The Australian Greens have rallied against a new $368 billion AUKUS deal for Australia to buy three Virginia Class nuclear submarines and build a fleet of its own nuclear submarines.
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the AUKUS defence agreement announcement in San Diego, California on 14 March.
Under the deal, Australia will have access to buy an additional pair of nuclear submarines as an option. All submarines will have nuclear propulsion but be conventionally armed under a new SSN AUKUS classification.
The entire deal is expected to be completed in early 2030s pending US Congress approval and have new vessels entering service with Australia in the early 2040s.
Australian Greens Senator and Defence spokesperson David Shoebridge said the announcement will make the nation less safe and force deep cuts in critical public spending for decades to come.
“This is a $368 billion nuclear-powered raid on public education, health, housing and First Nations justice that will starve core services for decades to come,” he said.
“Unlike the Coalition, the Greens will not be cooperating with the government to force budget savings on critical public services to pay for these submarines.
“Until it is reversed, today’s announcement will force Labor to deliver austerity budgets to funnel billions of dollars offshore to fund the US and UK nuclear submarine industries.
“With this one decision, Labor is mortgaging our future in order to stoke regional tensions with a dangerous escalation in regional defence spending.
“While Labor and the Coalition are in lock-step on more defence spending and nuclear-powered submarines, the great majority of Australians want a government focused on de-escalation, peace, and critical domestic services.”
Mr Shoebridge said today’s announcement has widespread impacts and escalates tensions with neighbouring countries in our region.
“This political deal makes Australia a third-wheel to the US’ regional ambitions while forcing us into an arms race that escalates tensions in our region, making us all less safe.
“This reckless alliance, cooked up by the Morrison government and backed by Labor, fundamentally compromises Australia’s sovereignty by aligning us with the military and nuclear strategies of the world’s biggest powers.
“We won’t be able to operate, maintain or crew these military assets without the agreement of the US, which is the very definition of surrendering our sovereignty.”
Australian Greens Senator and Foreign Affairs, Peace and Nuclear Disarmament spokesperson Jordon Steele-John said the announcement will also undermine the global effort to fight the climate crisis and unleash a regional arms race.
“The Albanese government’s announcement of the specifics of the AUKUS pact is a fundamental threat to Australian independence and our ability to collaborate in our region,” he said.
“The AUKUS pact will see an unprecedented nuclearisation of our oceans and open Australia up to the risk of a nuclear disaster which would have effects that last generations.
“The US is operating in the Asia-Pacific with no regard for national interest or sovereignty of countries involved.
“This is our home and as so many countries know, the US government is a bad house guest.”