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The Case for Opposing the AUKUS Agreement, Nuclear-powered Submarines, and the Drive to War with China

Position Paper by Labor Against War

The AUKUS military agreement and acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines is a major strategic foreign policy commitment and will be the most expensive defence procurement in Australian history. The Australian use of nuclear technology for military purposes is unprecedented and represents a sharp break with previous policy. The agreement was announced by the Morrison Government in September 2021 and endorsed with haste by the then opposition Labor shadow cabinet.

Given the unprecedent nature of the agreement, there has been little coherent rationale provided as to how AUKUS nuclear submarines will actually contribute to the defence of Australia. There has also been remarkably little proper public analysis, scrutiny and democratic debate about the immense costs and risks of the AUKUS agreement.

The AUKUS agreement is presented as a fait accompli, beyond the realm of genuine democratic consideration and decision making. Often a series of essentially political arguments are made to assert that there can be no challenge or change made. Apparently, we must commit to a deeply flawed plan because it would reflect poorly on the Government or Australia's standing to admit a mistake or decide a change of course.

Supporters of AUKUS assert that nuclear powered submarines are required as a "forward defence" capability to deter China from obstructing shipping lanes, extending its influence in the South China Sea or threatening Taiwan. This is a radical departure from the objective of defending mainland Australia itself. It is instead aligned with a US policy of actively "containing" and pressuring China by a combination of military bases, air and naval forces. The deterrence is provided by a capacity to deploy lethal force and launch missiles at Chinese military targets and cities in the event of conflict.

There are two main problematic features of the AUKUS pact: the heightened risks of nuclear technology and weapons proliferation, and the positioning of Australian foreign policy and military capabilities in an aggressive "containment" policy toward China, increasing the risk of our involvement in a devastating US-led war in Asia. In addition, there are significant opportunity costs in committing future funds to such an expensive and uncertain project.

We are in the early stages of AUKUS being implemented and it is already even worse in practise than in theory. The HMAS Stirling base in Western Australia is being readied to soon host UK and US nuclear-powered submarines. RAAF airbase in the NT is being upgraded to host six nuclear capable B-52 bombers . It has also been revealed that Australian AUKUS funding will be used in the construction of the new US Columbia-class nuclear-armed submarines. Yes, Australian tax-payers will be funding a key US nuclear weapons capability!

The highly problematic nature of the AUKUS pact means that avoiding the question, or accepting prevailing military or foreign policy assertions, is not enough. Members of civil society, the labour movement and Labor Party have a legitimate right and a responsibility to scrutinise, debate and challenge the AUKUS pact, and to take firm steps toward changing policy and future outcomes.

Locked In

In a recent Open Letter to the Australian Government from Concerned Scholars Regarding the AUKUS Agreement, signed by over 100 academics, the problems are clearly summarised; 'AUKUS will come at a huge financial cost and with great uncertainty of its success. It is likely to compound Australia's strategic risks, heighten geo-political tensions, and undermine efforts at nuclear non-proliferation. It puts Australia at odds with our closest neighbours in the region, distracts us from addressing climate change, and risks increasing the threat of nuclear war. Australia's defence autonomy will only be further eroded because of AUKUS. All of this will be done to support the primacy of an ally whose position in Asia is more fragile than commonly assumed and whose domestic politics is increasingly unstable'.

Similar criticisms of the AUKUS pact have also been made by a series of leading Labor figures, including Paul Keating, Bob Carr, Gareth Evans, Carmen Lawrence, Margaret Reynolds, Peter Garrett and Doug Cameron. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, in his March 15 th Press Club speech, accurately described AUKUS as the "worst deal in history" with minimal benefit to Australia's defence and maximum, "off the scale" cost. In his critique, Paul Keating emphasised the loss of Australian sovereignty and control over military
deployment. He pointed out that the submarines "will forever remain in the remit of the United States or now, of Britain - with technology owned and dependent on US managemen... buying a fleet of nuclear submarines which will forever be an adjunct to the navy of the United States - whether commanded by an Australian national or not".

Keating's analysis has been confirmed by a recent statement by Kurt Campbell, President Biden's National Security Council Co-ordinator for the Indo-Pacific and a key architect of the AUKUS pact. Speaking at a forum in Washington, Campbell stated that, "when submarines are provided to Australia from the United States, it's not like they're lost. They will just be deployed by the closest possible allied force". Campbell also made a revealing statement to EU officials last year when he stated that AUKUS "gets Australia off the fence and locks it in for the next 40 years".

