Peter Ong, Secretary of the Queensland and Northern Territory branch of the Electrical Trades Union, delivered the following speech to the Palm Sunday rally in Meanjin/Brisbane on April 2.
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I want to talk to you about the AUKUS deal today.
First of all: who here voted for the government to spend $368 billion on nuclear submarines? No, none of us!
In fact, we didn’t seem to even know about it.
It’s a high cost impost on Australia and its peoples, and we had absolutely no input into it. No one spoke to us about it at any stage.
The headline costs are massive: $368 billion over the next 25 or so years.
Huge amounts of taxpayers’ money — your money — to be spent on up to eight nuclear-powered submarines at a time when many people are struggling to put food on the table and pay their rent.
A time when our health system is on life support and our renewable industries are crying out for investment.
This government will spend obscene amounts on war machines, including $3 billion in the next 4 years to help prop up the United States’ ship building industry.
That’s $3 billion to the one of the biggest super powers in the world: your money going to the US — the world’s biggest economy — instead of staying here to help people with the cost-of-living crisis.
That’s an absolute disgrace.
Can you imagine how many houses you could build for $3 billion rather than prop up the ship building industry in the US?
What an absolute disgrace! Who knew about that?
This government tells us there is only one bucket of money and yet they can find hundreds of billions for war.
It’s a disgrace and it is not what I voted for.
I voted for a sustainable future with investment in updating the electricity grids to support renewable energy projects and local manufacturing.
I voted for decent health care, childcare and housing.
And I voted for decent, well paying, safe jobs and a future for our children.
Apart from the enormous and obscene costs to the budget bottom line, there are also massive unknowns.
Our biggest trading partner is China, yet we are being forced to pick sides.
We are being forced to support the US which, only two short years ago, faced down an armed coup, provoked by an unstable would-be dictator: I think you all know who that is — Donald Trump.
Is this really the sort of ally we want to solely align our future with? I don’t think so.
The potential impacts on our state and country are substantial.
For the first time ever, Australia is signing up to wholeheartedly follow the US and the UK in their nuclear weapons future with nuclear-powered subs rotating though Western Australia in less than 5 years’ time and through an undisclosed location on the east coast some time later — we’re still waiting to hear where that’s going to be.
Many experts believe this military pact all but compels us to support US wars, including with nuclear-armed China.
Former military brass believe we are now a much bigger target for aggression.
So, the combination of a US military build-up in Australia and adherence to US foreign policy is putting our sovereignty under severe threat.
Former Labor minister Peter Garrett has posed questions about the disposal of weapon’s grade nuclear waste, which under this deal, can now be done in Australia.
That’s an absolute disgrace.
We’ve fought so long and hard to stop this from happening and, with the stroke of a pen, we are now in this situation.
I call on you to lobby your local councillors, state and federal MPs and call on them to support making Brisbane a nuclear-free city, by banning the use of any current or future port facility in Brisbane for all activities associated with any nuclear-propelled and/or armed submarines.
We call on the state government to immediately reject any proposal to store nuclear waste in this state.
And we call on the federal government to immediately sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
In summary, there is no upside to this appalling decision.
There is only blood and guts, insecurity, toxic waste and loss of our sovereignty. Our kids deserve better than this.
It comes down to this: if we want peace and prosperity we are going to have to campaign for it.
Say “No” to a nuclear future.
Video: Peter Ong at Palm Sunday Brisbane 2023. Independant & Peaceful Network Australia.
[Watch a video by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network of Peter Ong’s speech here.]