AUKUS Overcomes Obstacles to Protect Our Waters and Combat Hostile Ideologies

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The recent AUKUS submarines announcement finally overcomes the political roadblocks that have bedevilled the replacement of Australia’s ageing fleet for more than a decade. 

The most significant aspect of the arrangements is the deployment of up to four U.S. Virginia-class submarines and one UK submarine to Australia from 2027.

This was the original timeline for the provision of new submarines by the Abbott government until it was extended to the 2030s by the Turnbull agreement with France. Even that timeline seemed ambitious.

It appeared, until the Morrison government scuppered the French deal in favour of the AUKUS agreement, that Australia would be bereft of a replacement for the ageing Collins Class submarines for more than a decade longer than originally planned.

Their replacement was already well overdue because of the failure to order new vessels during the Rudd-Gillard years.

The related decision to build the first three new submarines in the U.S. also overcomes past problems. For years, parochial South Australian politics have undermined decisions on new submarines. 

Although the cost of building naval vessels is considerably higher in Australia than overseas, South Australians continually resisted even an onshore/offshore hybrid build that would have lowered costs, especially on the first two or three submarines. 

Some even demanded that every last piece of equipment be built in Adelaide! This stalemate delayed decisions for years and endangered the nation’s long-term security.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President of France Emmanuel Macron, along with Australian ministers on the submarine HMAS Waller at Garden Island, in Sydney, on May 2, 2018. (AAP/Brendan Esposito/via Reuters)

Under the new arrangements, Australia’s defences will be strengthened almost immediately by the increased rotation of U.S. and UK submarines through our waters.

This will increase from 2033 with the delivery of the first new submarine for the Royal Australian Navy.

In all, three overseas constructed submarines are planned before the completion of the first locally built vessel in 2042.

Sensibly, the arrangements also allow for the purchase of more overseas constructed submarines if there are delays in the local build.

The arrangements have bipartisan support, having been brokered by the Morrison government and now confirmed by the Albanese government.

The discordant outlier in the commentary on the arrangements came from former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Is Keating Just Wrong or Naïve?

Displaying his trademark invective, Keating launched a personal attack on the senior members of the Australian government. 

Over the decades, Labor leaders have often claimed that their connection to the United States as significant, harking back to World War II.

In his New Year’s message delivered on radio on Dec. 26, 1941, and published in the Melbourne Herald the next day, Labor Prime Minister John Curtin announced that: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”

It has been a recurrent theme of many Labor leaders ever since.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating speaks to the media during a press conference at the Barangaroo precinct, in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 20, 2022. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Keating, however, has been much more critical of the U.S. and supportive of the Chinese regime. 

Apart from the personal attacks, his arguments are flimsy. The suggestion that the new submarines would be more easily detectable has been rejected by experts.

Equally, the idea that they will not be as effective as drones ignores the likelihood that drone vessels will operate in conjunction with manned boats in the future, just as occurs in the skies.

Keating appears stuck in the China of Deng Xiaoping and the great opening up of the economy.

“China is a world trading state—it is not about upending the international system. It is not the old Soviet Union,” he said.

He goes in to claim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) isn’t seeking to “propagate some competing international ideology.”

But that era has ended and is being reversed under the doctrinaire Xi Jinping, who has claimed that there is a global contest between democracy and authoritarianism which he intends to win.

Contrary to Keating’s naïve suggestion, the Chinese regime is propagating a competing international ideology.

When Xi and his senior officials warn of war and are preparing for it, we must strengthen our defences and coordinate with like-minded nations.

Keating has previously rejected any Australian role in the defence of democratic Taiwan, which the CCP threatens to claim; by force if necessary.

This is myopic and short-sighted on the part of Keating.

If Taiwan falls to the CCP, the security of the Indo-Pacific will be greatly endangered.

Australia is not immune from events in our region.

The rules-based international order upon which global trade is dependent will have been crushed, and an emboldened Xi would seek further control in the region.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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