Penny Wong’s delusion on nuclear weapons in the South Pacific

Aug 9, 2023

Australia’s Pacific neighbours deserve much better from our foreign minister. Australia is becoming a de facto nuclear armed state.

Australia has allowed US nuclear propelled—and quite likely nuclear armed—submarines free access to Australian naval bases, US Air Force nuclear weapons capable B-52 bombers have access to at least two RAAF air bases, and more than two-thousand US Marines are permanently stationed on our soil.

Australia might not be a nuclear power, but we are, by measure of the Albanese government’s unbridled enthusiasm, a more than willing launching pad for the greatest nuclear-armed military in history.

Australia is to become a de facto nuclear armed state.

Yet, over the weekend, for some reason Foreign Minister Penny Wong took to Twitter proclaiming:

Image: Supplied

Australia joined Pacific partners in signing the Rarotonga Treaty, establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the South Pacific, on this day in 1985.

Nearly 40 years later it’s still a regional cornerstone as we work towards a world without nuclear weapons.

It beggars belief that a senior member of our executive government could make such a boast. More so than Howard and Morrison, and Julia Gillard (who acquiesced to the Obama Administration’s decision to station US marines in Darwin), Foreign Minister Wong, Defence Minister Richard Marles and Prime Minister Albanese have almost completely ceded our sovereignty to another nation. A nation armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons deployed across the Pacific and North Asia.

Just as its made a mockery of accountability by allowing nuclear capable military assets to be based on our shores without parliamentary—let alone public—consultation, this government is now making a mockery of our neighbours in the Pacific.

The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki aside, the people of the Pacific have suffered like no others in America’s voracious pursuit to amass a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the entire planet.

According to figures published by PACE University, the U.S., Britain and France have detonated 318 nuclear devices in the Pacific. The misery visited upon the people of the Marshall Islands is without comparison, the overwhelming majority of U.S. weapons tests occurred in these islands across the atolls of Bikini and Enewetak. The combined yield of those atomic weapons is some 14,000 times greater than that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Though his words might have been better chosen, accusing Wong of “running around the Pacific islands with a lei around [her] neck handing out money”, Paul Keating’s criticism of the foreign minister earlier this year has been further validated rather than diminished by her latest comments.

The foreign minister appears to be every bit as tone deaf as, now opposition leader, Peter Dutton was in 2015, when he joked in range of an open microphone that, Pacific Islands under threat of climate change had “water lapping” at their doors.

By opening our doors to U.S. nuclear weapons, we have no right to claim solidarity with the Pacific on banning them. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Is China a military threat in the Pacific? That’s doubtful. Despite its rapid military build-up, China is a generation behind U.S. military capability. U.S. military spending it three times that of China and, as with the Middle East and Europe, the U.S. is Asia’s overwhelmingly dominant military power.

Is China a geopolitical threat in the Pacific? Absolutely. But the Chinese don’t kick doors down, they knock on doors bearing gifts. There’s often a thin line dividing economic incentives and economic coercion, however, it’s hard to argue that China slapping on trade bans or calling off aid is anywhere near as intimidatory as having the U.S. Seventh Fleet parked off your coast.

One thing about Chinese diplomacy most of the west, particularly its mainstream media, is blissfully unaware of, is the approach China has to smaller nations. Unlike western nations they don’t ride roughshod over the locals by first proclaiming their moral superiority. For all the ham-fisted moves of China’s Foreign Ministry, contempt is rarely a starting point for its diplomacy.

Contempt for those outside of the Euro/Anglosphere world, based on its self-invented “rules-based order” only works for the U.S. because it’s backed by economic and military might.

Despite the motivations for, what Keating calls Australia “running around the Pacific islands”, by tying ourselves to the U.S., it’s a policy founded in contempt. De facto contempt as we acquiesce to the wishes of Washington, just as we are a de facto nuclear-armed nation.

Minister Wong might have been genuine in stating her desired goal to work towards a “world without nuclear weapons”. As long as her government relentlessly pursues the goal of ensuring U.S. military expansion into Australia continues unchallenged, it’s an affront to Australians and an insult to our Pacific neighbours to feign concern for the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.

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