Given our massive commitment to military spending and continuous "war talk", protests within the peace movement are growing to prevent Australia from entering another disastrous U.S.-led war, writes Bevan Ramsden.
INDICATORS THAT preparations are being made for war are coming thick and fast.
The 2021 announcement of the AUKUS (Australia, UK and the U.S.) military pact and Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines (either from the USA or the UK) has heightened and broadened public concerns about Australia’s deeper involvement in another potential U.S.-led war — this time with China.
Intensifying war talk and massive spending on war preparations have not gone unnoticed in the Australian community. It has provoked a response which is rapidly spreading that our foreign policies may be taking us into an unnecessary and avoidable war, not heading towards security and peace.
A recent Lowy Institute poll showed that just over half the Australian population is not in favour of supporting the United States in a war against China.
The city councils of both Newcastle and Wollongong are united in opposing the establishment in their cities of port facilities for nuclear-powered submarines and the Brisbane City Council has reaffirmed its commitment to a nuclear-free city.
A number of trade unions – the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Queensland branch, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the NSW Teachers Federation to name only a few – have strongly condemned AUKUS and the planned acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.
Community organisations including Friends of the Earth, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Pax Christi, Australians for War Powers Reform and the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) have likewise condemned the planned acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.
Heightened public concerns and opposition to a war with China come largely in response to the formation of the Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition (AAAC).
More than 25 community, peace, faith organisations, trade unions and hundreds of individuals have united to campaign nationally against preparations for a possible war with China and to oppose nuclear submarines and the AUKUS war pact. Public anti-AUKUS protests have occurred in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Darwin with more planned in coming months.
The AAAC is currently coordinating the gathering of hundreds of signatures from individuals and organisations for a national advertisement to be published in a major national newspaper on 17 September, around the anniversary of the announcement of AUKUS (16 September 2021) and the purchase of nuclear submarines.
The proposed advertisement reads as follows:
We call on the Government of Australia in the interests of peace and security for the Australian people and the region:
- to advise its AUKUS partners that Australia will not be involved in a war against China over Taiwan or disputed territorial waters in the South China Sea or any other country and will not allow use of Australian territory for that purpose;
- to sign and ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and
- to cancel military spending for AUKUS war preparations, including cancellation of the acquisition of nuclear-propelled submarines, so that urgent domestic social needs (climate change mitigation, education, health including public hospitals and housing) can be better addressed.
Further, a petition initiated in November 2021 by IPAN in conjunction with the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition has received 25,500 signatures.
The petition is headed 'No Nuclear Submarines; End U.S dominance; Healthcare not Warfare' and reads in part:
'The Australian Government must withdraw from AUKUS, stop the development of nuclear submarines and end integration into the U.S. military.'
The Australian Government’s commitment to purchasing billions of dollars in weaponry, mainly designed for offensive war and interoperability with the U.S. military – not specifically for the self-defence and sovereignty of Australia – is evidence of the Government’s preparations for a potential war against China thousands of miles away from Australia.
Previous governments have committed close to one-quarter of a billion dollars on so-called defence but these items suggest war preparations coordinated with the United States, aimed at containing and/or confronting China militarily.
Some of these commitments include:
- Upgrading the (RAAF) Royal Australian Air Force's Tindal aircraft runway to take U.S. B1 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, at a cost of $1.1 billion.
- Building a huge fuel site in the Northern Territory to power U.S. fighter jets (estimated $270 million).
- Acquiring 135 U.S. M-1A2C Abrams tanks at a cost of $3.5 billion.
- Developing high-speed, long-range missile defence systems at a cost of up to $9.3 billion.
- Acquiring eight nuclear-propelled submarines at a cost that experts predict will blow out to $170 billion-plus (these hunter-killer subs are designed for operation at long distances from Australia and are too large to be effective in the relatively shallow coastal waters of Australia).
- $10 billion to build a port on the east coast of Australia to service nuclear-powered submarines — and we are told it will be made available to the U.S. and UK for servicing their nuclear-powered and probably nuclear-armed submarines.
