On September 21, International Day of Peace, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said it opposed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reckless commitment to develop nuclear-powered submarines as part of a military alliance with the United States and Britain.
“At a time when Morrison should have been pursuing vaccination supplies and providing maximum support to our health system and millions of people in lockdown, he has been pursuing secret military deals”, the MUA said.
“The deal will continue to escalate unnecessary conflict with China. Workers have already been impacted, with seafarers stranded on coal ships and some trades shut down.”
The MUA said $90 billion had been “wasted with the previous submarine contract”, scrapped just five years after it was signed. Nuclear submarines will cost much more.
“Only six countries in the world have nuclear submarines, and they all have nuclear power stations”, the MUA said, adding: “Advocates for nuclear power and nuclear weapons have been emboldened. The submarines will use highly enriched uranium ideal for nuclear weapons.”
The government has repeatedly tried to set up nuclear waste dumps on First Nations people's land and the decision will intensify that pressure.
Instead, the union is calling for the billions to be redirected to: building a strategic shipping fleet in Adelaide that could operate in cabotage and international trades; building renewable energy and offshore wind turbines to ensure we prevent global heating from exceeding 1.5°C; raising JobSeeker payments to well above poverty levels; pay rises for health workers and investment in public health systems; pay rises for teachers and investment in public schools to make them COVID-19 safe; and investment in firefighting capacity to be ready for the next bushfire season.
“Workers have no interest in war with China or any other country”, the MUA said, adding that it stands in “solidarity with workers in all countries in opposing war and wasteful environmentally harmful military spending”.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is also opposed to the nuclear submarine deal, saying on September 16 that it would expose Australia to greater danger on multiple fronts.
ETU National Assistant Secretary Michael Wright said: “This decision represents a betrayal of responsibility to Australia’s non-nuclear policy and a betrayal of two generations of highly-skilled, secure, well-paying Australian shipbuilding jobs.”
Further, Wright said, nuclear technology is inherently dangerous: “Has Morrison given any thought to where the spent fuel rods from these nuclear submarines will be stored? Australians have a right to know the answers to these important questions before the prime minister makes such dangerous decisions on our behalf.”