David Brophy: ‘The justifications for AUKUS are simply not convincing’

April 6, 2023
Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition at the Palm Sunday rally. Photo: Peter Boyle. Inset: Dr David Brophy

Thank you for showing such dedication to the cause by being here on a day like today. It’s an honour to be able to speak to you.

As we call today for justice for refugees, we also call for an end to the wars that produce refugees; Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Israel’s never-ending war on the Palestinians, Yemen, the violent repression in Myanmar, all wars.

But here in Australia we have a particular obligation to resist the forces that are pushing this country towards war, towards a disastrous confrontation with China.

For years now, politicians, media, hawkish think tanks and spy agencies have been straining themselves to scare the public, and whip up animosity towards China.

The proposition would be absurd were it not so terrifying: they paint a picture of a war that could easily go trigger climate catastrophe and they tell us to simply prepare for it, not to prevent it.

Federal Labor, to its shame, has gone along with this campaign and has now signed off on its end result — the AUKUS pact.

A pact negotiated in secret, carrying a $368 billion price tag but, in reality of unknown cost; a pact that binds Australia to United States’ military strategy for decades to come.

All of this for what?

The justifications for AUKUS are simply not convincing.

A few days ago the defence minister went on TV to claim that the South China Sea was a vital national interest for Australia, because all of Australia’s trade with Japan and South Korea went through it.

This is simply untrue. The defence minister lied.

He lied because he didn’t want to state the absurdity that has already been so well satirised, that Australia is supposedly spending billions of dollars to defend its trade with China — from China.

China, of course, is where the vast bulk of Australian shipping in the South China Sea is going.

The truth is that there is no defensive rationale for this program.

The purpose of AUKUS is to: anchor a United States military presence in Asia; bring the British Empire back in; and signal Australia’s willingness to make itself a platform for, and contributor to, a future American war on China.

These submarines only make sense as part of an aggressive strategy to hem China in and create insecurity on China’s doorstep.

They call this deterrence; they say it’s all in the name of peace. But what they’re saying to China is: “We intend to maintain the capacity to fight and win a war right on your doorstep.”

Imagine if China said the same thing to Australia? Is there any way that would not be considered a highly aggressive posture?

That is the reality: deterrence is aggression.

To those in Washington and Canberra the threat from China — such as it is — is China’s ability to defend itself — to deter the deterrers, to stymie the US’ ambition to dominate Asia.

That American ambition — to dominate Asia and the world — is what Australia is supporting by promoting the AUKUS pact.

But that ambition is not worth a single Australian fighting and dying for. It’s not worth a single Australian life. That is why we must say no to AUKUS.

People in Asia do not want a new arms race; they do not need a revived Anglosphere alliance policing their region; they do not support an aggressive containment policy towards China.

The peoples of the Pacific have seen the tragic consequences of Western nuclear ambitions in the past — many still live with those consequences. They do not want AUKUS.

People in Port Kembla, in Wollongong, do not want a nuclear base there. More and more Australians are saying that they do not want AUKUS. We do not want to be complicit in America’s next war. We will not risk the future of humanity to prop up a declining and dangerous US empire.

We have to tell our politicians: stop listening to the hawks; stop the war-mongering. We want policies that deescalate conflict, that demilitarise; our tax dollars spent on welfare, education, public services, not poured into the gaping maw of the international arms industry.

And if you won’t deliver those policies, we in the anti-war movement will fight to put those policies on the agenda.

Let’s all take this opportunity today to recommit to that task, to build the movement we need to stop the war drive and stop AUKUS and say no nuclear submarines, no war with China.

[This speech was delivered to the Sydney Palm Sunday rally on April 2. David Brophy is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Sydney and is the vice-president of the National Tertiary Education Union at the university. He is also the author of China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering (Black Inc, 2021).]

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