Keating exposes ministerial incompetence in Albanese GovernmentMar 16, 2023
Speaking out strongly against AUKUS at the Press Club yesterday, Paul Keating’s concern is that Australia’s security has been laid limp upon the altar of small target politics by the two key Ministers – Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles.
Australians have been denied knowledge and debate on existential matters, by Labor in cahoots with the LNP. The questions put by the press gallery afterwards revealed a uniformly barren mentality. The matter of nuclear submarines is really a distraction from the bipartisan political capitulation to America’s interests. It is important more in illustrating the prostitution of public administration to servile and sidelined foreign policy. And exemplifies how madness can be disguised by inflection and spin.
It has been said there is little that is more awesome to behold than a nuclear attack submarine knowing that it’s full of nuclear weapons. And little is more ridiculous to behold than a nuclear attack submarine knowing it will never be armed with anything but gunpowder. The joke is to cost Australian taxpayers $368 Billion.
Paul Keating felt compelled to speak out strongly at the Press Club because the Albanese government is belittling Australians’ trust that their security is paramount. Australians expect national security to be above politics, popularity, and polls. But instead of protecting Australians the Albanese government has set Australia on a perilous path, knowingly and needlessly –in pursuit of political advantage.
Keating’s indignation centres on the historical reality that Australia has relied on Labor Prime Ministers in times of need to reject conservative traps, to discern our security interest truly at the most perilous moments.
Now Australians’ hopes that a new Labor government would follow that tradition have been decimated. In San Diego the Albanese government’s security policy was exposed as nothing more than Dutton’s in bad drag. Disappointment within the Australian community is palpable.
Keating reminded us that the rot set in with Julia Gillard inviting US marines to rotate through Australia. Then, when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited in 2014, the Abbott government signed away our continent to the Americans to conduct a panoply of military operations against China, under American command and control. Marines now come through automatically, B52s will sit on a northern airfield able to deliver nuclear strikes into China, nuclear-armed submarines will rotate through ports on both sides of the continent. A US military Headquarters is in Darwin. This is just a taste of what’s ahead. Additions appear just to happen spontaneously, because of an unfettered pathway cemented in 2014, via a Force Posture Agreement – unpublicised but easily available.
Penny Wong has been mum on this sly LNP sell-out throughout her time on foreign affairs.
Richard Marles sat since 2016 being responsible for opposition in the defence portfolio while our ability to defend Australia was progressively sacrificed for faraway operations against China under US direction. All the while the LNP government’s promised defence spending which failed to materialise. These were big developments that would have been challenged by a genuine shadow minister.
Marles clung to his silent understudy role even when Scott Morrison proclaimed an entirely new defence strategy – that henceforth Australia would no longer worry about its direct defence, which we had done so well for four decades. The new objective would be “to shape Australia’s strategic environment” (2020 DEFENCE STRATEGIC UPDATE). That was code for subordinating our direct defence to American operations against China.
Paul Keating’s concern is that Australia’s security has been laid limp upon the altar of small target politics by these two Ministers. Australians have been denied existential knowledge and debate, by Labor in cahoots with the LNP. The questions put by the press gallery afterwards revealed a uniformly limited mentality. The matter of nuclear submarines is really a distraction from the bipartisan political capitulation to America’s interests. It is important more in illustrating the prostitution of public administration to servile and sidelined foreign policy. And exemplifies how madness can be dressed up by inflection and spin.
The requirement for new submarines to be nuclear powered is driven by our politicians wanting to be alongside America in operations against China in its waters. There is no defence policy context for it. This means that submarines would be unavailable for what matters most to Australia – critical operations in the choke points and focal areas around our sea approaches.
Keating noted the madness of Australia attacking China in its peripheral waters, precisely where China is most advantaged, where its anti-submarine platforms and sensors are concentrated.
Setting aside the slender chance of our submarines surviving, no Australian nuclear submarine could have more than token military impact on China using conventional weaponry.
In short, the plan to spend around $368bn, for nuclear submarines to conduct little more than irksome operations against China in the most risky conditions, is of little military benefit to anybody, even the Americans.
The marginal benefit to Australia’s own defences is minimal while the cost is maximal, off the scale. The proposal is irrational in every dimension. An affront to public administration.
Far more economical and fruitful ways exist to achieve outcomes of real relevance to Australia’s own defence. Australia has shown we can manufacture highly competent submarines for our own needs. Expanding that aptitude is where our future lies – producing vessels in numbers which enable presence where it matters to us, optimised for our neighbourhood.
Keating could only scratch the surface. To this day Australians have no idea how badly they have been sold out. Just as offensive is that the Albanese government is ill-informed because of its deliberate disinterest in digging into foreign affairs and defence. Leaving those policy areas to become putty in the hands of Washington.
Read Paul Keating’s address to the National Press Club, 15 March 2023
Or watch the full address published by the ABC: