AUKUS: Sordid, Dated Domestic Power Games of Cringing Colonials

Nuclear Submarine THE CONVERSATIONAll are agreed the AUKUS deal is the biggest shift in Australia’s military posture since World War II, if not ever. Analysts have argued the rather obvious case that it dramatically reduces our national security, that it greatly increases our entanglement with a belligerent and increasingly unstable United States and thereby diminishes our already-compromised sovereignty, that it antagonises our major trading partner to no good purpose, and that its cost could buy us much more effective conventional defence, if defence was our goal, not to mention schools, hospitals and a more peaceful international neighbourhood.

Paul Keating, assassin of many of Labor’s principles and architect of many of our current economic woes, has at least provoked a bit of substantive debate in the mainstream media, along with a lot of whinging, with his usual shower of colourful epithets. The deal was conceived in secret, announced by PM Scott Morrison, endorsed by Labor and now adopted and pursued by Labor, all with zero debate in the political mainstream.

Our so-called parliamentary democracy is supposed to provide for debate that can flush out shonky arguments and hidden agendas. Very few in the parliament seem to be willing to engage in serious debate, for the obvious reason that they will be pilloried in the highly politicised mainstream media.

That includes the ABC, which for many months has quite uncritically parroted the blatant propaganda of the paranoid extremists in Washington, the ones who gave us the cold war and the threat of nuclear extinction. Laura Tingle, the least blinkered or intimidated of the ABC’s political commentators, has now ventured to allow that Keating raised important questions that deserve to be debated, while carefully avoiding offering any opinion of her own.

So we depend on fringe media like Pearls and Irritations, that has carried a steady stream of debunking analyses, and The Saturday Paper, that is game to report on unsavoury political machinations.

According to Paul Bongiorno($), writing in the latter, Scott Morrison thought he was setting a booby trap to wedge Labor when he surprised the world with the announcement of AUKUS. Unfortunately for Morrison, and the nation, Labor did what modern Labor does: it immediately endorsed the arrangement, regardless of any lack of merit or any principle that might apply.

Since gaining power Labor has run with the deal and Prime Minister Albanese has been photo-opped in a shipyard with his great and powerful friends, so ‘rendering his political opponents back home defenceless’, as Bongiorno reports.

So there we have it. It is all about the petty partisan grasping for political power that is the only thing our old political parties are consistently devoted to any more.

Never mind the real and imminent threat to our national security. These politicians are indoor people, backroom boys obsessed with their old games, oblivious to an increasingly disturbed planet perilously close to thermal runaway, still dumping fuel on the fire.

Many commentators have noted that AUKUS is a reversion to Australia’s colonial attitude of depending on a great and powerful friend for our security in an uncertain world. However not everyone mentions that this is not really a reversion.

For over a century of nominal independence our political mainstream has clung tightly to its colonial mentality, with only a couple of brief interruptions. It manifests not only in our (lack of) foreign policy, but also in our official attitude to local investment, ownership, innovation and manufacturing, and in our unwillingness to acknowledge the neighbourhood we live in, among other things. Some credit is due here to Keating and to former PM Malcolm Fraser, both of whom tried to promote a more independent and appropriate foreign policy.

Also not so much noted is how this deal would establish nuclear power in Australia. For unclear reasons there is a cohort of old men in Australia who have wet dreams about all things nuclear. Never mind that nuclear power is five times more expensive and would take five times longer to establish than wind and solar power, they never give up on spruiking it. Here at last is the excuse to establish a nuclear industry in Australia, which would of course quickly become a powerful lobby.

Perhaps the appeal of nuclear technology is that it must necessarily be highly centralised and it is very expensive, so it offers the illusion that the world can continue with its old corporate, command-and-control, plutocratic business as usual. And then nuclear power would naturally lead on to nuclear weapons. How powerful is that?

The old political parties are still fighting last century’s political battles from within their traditional colonial mentality. Each has completely lost touch with its founding purpose. In the last federal election the Liberal Party suffered a serious backlash against its extremism and increasing irrelevance.

Perhaps it will be Labor’s turn soon, as the cost, danger and lack of justification for AUKUS slowly becomes apparent to more and more people, despite the best efforts of the (declining) mainstream media. Unfortunately much damage can be inflicted in the meantime.

One thought on “AUKUS: Sordid, Dated Domestic Power Games of Cringing Colonials

  1. Well said. The Labor Party should have used the election win as an opportunity to hold a sober review of all entrenched LNP policies and foreign policy commitments, in light of the rapidly changing technologies affecting defence. Think unmanned drones and submersibles, cyber warfare, hypersonic weaponry or self-guided missiles. Also, nuclear submarines project an offensive rather defensive stance and tie our nation to dependence on US and UK technologies and foreign policies, despite the vaunted ‘sovereign control’ of Australian commanders. That’s a fig leaf. I would rather we had maintained good relations with France, who also has influence in the Pacific. For the enormous sums money involved we could have built a dispersed fleet of highly mobile surface craft, helicopters and remote surveillance systems to deal with the emerging trend of waves of climate refugees that will come to our shores in the next few decades. Such a fleet would be multipurpose and could assist in other tasks such as deterring drug trafficking, people trafficking, piracy or illegal fishing.

    Liked by 1 person

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