Greens call for anti-AUKUS movement at community forum

SA Greens MLC Tammy Franks called for the creation of an anti-AUKUS coalition at a weekend meeting in Semaphore, while other speakers were worried about provoking China.

Apr 22, 2024, updated Apr 22, 2024
Former SA senator Rex Patrick said he opposes AUKUS because of a loss of sovereignty to the U.S. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

Former SA senator Rex Patrick said he opposes AUKUS because of a loss of sovereignty to the U.S. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

More than 100 people attended Saturday’s meeting, with Franks joined by former South Australian senator and submariner Rex Patrick and Greens senator David Shoebridge.

Other speakers included UniSA business school Adjunct Research Professor Al Rainnie, environmental campaigner David Noonan and Dr Amanda Ruler from Medical Professionals for Prevention of War.

The meeting was called to discuss the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, and its centrepiece agreement for nuclear-powered submarines to be obtained by Australia and eventually built at Osborne in Adelaide.

Australia will gain eight nuclear-powered submarines by the mid-2050s under the AUKUS pact, which is projected to cost the Australian taxpayer between $268-$368 billion.

The Australian government has said that the AUKUS deal will create 20,000 direct jobs over the next 30 years and create stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Forum speakers raised various concerns about the defence pact including a potential conflict with China, a loss of sovereignty to the United States, nuclear waste, and a potential nuclear accident.

“What we have here is the start of a movement, and I would love to be able to make sure that any time AUKUS is discussed, we actually have a crowd in the gallery so democracy doesn’t die in the dark,” Franks said.

Patrick said he backed “a modern flexible defence force” but opposed  AUKUS because it put “all our eggs into one basket”.

“There’s huge performance risk in this program as well – there’s a huge economic risk,” he said.

Patrick said AUKUS was born out of concerns of a potential future war with China but meant ceding national sovereignty to the US.

“One of my objections to what’s happening is that AUKUS is central to that loss of sovereignty, the loss of decision making, and the direction of money, lots of money, into a plan that I don’t think the government has the approval from the Australian public to carry out,” he said.

“The majority of funding that is being directed towards our defence force is actually being directed for a conflict in the northern hemisphere, and I object to that.”

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Writing previously in InDaily, Patrick argued that the planned shipbuilding program in Osborne was “a loss for South Australia”.

We have been sabotaged by incompetent Defence leadership and the inability of successive governments to rectify the leadership,” he said.

More than 100 people attended the anti-AUKUS meeting in Semaphore. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

Greens’ defence spokesman Shoebridge said: “We’re told that this is going to make us safer, you know, there’s this rising threat from China – the idea that this is some kind of existential threat to Australia, I think we should challenge at the outset.”

“Building nuclear submarines doesn’t avoid the next war. It doesn’t defend Australia, it’s actually designed for us to be involved in the next war, to take us thousands and thousands of kilometres away from our shores, to put nuclear submarines literally off the doorstep of China with a force that is not any kind of strategic threat to China.

“The only way it’s a credible force is if it’s a tiny part of a U.S-led war machine.”

Ruler said that AUKUS risked a regional arms race and “Australia following the US into a catastrophic and potentially nuclear war against China, which is also our largest trading power”.

Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily

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