- Seventy-two F-35 fighter bombers will be purchased from the U.S. at a cost of about $16 billion.
- Purchasing nine frigates at a cost of $35 billion.
The costs to Australia of having over 2,000 U.S. marines stationed in the Northern Territory each year are unknown as questions by IPAN to the Federal Minister for Defence evoked the answer: “It is a matter of national security and cannot be divulged.”
These foreign troops stationed on our soil are not under the control of the Australian Government. They take their orders from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command which has recently established a regional headquarters in Darwin.
Talisman Sabre military exercises are carried out every second year, mainly by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) working in an integrated way with the U.S. military. This is a land and sea operation involving aircraft, warships, landing craft and land-based vehicles and missiles. Recent war exercises have had a clear aim of practising for a possible war aimed at China.
These military preparations and expenditures have been backed by war talk from former Defence Minister Peter Dutton and government advisory “think tanks” such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
Dutton bluntly warned on ANZAC day this year that Australia can only keep the peace by preparing for war. Last year his war talk specifically targeted China over control of Taiwan whereby he said war was ultimately 'a question for the Chinese'.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was reported as supporting Dutton, saying that the battle for Taiwan could start quite soon, citing recent statements by U.S. officials to that effect.
The strongest indicator of preparation for war has been Australia joining with the U.S. and UK in what purports to be a war pact – AUKUS – but appears purpose-built to contain and/or confront the Chinese militarily. This new alliance was entered into without any parliamentary or public discussion and has been imposed dictatorially upon the Australian people.
The change of government has not seen, as yet, any change in this general thrust to prepare for war. The Albanese Government supports AUKUS. And while PM Albanese and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong have sought to use more moderate language towards our neighbours on their recent overseas tours in an attempt to heal relations broken by the previous Coalition Government, the thrust of their foreign policy has not changed.
In a speech recently in the USA, Defence Minister Richard Marles called for the integration of our ADF with the U.S. military rather than interoperability, which was the policy of the previous Australian Government.
This would mean loss of sovereign control of our own ADF to the U.S.
Indeed, Tony Abbott has congratulated the Albanese Government for providing seamless continuity in foreign policy with the previous Coalition Government, saying:
“One of the things that encourages me about the new Government is that they are very much continuing the line of the former Morrison Government when it comes to Australia’s defence and strategic policy. Good on you Richard Marles and Anthony Albanese for doing so."
Respected defence analyst Professor Hugh White has issued a warning in his Quarterly Essay entitled 'Sleepwalk to War: Australia’s Unthinking Alliance with America'.
In this hard-hitting essay, Dr White writes:
The spirit of AUKUS and the logic of the Morrison Government’s position make it close to inevitable that Australia will be entangled in detailed U.S. war planning for a conflict with China, if that has not already happened…The danger is that once we allow U.S. military staffs to build Australian forces into their war plans, it becomes harder for us to make an independent decision about going to war when a crisis occurs.
In commenting about a possible war with China over Taiwan, he said:
'The best way out of this predicament for America is to abandon ambiguity and acknowledge frankly that it cannot and will not defend Taiwan with armed force. And the best path for Australia is to urge America to do this and tell the Americans that we will not support them in a war over Taiwan.'
Former PM Paul Keating has previously said the same thing.
As reported by the ABC last year, he warned the Federal Government 'not to be drawn into a military conflict over Taiwan', saying the fate of the self-ruled island is "not a vital Australian interest", playing down the prospect of a Chinese military invasion.
Every stop should be pulled out to prevent Australia from being drawn into yet another disastrous U.S.-led war. The peace movement is growing rapidly to do its best to prevent that from happening.
If you wish to add your signature to the national newspaper advertisement protesting the military spending for AUKUS war preparations, including cancellation of the acquisition of nuclear-propelled submarines, click here.
Bevan Ramsden is an ex-telecommunications engineer and a long-time peace activist who advocates for Australia’s independence. He was a member of the coordinating committee of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) for a number of years and is the editor of its monthly publication, 'Voice'.
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