Uvalde and Kent, and values we should shun

June 7, 2023
Protesting AUKUS nuclear submarines in Sydney. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

In seeking to justify its decision to enter the AUKUS alliance, the federal government has referred to “shared values” by the United States and Britain. Events in both countries suggest Australians should avoid those values.

Many have cited examples of behaviour, by the US in particular, which make that country an unsuitable ally.

Apart from its adventurism establishing bases and flexing its muscles around the world, the US has a poor human rights record domestically and internationally. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay should not be forgotten, nor should Julian Assange. The very need for a Black Lives Matter campaign suggests that racism blights American society.

But there are incidents in the US and in Britain which cannot be ignored. It is just over one year since the massacre of teachers and children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

More than 20 lives were taken in that shooting and yet in the 12 months since, there have been in the order of 50 more mass shootings at schools. A survey cited by the PBS news service shows that about half of students think their schools are unsafe.

It is clear that legislators in the US value the right to bear arms over the safety of children. They refuse to take effective action.

In an appalling development, school authorities have distributed pamphlets to young children featuring Winnie the Pooh advising them how to cope in the event of an incident. The governor of California said legislators are transferring responsibility for school safety to children.

Living with the potential for such trauma must affect children psychologically. It must influence their world view.

A true ally must surely express alarm and urge action. Instead our representatives tend to mouth platitudes about democracy and its freedoms.

Meanwhile, BBC news in Britain continues to document the appalling state of healthcare in the National Health Service. While the Tory government claims to be building new hospitals, many are at risk of being demolished. The workforce is poorly paid and there are frequent reports of needless patient deaths. Despite distressing reports, the government is happy to spend £100 million (A$186,252,500) on a celebration of that antiquated institution known as the monarchy.

The dangers of China’s militarism in the Asia-Pacific region are mainly theoretical, but it has been announced as fact by agents of these declining societies in the US and Britain, and repeated uncritically by the Australian government.

There is little democratic about Scott Morrison–Anthony Albanese’s autocratic decision to back AUKUS — without reference to elected parliamentary representatives.

On balance, the risks of contamination by the warped propaganda of these countries must be far greater than any military threat from China. 

There are troubling signs that the Albanese government is unresponsive to legitimate concerns: continued adherence to a foreign monarchy; approval of fossil fuels; and a failure to treat homelessness as a social emergency.

These threaten faith in Australia being a democracy. Such unresponsiveness is a symptom of an ossifying political culture. There are very good reasons to ditch AUKUS before we are contaminated by the worst aspects of these undemocratic countries.

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