Gareth Evans, Labor's longest serving foreign minister, has also raised serious questions and concerns about the AUKUS pact. Writing in The Guardian, Evans highlighted the extent to which the AUKUS pact shifts Australia's foreign and defence policy to align with the more adversarial United States stance toward China:

The core issue is how comfortable we should be with shifting the whole decades-long focus of our defence posture away from the defence of Australia…toward a posture of distant forward defence. The second big unanswered question- or less than persuasively answered- question is whether, by so comprehensively further yoking ourselves to such extraordinarily sophisticated and sensitive US military technology, Australia has for all practical purposes abandoned our capacity for independent judgement. Not only as to how we use this new capability, but in how we respond to future US calls for military support.

Gareth Evans goes onto state:

When it comes to decisions to go to war, we have too often in the past, most notably in Vietnam and the Iraq war of 2003, joined the US in fighting wars that were justified neither by international law or morality, but because the Americans wanted us to, or we thought they wanted us to, or because we wanted them to want us to.

The Australian government has initiated and made the AUKUS agreement as an independent nation, pursuing a misguided notion of what is in the national interest. In doing so we have uncritically aligned with an increasingly aggressive strategy of the US toward China. It also appears that the Australian government has learnt little from the modern history of our uncritical entry into active involvement in the disastrous Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Threatening War with China

It is clear that the AUKUS nuclear submarines are not intended to defend the Australian mainland as such, but to operate in a "forward defence" capacity against China - by posing a threat to be able to attack the Chinese mainland. They would be deployed as an interoperable component of the US military forces in the event of conflict with China.

The integration and interoperability of Australian and US/UK military forces is a central feature of both AUKUS Pillar One (acquiring nuclear submarines) and Pillar Two which is focused on developing advanced capabilities. These capabilities would be in military command and control, artificial intelligence, electronic warfare, undersea, cyber and hypersonic missile warfare. This has already led to joint trials of artificial intelligence drones operating in "swarm" formations.

It has also been announced that Australia will spend $1.3 billion purchasing 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles to arm the Virginia-class submarines. These missiles have a long-strike capacity of 1500km that openly pose a threat to the Chinese mainland. The Virginia class nuclear submarines will also be fitted to potentially utilise hypersonic missiles.

Sam Roggeveen, the director of the international security program at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, describes a tension between the "strategic intent" of AUKUS and a strategy of defending the Australian mainland and immediate region. Referring to the 2023 Defence Strategic Review he asks:

If the navy should be "optimised for operating in our immediate region", why do we need submarines optimised for operating thousands of kilometres to the north of it? Why is the RAAF Tindall air base being modernised so the United States can operate long range bombers from there? Why is a naval base in Western Australia being upgraded so the United States and United
Kingdom can operate submarines along China's coast?

In a recent essay published in the Australian Foreign Affairs Journal, Roggeveen makes clear the high danger of Australia adopting an aggressive stance toward China. Australia, by planning to acquire AUKUS nuclear submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles and hosting B-52 bombers in the NT, in effect gains the ability to strike critical targets including air defences and nuclear infrastructure on mainland China. This threat would be taken extremely seriously by Chinese military leaders. Based on this assessment, Roggeveen argues:

Australia has taken the decision to bring US combat forces, and its military strategy to fight China, on to our shores. We have also decided to build military capabilities of our own that are designed expressly to contribute to American operations to defeat China. These fateful decisions threaten to draw Australia into a war that is not central to our security interests, and which could
end in nuclear catastrophe.

The military strategy being adopted through AUKUS arguably makes Australia less safe and more at risk of attack. Every effort must be made to avoid the possibility of war between China and the United States, and to avoid any Australian involvement in such a conflict were it to occur. A war with China, over the status of Taiwan or dominance in the South China Sea, would be a catastrophe for the peoples of the Asia-Pacific, including Australia.

Bob Carr, former NSW Premier and Foreign Affairs Minister, has warned of the potential terrible danger of being a party to a conflict between nuclear armed great powers:

That a China - US showdown has a more than modest chance of becoming a nuclear exchange is the consensus of experts. A French diplomat told me recently that great powers can use surrogate targets. We offer half a dozen, with Pine Gap and the RAAF Tindall base topping the list.

