Albanese goes to Washington to support US war drive

October 27, 2023
Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese toasting the US-Australia military alliance in Washington. Image: Green Left

The White House boasted that Australian Prime Minister’s four-day trip to Washington was about a “celebration” of the United States-Australia alliance.

But the PM didn’t get everything he wanted: critical bills which would breathe life into the AUKUS military alliance, namely the ship transfer legislation, export control legislation, and a supplementary budget request for submarine industrial base support, have yet to be passed.

Other measures, such as cooperation on new technology, artificial intelligence and space were announced.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King also announced a new Australia-US Taskforce on critical minerals.

She said Labor would spend $2 billion to subsidise mining corporations to boost their expansion of critical minerals, including cobalt, lithium, manganese and rare earths, Australia holds one the world’s largest recoverable resources of critical minerals and is seeking to overtake China — which has enjoyed a near monopoly.

These announcements enabled Labor to spruik the “third pillar” of the US-Australia alliance: climate and clean energy.

Albanese urged a gathering of Republicans and Democrats — including new House speaker Republican Mike Johnson (who had backed Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 election) — to pass the bills necessary for Australia to move forward with obtaining its AUKUS submarines.

While some Republicans oppose the US helping build the nuclear-powered submarines, arguing the US doesn’t have capacity, others from the US Navy and Department of Defence say helping Australia is important.

“AUKUS is a call to action to strengthen our trilateral defence ecosystem,” Department of Defence under-secretary Marla Karlin told a Congressional hearing on October 25.

Biden submitted his emergency proposal for US$3.4 billion to support the submarine industrial base a few days before Albanese arrived in Washington. It was part of a larger package that included $50 billion for weapons for Ukraine and aid for Israelis and Palestinians.

Biden and Albanese are pinning their hopes on the ability of US shipyards to deliver — with $3 billion committed by Australia — two Virginia-class nuclear powered submarines a year. In addition, the US Navy has prioritised production of the first of 12 Columbia-class nuclear ballistic-missile submarines.

For months now, the US and Australia have downplayed Republican dissent in Congress about delivering on the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal. But Albanese said he was “very confident” that Congress would approve changes to technology export controls to ensure Australia would gain the three Virginia-class submarines early next decade.

“We were laser-focused on AUKUS and the legislation that’s required, and there’s been big steps forward on that,” Albanese told The Age on October 27.

We can assume that US politicians have clocked the dissent inside Labor to the AUKUS nuclear submarines. But, given that this was Albanese’s second visit to Washington since being elected last year, they would also be aware that the PM is determined to support the US’s imperial aims in the Asia-Pacific.

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