The Defence Strategic Review inquiry, initiated by Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and defence minister Richard Marles last August to “better understand where it should prioritise investment”, is due to be tabled.
It is widely expected to provide a rationale for the federal government’s support for the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal, which is also expected to be made public.
“The world is undergoing significant strategic realignment. Military modernisation, technological disruption and the risk of state-on-state conflict are complicating Australia’s strategic circumstances,” the Defence Strategic Review’s terms of reference said.
Considering the growing war preparations against China, and the already significant embedding of the United States military with the Australian Defence Force — AUKUS being just one element — the Defence Strategic Review’s terms of reference are remarkably slim, at just two A4 pages.
Bipartisan support for Australia’s war preparations against China is the reason for anti-war and peace networks deciding to organise a national protest outside federal MPs’ offices on February 24. They will demand an end to AUKUS and the billions being wasted on a new arms race.
While the warmongering Coalition government started the militaristic push, Labor has adopted the same policy.
• A new regional headquarters for the US Indo-Pacific Command in Darwin;
• The lengthening of the RAAF aircraft runway in the Northern Territory to service US fighter jets and bombers, including the B52s that can carry nuclear bombs;
• A proposal to station six B52s at the RAAF base in Tindal in the NT;
• $10 billion for the construction of a deep-water port on the east coast for US and British nuclear-powered and nuclear-missile carrying submarines;
• A proposal to spend $170 billion on eight nuclear-powered submarines to operate in the Taiwan Strait; and
• Successive defence ministers’ statements that Australia will be integrated with US forces if a war breaks out between the US and China.
Important sections of Labor’s traditional supporter base — including unions — are opposed to this new arms race.
Peter Ong, Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Queensland and Northern Territory Divisional state secretary, said last April, a month before the federal election that “money should be going to emerging industries and training future tradespeople, not pacts facilitated by previous, incompetent, anti-worker governments”.
The ETU has long adopted an anti-nuclear position, a factor behind its opposition to nuclear-powered submarines.
“We’re in a pivotal time for a switch to renewable energy, which will require government investment,” he said. He admitted he wasn’t confident of Labor’s stand on AUKUS, adding that this was “why [the ETU] supports grassroots campaigns”.
“We need to build the campaign, get in their faces, put pressure on them — whatever government is in. The risk is not acceptable,” Ong added.
The Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions’ Closing Australia’s Submarine Capability Gap, argues for the federal government to assist the shipbuilding trade to continue in Australia.
While it is cautious about the proposal to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, citing polls showing young people’s opposition, it is pushing for conventional submarines to be built here.
The federation comprises of the ETU, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia (South Australia) and Professional Australia.
Building up to six conventional Collins-class submarines in Australia would “prevent a capability gap in the Royal Australian Navy and preserve national shipbuilding skills and industry capacity leading into future submarine and other major shipbuilding programs”, it said.
It said that given Australia is heavily dependent on maritime trade and shipbuilding employs more than 30,000 workers from a range of skill bases, it is concerned that AUKUS will not deliver the promised manufacturing jobs.
Unions NSW adopted a motion last April opposing the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines. It also pledged opposition to all other elements of a nuclear industry.
The recently released Independent and Peaceful Australia Network’s Charting Our Own Course: Questioning Australia’s involvement in US-led wars and the Australia-United States alliance highlighted the National Tertiary Education Union, Queensland division, arguing that the chronic underfunding of tertiary education could be resolved if billions of dollars were not wasted on AUKUS submarines.
The NSW Teachers Federation State Council opposed AUKUS and expressed solidarity with communities in Port Kembla and Newcastle — sites for a submarines base.
It said the proposed $170 billion outlay would be better spent on expanding renewable energy and funding essential health, education and welfare support services.
Kellie Tranter, chair of Charting Our Own Course, said the Albanese government must listen to the growing opposition. “The ‘nuclearisation’ and further militarisation of Australia is not just expensive, lacking common sense and dangerous, but it goes against the wishes of a large and diverse range of citizens.”
ACTIONS: Tell Labor you oppose AUKUS on February 24
Brisbane: 11am outside federal treasurer Jim Chalmers’ office, Unit 2A, Logan Central Plaza, 38–74 Wembley Rd, Logan Central. Organised by Just Peace. Email: email@example.com
Melbourne and Geelong: 4pm outside defence minister Richard Marles’ office, 100 Brougham St, Geelong. Organised by IPAN Geelong and South West Regional Victoria.
Newcastle: 10.30am outside defence industries minister Pat Conroy’s office, Suite 1A, 571 Pacific Hwy, Belmont. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney: 12pm outside Anthony Albanese’s electorate office, 334A Marrickville Rd, Marrickville. Supported by Marrickville Peace Group, WAWAN (Wollongong Against War And Nukes) and SAAC (Sydney Anti-Aukus Coalition). Email: email@example.com