Carr urges Australia to use active diplomacy to deter both the US and China from pursuing such as calamitous course, including upholding the existing policy of "strategic ambiguity" regarding the status of Taiwan. However, he warns that the "enmeshment of our submarine defences with those of the US sent the signal that we are signing up to a war over Taiwan".

Australian acquisition of nuclear-propelled submarines is a dangerous step that integrates our military policy with an aggressive "forward defence" containment and deterrence strategy toward China and increases the risk that we become involved in a disastrous US war with China over Taiwan or the South China Sea.

Funding US Ballistic Nuclear Missile Submarines

Under the AUKUS pact Australia has agreed to contribute A$4.7 billion to "the US industrial base to support increased production and maintenance capacity to ensure there is no capability gap for Australia in acquiring Nuclear Powered Submarines." This is to enable Australia to purchase at least three Virginia class nuclear-propelled submarines.

This funding will pay for capital plant expansion, improvements and workforce development at two submarine-construction shipyards and supplier firms: General Dynamics' Electric Boat in Connecticut and Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. A recent US Congressional Research Service report states that Australia's funding is for the general US submarine industrial base, covering construction of both the existing Virginia-class and the new Columbia-class ballistic (nuclear) missile

The Columbia-class submarines will be nuclear weapons-armed. The US plans to build 12 Columbia-class submarines that will be a key component of the US nuclear strike force. Each submarine will carry 16 Trident II ballistic missiles, each carrying up to eight thermonuclear warheads. Fully loaded, each submarine will be able to launch nuclear weapons at 128 cities or targets.

It is outrageous that Australian taxpayers will be funding a US nuclear weapons capability- to launch ballistic nuclear missiles from submarines. This is a key part of the so called 'nuclear triad' of major nuclear powers - the ability to launch nuclear weapons from the land, air and sea.

This is a grave breach of the Australian Government's stated commitment to international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which states that signatories declare their 'intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament'.

There should be a wave of protest from Labor branches and supporters, demanding that the Albanese Government cease all AUKUS funding for the US industrial production of nuclear-powered and armed submarines, and publicly guarantee that no Australian funds will be used to support US or UK nuclear weapons programs or delivery systems.

Nuclear Proliferation

The reactors which will power the AUKUS submarines use highly enriched uranium (HEU) which can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The transfer of this highly enriched uranium from the US to Australia effectively undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. This is because it represents the first time that a loophole in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has been used to transfer such fissile material from a nuclear weapons state to a non-weapons state.

This loophole (paragraph 14) enables fissile material used for non-explosive military use to be exempt from inspection by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The AUKUS partners did not want IAEA inspectors to be able to conduct inspections of the submarines and have instead agreed other measures to limit proliferation risks.

However, experts are rightly concerned about the precedent that this sets for the transfer of weapons grade uranium and nuclear technology. James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has stated:

My concern is not that Australia is going to remove nuclear material from safeguards and build a nuclear bomb. But once you normalise the precedent that it's OK to remove nuclear material form IAEA safeguards you create a much higher risk that other countries are likely to do so.

For instance, if Russia and Iran were to announce naval co-operation that looked like AUKUS, I don't believe the US, Britain and Australia would feel comfortable with that on non-proliferation grounds.

Indeed, Australia acquiring nuclear submarines could certainly encouraging other states such as South Korea, Japan, India or Iran to pursue a similar path. AUKUS potentially contributes to an arms race that would further encourage the enrichment of uranium, wider use of HEU as fuel and set back proliferation efforts.

Radioactive Risk

Nuclear reactors on ships and submarines have been involved in numerous accidents internationally. The risk of accident or attack causing the release of radioactive material is why many cities around the world oppose the visit of such vessels to their harbours. A total of 8 nuclear submarines have sunk due to accidents at sea between 1963 and 2003. The most recent reported fatal accident was a fire in a Russian nuclear submarine in 2019 which killed 14 people.

Australia's lack of nuclear scientific, engineering, management and regulatory capacity and experience also make it more likely that mistakes could occur, that the likelihood of accident being effectively managed is reduced and the risk of radioactive release into a port city or marine environment increased.

