The AUKUS pact is a waste of spending that could go towards more needed areas such as medicine, housing and the environment, writes Dr William Briggs.
PRIME MINISTER Anthony Albanese’s photo opportunity with U.S. President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego ranks as one of the more grotesque and expensive the world has seen. The submarine deal, glowingly described as his “moonshot” with its $368 billion price tag is an act of pillage of public money. It might allow him to bask in the warm embrace of the American and British leaders but threatens the sovereignty of Australia, the peace and stability of the region, and the economic well-being of this and future generations.
The AUKUS deal cements a relationship that serves U.S. interests and brings us all one step closer to a war that should be unthinkable. The unthinkable is not only thinkable but is now openly spoken of as almost an inevitable fact.
Wars can only be imagined and conducted if the broad mass of the people either supports a war or gives quiet consent. Ensuring that this consent is given is the role of the media and the work of government. Albanese’s speech in San Diego was designed to win that support. The Australian media gushed. Albanese fawned and then the Prime Minister sought to turn the whole affair into a nation-building exercise. Spending money on a possible Armageddon becomes an industry policy. Apparently, it’s all about jobs.
Back in Australia, mayors are interviewed. The odd myopic union leader is interviewed. The economy will thrive, jobs will be found and apprenticeships will flow. The entire nation, from university staff through to unskilled labour will all be as one and working with one purpose. The fantasy was made more obscene when Albanese likened this tragedy-in-the-making to the establishment of the automotive industry in the 1940s. In case he hasn’t noticed, there is a difference. The car industry provided a socially useful product. A nuclear-propelled and potentially armed submarine is not socially useful.
The flood of jobs – or rather 20,000 jobs – and the majesty of the whole affair must bring joy to the hearts of all Australians. There will be a few dissenters. Some might question how such outlandish spending fits with a 500,000 waiting list for surgery, or a waiting list of more than a year for public dental treatment.
The 116,000 homeless Australians will feel better about their plight. The 15 per cent of the population who have experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months are no doubt rejoicing. The Australian Medical Association spokespeople who have just described the capacity to treat mental health in this country as being “broken” might be chastened for being so selfish.
Jobs are important but what jobs? What industries? What industry policy might the government consider?
An industry policy that focused on reviving a manufacturing sector that both generated jobs and wealth through export might not be a bad thing. We have a crisis in health, housing and the environment that would benefit from such spending. Investment in renewable energy would provide socially useful jobs, be cost-effective and sustainable. But no. Nation-building in this scenario is a means to build up the material base to destroy us all.
And while our Government, with the support garnered by a skilful propaganda machine at its back, drives us to the abyss, China, the designated enemy, rightly protests and pledges that it will prepare itself against the war drive. The threat to China has been long in preparation.
Ever since President Obama launched his “pivot” to Asia, with the express purpose of “containing” the rising economic force of China, the pieces of the jigsaw have been put in place. Attempts to economically weaken China have run alongside a continually provocative and belligerent military stance. China has responded and has been engaged in a rapid expansion of its armed forces.
The fact remains that the Chinese army, navy and air force remain on or near its own territorial borders and is not encroaching on the sovereignty of the U.S. or Australia. It is also a fact that the U.S. military outspends the Chinese by a considerable factor. The U.S. and its allies have encircled China and ringed it with missiles.
The AUKUS deal will not make Australia “safe” from any imagined threat from China. The case is yet to be made that China poses any threat to Australia, but that counts for little when all that really matters is to support and be seen to support the war preparations of the United States.
U.S. General Michael Minihan recently sent a memo to his troops advising them that war with China could come by 2025. The warmongers of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the authors of ‘Red Alert’ see a date for war just three years from now.
Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping commented that “the U.S. wants to make Australia its frontline military base in the Indo-Pacific region and let its allies foot the bill, which is a disservice to Australia's sovereignty and independence”.
Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, considers that the possible purpose of the U.S. providing nuclear-powered submarines to Australia is to provide a long-range strike capability. “It would be a time bomb for peace and stability in the region,” Chen said.
The deal does nobody any good. It heightens tensions in an already dangerous part of the world. It weakens the Australian economy and places our people at great risk. It consigns millions of Australians to continued waiting lists for basic services because there will be no fat in any budget any time soon.
All this to stave off an enemy that is still to be proven to be anything but a mirage and to prove fealty to the United States.
Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.
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