This year’s Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) talks between Britain and Australia on January 19, repeated soothing refrains about “close ties” in a “challenging” international environment.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne affirmed the close ties between the two powers, boasting how the “excellent” defence relationship is “underpinned by close personal links between defence forces”.
Coming so soon after the new AUKUS military deal and amid widespread criticism of the government’s shambolic pandemic policies, the official media release gave little away.
“Is this some kind of musical re-make of the British Empire’s response to the Boxer Rebellion?”, asked Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition (SAAC) spokesperson Peter Murphy.
The AUKMIN talks are “swathed in dramatic but vague language and nostalgia rather than specific commitments”, Murphy said. He suggested the electoral concerns of the British and Australian governments were their real focus.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss referred to “malign forces threatening global peace and stability”, while British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said “the UK and Australia share one of the oldest and strongest defence and security alliances”.
“Malign” is the new word for China, Murphy said.
The talks likely affirmed the $100 billion nuclear-powered submarine deal, to be deployed against the “malign forces” in 25 year’s time, and the Boris Johnson government’s attempt to sell astronomically expensive weapons to Australia.
Nick Deane, convenor of the Marrickville peace group, said Australians are being treated with contempt by a government keen to start a new war with China.
“We are subjected to a constant stream of messages about China’s evil intentions, which have little basis in reality. “As [former Labor Prime Minister] Paul Keating reminded us, we have no strategic interest in Taiwan, so we have no need to count China as an enemy. Yet, through AUKUS, we risk achieving exactly that outcome. As things stand, this is far too widely accepted as inevitable.”
The AUKMIN ministers also discussed the possible basing of British nuclear submarines in Australia.
Spokesperson for Independent and Peaceful Australia Network Vince Scappatura said acquiring US or British nuclear submarines is only one element in the “road to conflict”. Billions more are being spent on tanks, other ground vehicles, the contentious F-35 fighter and more.
Despite ASEAN countries expressing disquiet over the AUKUS pact, “this is another step towards an intensifying military build-up aimed at China”.
We need to ask which major cities’ ports might be used to station nuclear submarines, Scappatura said, and what contingency plans are there to manage “either a nuclear accident or in fact a military attack on those vessels?”
“Billions more are being allocated for military infrastructure, such as aircraft refuelling facilities and extended runways, which concentrates much of the build-up in the Top End — closest to China.”