The pact requires an East Coast submarine base to be established. The community of Port Kembla and the South Coast Labour Council, led by Arthur Rorris, are mobilising against the prospect of being the site for such a base, an entirely rational response to such a dangerous prospect. An East Coast Alliance uniting communities and unions in Port Kembla, Newcastle and Brisbane is also being formed to oppose any base in these port cities.

From 2027, AUKUS will involve the rotation of one UK and up to four US nuclear propelled submarines through HMAS Stirling Naval base in Western Australia. This will be known as Submarine Rotational Force-West and will pose an ongoing risk to the nearby port city of Freemantle.

There is a serious problem caused by the need to manage, transport and store nuclear waste, which remains radioactive and carcinogenic for tens of thousands of years. The maintenance and sustainment of the UK and US Submarine Rotational Force- West will generate low level radioactive waste (reactor coolant, used tools, PPE etc.) that will need to be managed and stored. In fact, the Government has allocated $1.5 billion for nuclear submarine operational berths on existing wharfs, including "licensed facilities for radiological controlled activities (including operational waste management facility)".

The AUKUS submarine reactors are welded nuclear power units that will not require refuelling during their lifetime. However, when the submarines are eventually decommissioned, sometime in the 2050s, Australia will be responsible for storing the spent fuel rods - high-level nuclear waste at a site yet to be determined.

Defence Minister Richard Marles has indicated that this will be on Defence Land. Locations in remote South Australia such as Woomera are considered possibilities. However, this would continue a pattern of treating Indigenous lands and people as lesser and expendable to the needs of the Australian military and state, as exemplified by the tragic consequences of the British nuclear tests at Maralinga.

The anti-nuclear movement in Australia has a strong record of supporting communities to successfully resist the imposition of nuclear waste dumps, most recently in Kimba South Australia. There has also been a history of the anti-nuclear movement and Labor state governments contesting the visitation of nuclear-powered and nuclear- armed vessels.

Between 1971 and 1976 there was a moratorium on all visits by nuclear powered ships due to concerns about unresolved environmental and health impacts. The Fraser Government lifted this moratorium but in 1982 the Victorian Cain Labor Government adopted a policy of not permitting visits by nuclear-powered and nuclear- armed vessels to Victorian ports. This led to a testy exchange of letters between Premier Cain and Prime Minister Fraser, who warned that such a move would undermine alliances with the UK and US and asserted the Commonwealth's power to make decisions in this area. In the following year, the NSW Wran Labor Government imposed a ban on visits by nuclear-powered vessels, a ban that continues to this day.

In 1983 the Cain Government legislated the Nuclear Activities (Prohibition) Act that effectively prohibits any nuclear industry and the processing, transport or storage of nuclear materials or waste. These gains by previous social movements continue to limit nuclear activities and can be built on by activists today.

The Real Costs

Acquiring nuclear submarines will require Australia to commit massive financial and human resources. The total estimated cost over thirty years is between $245 and $368 billion dollars. This includes a $123 billion contingency fund - a sign of the high cost uncertainty and potential cost blowouts.

The estimated costs for the first decade 2023 -2033 are $58 billion. This includes a $3 billion investment to boost the capacity of US shipyards to produce submarines, so that Australia can buy between three and five 2nd hand Virginia class nuclear powered submarines. The AUKUS project subsidises military manufacturing in the US and is of huge financial benefit to companies such as BAE Systems in the UK. Australia is expected to heavily subsidise the design and construction of a whole new class of British Astute submarines or "SSN Aukus".

The whole project provides very poor value for money and great uncertainty of outcomes. British submarine construction has an abysmal record of failures and delays. The SSN Aukus submarines are not due to be operational until the early 2040s. By then it is highly likely that technology such as smart sea mines, underwater sensors will render them useless anyway.

Lacking a clear defence case, the Albanese government has claimed that some 20,000 jobs will be created through AUKUS. Leading manufacturing unions are right to be highly sceptical about such claims projected decades ahead. Australia already has chronic shortages of skilled workers such as scientists, engineers and trades people and a whole workforce highly trained in nuclear technology would need to be created. In practise AUKUS will draw skilled labour and expertise from other essential economic areas, including from the massive and urgent tasks of shifting to a low carbon economy.

