US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deliver remarks on the Australia - United Kingdom - US (AUKUS) partnership, after a trilateral meeting, at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California US March 13, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]
At a National Press Club event on Wednesday, former Australian prime minister Paul Keating derided the AUKUS submarine deal as being "irrational in every dimension".
Saying that the deal meant Australia was suborning its sovereignty "to the whim and caprice" of US administrations, Keating was scathing in his criticism. He has struck the nail on the head as the deal damages Australian interests any which way you look at it.
The latest data from Australian consulting firm Adroit estimates the cost of the AUKUS program will be 368 billion Australian dollars ($244.32 billion) — and you can bet your bottom dollar, it will run over budget — which will be paid by Australian citizens who will effectively be subsidizing the design of the next UK attack class Astute submarine "simply to be able to grab half a dozen for ourselves on the way through" even though "they will be of little military benefit to anybody, even to the Americans".
But it is a sizeable windfall that will be welcomed by the defense companies of the two transatlantic powers. The cost to Australia however is "off the scale". Directed by the US, AUKUS takes China as an imaginary enemy. The deal will inevitably worsen relations between Australia and its largest trading partner.
On Feb 8, the first Australian coal-carrying ship in two years arrived at Zhanjiang port, Guangdong province, after the two sides made concerted efforts to repair their relations following the damage done to them by the previous Australian administration. But with Australia taking further steps on a "dangerous and unnecessary journey" those efforts to mend ties are in jeopardy.
As Keating warned, no "softer or polite language" can disguise Australia's commitment to rattling a sword in the neighborhood on behalf of the US to impress upon the region "the US' esteemed view of its untrammeled destiny". In doing so it is arraigning itself with an Atlantic power "which upon any defeat or setback will see that power likely repair ten thousand kilometers across the moat of the Pacific, as it retreated from Iraq and Afghanistan", leaving the scarred locals to pick up the pieces.
Australia is also damaging its own credibility by exploiting a loophole in the nuclear non-proliferation mechanism, which grants nuclear fission materials exemption from the International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring if they are used for non-explosive military use. The AUKUS deal will set a bad precedent by transferring nuclear technologies to a non-nuclear nation.
So the AUKUS submarine deal is damaging as well as costly for Australia whichever way you look at it, and as such, the Anthony Albanese government should take time to reconsider it.