A packed-out forum on how to stop AUKUS reinforced the widespread view that the military pact between Australia, Britain and the United States is deeply unpopular.
A range of speakers addressed why Australia is moving to involve itself more closely with the US military machine and its drive to war against China. Many in the discussion stressed the urgent need to build the anti-war movement, including in schools, universities and unions.
“AUKUS is the preparation for war,” Stuart Rees, author and human rights activist said. “We urgently need an alternative: Australia should be independent and peaceful, not part of US military aggression against China.”
Ethan Lyons, Wiradjuri student and school climate strike organiser, said: “AUKUS is a disaster for young people wanting to tackle the climate emergency. Defence Australia is using schools to promote a research project into developing our country’s weapons industry.
“Protest works,” Lyons added. “First Nations people, school students, workers and the public need to be united, and connections between different social movements are essential.”
Tina Smith, acting president of the South Coast Labor Council (SCLC) said: “The AUKUS agreement has sent alarm bells around the Illawarra region … There has been absolutely no consultation by either the previous Coalition government, or the current Labor government, about this plan to base nuclear subs in Port Kembla. Port Kembla is a major commercial zone, and placing a nuclear base there would be catastrophic.”
Smith talked up the South Coast’s plan for a renewable energy hub, with green jobs and investments. “Wollongong is a union town, and we will stand up and fight for a peaceful, non-nuclear future.”
Alison Broinowski, from Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR), said: “We should get out of AUKUS before it’s too late. All military facilities in Port Kembla, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and elsewhere will be under US control if AUKUS goes ahead. And all these missiles, planes and nuclear armaments will be aimed against China.”
Marcus Strom, convenor of Labor Against War, said: “Many unions and ALP branches are engaged in a major debate over AUKUS... AUKUS threatens to bring a full-scale nuclear industry to Australia. It threatens our relations with our Pacific and South-East Asian neighbours.
“A big struggle inside the Labor Party is developing, leading up to the national conference in August in Brisbane. We will work hard inside the party to turn the situation around, against war and AUKUS.”
The motion was carried without dissent.