The vast sums projected to be invested in AUKUS will inevitably limit social spending in other areas that should be prioritised by Labor governments. The first decade AUKUS cost of $58 billion is but a fraction of the total projected spend. Compare this to the estimated cost of Labor policy commitments that are as yet unmet: universal dental care in Medicare and the full funding of public school to the School Resource Standard. Research by the Grattan Institute found that universal dental care could be achieved at a cost of $5.6 billion extra spending per year. To fully fund all schools to the SRS would cost an estimated $65 billion over a decade. Achieving positive social democratic change will be made much harder by the constant drain of treasure and skilled labour by the wasteful AUKUS military program.

All the way with the USA?

A key feature of the AUKUS pact is the ever-closer alignment of Australian military forces and foreign policy with those of our dominant US ally. The technical "interoperability" of the military forces underpins a readiness to prepare for and operate alongside the US in a future conflict with China. Aside from acquiring long range submarines and missiles, this is happening at the mundane level of stockpiling military equipment in northern Victoria and QLD in readiness for war with China.

This is troubling when we consider the dangerous conduct of US foreign policy in recent decades. The US has led allies into disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars which have caused untold civilian suffering and radically destabilised the Middle East. More recently we have witnessed the Biden Administration give political support and arms supplies to enable Israel to conduct a genocidal war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

These are the actions of a major power who acts selfishly and recklessly in pursuit of its own national interest and imperialist agenda, with little regard for the wider human or strategic consequences. The risk is magnified by the unstable nature of US politics and governance. Following the 2024 US election we will either have to work with a hawkish Biden Administration or an unhinged far right Trump Administration.

Now more than ever Australia needs to develop an independent foreign policy that promotes regional and international peace, co-operation, social progress and the consistent application of international law.

Australia could play a key middle power role to support a constructive détente between China and the US. Instead, through AUKUS, we are aligning with a US policy of attempting to maintain US supremacy in the Asia-Pacific, a policy that greatly increases the risk of a terrible armed conflict.

Rising Opposition

The highly problematic and dangerous features of the AUKUS pact may have produced an official avoidance of proper scrutiny or democratic debate in Government, Parliamentary and Bureaucratic spheres. The opposite has been true in civil society, the labour movement and sections of the Labor Party itself. People of good conscience have sought to understand, analyse and critique the actual aims and objectives of the AUKUS pact.

A range of high-profile politicians, defence experts and academics have signed an open letter calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the AUKUS deal. They include former WA Labor Premier Carmen Lawrence, former Ministers Peter Garrett and Melissa Parke, and former Shadow Minister Doug Cameron.

Over 50 Labor Party branches have discussed and passed resolutions opposed to the AUKUS pact or calling for a serious review. Five Federal Electoral Councils; Boothby, Mayo (SA) and Sydney, Paramatta and Macquarie (NSW) have also passed resolutions opposed to AUKUS. This opposition to AUKUS has led to the formation of Labor Against War, a national network of ALP members and branches.
Significant trade unions such as the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) have raised serious objections to the AUKUS pact, in particular the nuclear technology risks to the health and safety of workers, communities and the environment. They have questioned the claimed employment benefits and argued for investment in the construction of conventional submarines instead.

Both unions sponsored a resolution opposing AUKUS nuclear submarines at the Qld State Labor Conference on June 11- 12 th 2023 in Mackay. The resolution states that the Qld Labor Party "categorically opposes" the manufacture of nuclear submarines in Qld including in any current or future port, and to reject any proposal to store nuclear waste in the state. The motion was carried by delegates 229 to 140 votes.

At the Victorian State Conference on 17-18 th July 2023 in Melbourne, AMWU leaders and Labor Against War members jointly moved a motion Need to Rethink the AUKUS Agreement. On this occasion pressure was applied from Ministerial level to prevent the motion being voted on, due to the likelihood that it would be carried by delegates. Instead, the motion was referred to the National Policy Forum for consideration.

Peace is Union Business

Trade unions in Australia has a proud history of opposing unjust wars and of taking-action in support of international peace and justice. In the mid-1930s warfies banned iron exports to Japan to protest the military occupation of China, in the 1940s they supported Indonesian independence by preventing Dutch merchant navy ships from loading. Union imposed bans and boycotts in the movements against the Vietnam war, apartheid South Africa and the Movement Against Uranium Mining in the 1970s.

