by swingeing amounts, as we have done under successive Liberal Governments over the last decade, we consider investing more in the South Pacific.

These largely impoverished island nations, with doom lapping Duttonly at their door every day, have only turned to China for succour in desperate resignation. Australia, instead of whinging about China's filling the vacuum left by our casual disregard, should just do what any decent rich nation would do and offer support. 

If we hadn't turned our backs on our Pacific neighbours, China would not have had such a gift-wrapped opportunity to come into our part of the world. Of course, for the Military Industrial Complex, war spending is seen as being economically beneficial, while foreign aid is only seen as more "unfunded empathy". 

How about, instead of arming up aggressively, we engage disarmingly? Invest in our part of the world and make our neighbours our friends and partners. Make Australia a valued ally, not a suspiciously viewed colonial "deputy sheriff". Help our neighbours and friends seek to attain the standard of living we Australians enjoy — and to which we feel entirely entitled.

As Keating explained, even if China is in fact a globally hegemonic power, as posited by Harcher and others, and could be bothered to invade Australia, this would be an extremely difficult task. But even if China lived up to these dubious claims, how would it stand a chance with all our regional neighbours standing behind us?

So, instead of giving the U.S. and England a large portion of our GDP for the next few decades to, as Keating put it, "throw toothpicks at a mountain", how about we try to do something worthwhile and help our neighbours?

And then, if it turns out China invades, it probably won't be because we decided not to buy two or three American and British submarines, scheduled to be delivered at some future date, TBA.



Read the rest of this vital story in Independent Australia's members-only area HEREYou can read more from IA founder and publisher Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz and managing editor Michelle Pini @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus, Facebook HERE and Instagram HERE.

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