Unions and organised workers have a key role to play in opposing AUKUS today. For example, the NSW Teachers Federation and Australian Education Union have policy against AUKUS and have opposed the insidious introduction of pro-AUKUS science and technology programs in schools such as the Nuclear Submarine Propulsion Challenge developed by the Department of Defence.

However, compromising this opposition is a tendency for key blue-collar unions to 'look both ways' when it comes to the potential for AUKUS to create defence manufacturing jobs in Australia. In the lead up to National Conference key union leaders condemned the outsourcing of submarine construction to US and UK ship-yards.

The Albanese Government responded to these union concerns by making lofty promises of up to 20,000 domestic 'well-paid, unionised jobs'. Following the conference, AMWU Victorian Secretary Tony Mavromatis shifted from opposing AUKUS to stating that, "We will be watching how it all unfolds and making sure Australian jobs are participating in the build of AUKUS until they start building them in South Australia".

This approach ignores the many secure, well-paid jobs that could be created in more socially useful fields. For example, the South Coast Labor Council is concerned that a submarine base in Port Kemble will jeopardise existing plans for a high technology renewable energy hub at the port.

A singular focus on defence manufacturing work means that union members and working people generally, for the possible gain of a few thousand jobs, will face the much greater danger and cost of being co-opted into a future US-led war in Asia. The real cost of such a devastating war would, as always, be carried by the working majority on both sides of the conflict. For this reason, Labor Against War is committed to fostering a clear anti-war current of opposition to AUKUS within the labour movement.

Labor National Conference 2023

AUKUS was a key topic of debate at the Labor National Conference in Brisbane August 17-20 th 2023. The Labor leadership moved a statement endorsing AUKUS "Enhancing Australia's National Security". In arguments clearly referring to China, the statement argues that acquiring nuclear powered submarines and new weaponry is necessary 'as we play our part in collective deterrence of aggression', to 'change the calculus for any potential aggressor' and for the 'maintenance of the global rules-based order' 29 .

The key theme of military deterrence was taken up by Prime Minister Albanese and Ministers Wong, Marles and Conroy, who all spoke in the debate. Albanese's intervention was clearly designed to put Prime Ministerial authority behind the policy and probably also to signal loyalty and steadfastness to the UK and US Governments on the issue.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy, made a crude intervention claiming that AUKUS is a "progressive" policy to prevent war, declaring that "Strength deters war". He angered many delegates when he distorted history by likening opposition to AUKUS to 1930's appeasement, asking delegates "Do you want to be on the side of John Curtin or do you want to be on the side of Pig Iron Bob Menzies?" 30

Ministers Marles and Conroy sought to clothe AUKUS in the garb of Labor tradition. In doing so they presented a one-sided version of Labor history with an emphasis on John Curtin's WWII role and Labor as the party of national defence. There were no references to Billy Hughes and the contested nature of Labor's involvement in major wars. No references to figures such as Tom Uren, Jim Cairns or Gough Whitlam and Labor's opposition to involvement to the US-led war on Vietnam. And certainly, no mention of Paul Keating!

Speaking in opposition to AUKUS during debate was Freemantle MP Josh Wilson, ETU National Secretary Michael Wright and LEAN National co-convenor Felicity Wade. Josh Wilson argued that;

the decision to acquire nuclear propelled submarines is not justified and involves too many risks to the maintenance of our future submarine capability; to the proper balance of our Defence budget allocations; and to our sovereign manufacturing capacity. In addition, it involves the sharing of weapons grade nuclear technology, in a novel arrangement that carries non-proliferation and safeguard integrity risks, disturbs the regional status quo and commits Australia to take on decommissioning and nuclear waste storage challenges that have not been met by anyone, anywhere.

Josh Wilson also pointedly challenged the flawed arguments about military deterrence, As it has been rightly said, and as we should always remember: to a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Deterrence is a valid strategic concept and submarines certainly have a deterrent value, but deterrence is not a one-word justification for any and every defence acquisition and anyone who thinks the intention to extend the scope of one's threat capacity only serves to reduce the potential for conflict has not looked very closely at the history of conflict.

And with the greatest respect to delegate Conroy, the suggestion that anyone who questions a particular defence and security decision or acquisition is in the game of appeasement, and the suggestion that anyone who supports any particular defence decision or acquisition is in the game of strength is ridiculous.

The conference debate was managed and limited but the fact that it occurred at all is a sign of the dissent and opposition to AUKUS within the Party rank and file and some unions. The AUKUS statement was carried on the voices, without a count being made, but it is estimated that about 25% of the 402 delegates voted against AUKUS. Delegates opposed to AUKUS included many from key unions such as the ETU, AMWU, MUA, ASU and CPSU along with sections of the NSW and national left, including a majority of the Victorian left and
non-aligned delegates.

The Conference statement endorsing AUKUS is itself a highly flawed document, full of unsubstantiated claims and assertions. In an attempt to mute criticism and garner the support of key unions and stakeholders, the statement makes a whole series of assurances about national sovereignty, nuclear proliferation, waste and job creation. These assurances are not worth the pixels or paper they are written on, being so obviously contradicted by the stubborn facts of the AUKUS deal and the US-Australian alliance/

The Government may have won official approval for AUKUS at a carefully managed National Conference but it has not resolved the core problems and dangers at the heart of the pact. This makes it both inevitable and necessary for organised, public opposition within the Party and labour movement to continue.

The decades long timeframe of the AUKUS agreement and its highly problematic and dangerous character mean that this is a political issue that will continue to be contested by civil society, communities, unions, social movements and the broad political left.

Given the connection between AUKUS and the wider threat of war with China, it is essential that AUKUS is contested and ultimately discontinued. Challenging AUKUS is crucial to undermining the logic of preparing for war with China and to instead build support for the plausible alternatives of active diplomacy, regional co-operation and international solidarity and peace between the peoples of Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

Proposals for Opposing AUKUS, Nuclear Submarines and War with China

It is never too late to step away from a dangerous path and pose a more rational course of action. Members of civil society, the labour movement and Labor Party have both a legitimate right and a responsibility to scrutinise, debate and challenge the AUKUS pact - with the goal of cancelling this dangerous and misguided policy.

There are a range of steps available to shift from the current stance and toward discontinuation of the AUKUS pact and avoidance of a disastrous war in Asia. The following policy and action proposals can be advocated and enacted by members and representatives in the labour movement and Labor Party to move away from the dangerous and misguided path of AUKUS to a better course of action.

Policy Proposals:
1. AUKUS should be openly discussed and debated in democratic forums including Party Conferences, Federal Parliamentary Caucus, Branches and Unions.
2. An Independent Inquiry should be established to thoroughly review and critically assess the aims, objectives, costs and risks of the AUKUS pact. The inquiry should be open to public and expert submissions.
3. Further funding for and involvement in AUKUS should be suspended pending the outcome of an inquiry.
4. The Federal Government should reconsider and ultimately withdraw from involvement in the AUKUS agreement and nuclear submarine program.
5. Cease all AUKUS funding for the US industrial production of nuclear-powered or armed submarines. Publicly guarantee that no Australian funds will be used to support US or UK nuclear weapons programs or delivery systems.
6. War Powers Reform. Except in the case of responding to direct aggression against Australian territory, there should be no executive decision to commit Australian forces for overseas conflict unless there has been a debate and vote in the House of Representatives.
7. Clarify and insist that ANZUS and indeed AUKUS does not mandate Australian commitment to any conflict between China and the US over Taiwan or the South China Sea.
8. Bring to attention the contradiction between AUKUS and Federal ALP Platform commitment that 'Labor will act with urgency and determination to rid the world of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons' (Ch. 7, Clause 38) and that that 'Labor in Government will sign and ratify' the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Statement in Detail: Nuclear Disarmament).
9. Prioritise government spending for socially and environmentally useful purposes; public education, public health (incl. mental and dental), public and social housing, social security and services, rebuilding civil manufacturing, the transition to a net-zero carbon economy.
10. Support any State or Local Governments, recognised Traditional Owners, and Trade Unions that oppose the construction, visitation or basing of nuclear submarines, the transport of nuclear materials or the storage of nuclear waste on their lands or waterways, or by their members.
11. Public support for and participation in civil society, union or social movement actions, forums or initiatives to educate and mobilise the public against the AUKUS agreement and the drive to war with China.
12. Assert the democratic right to discuss and question, make public comment, vote and act according to principle, to organise and to represent the best values and traditions of the Labour Movement.