The Greens have denounced the Albanese government for “mortgaging our future” through the acquisition of nuclear submarines.
Australia’s pathway to nuclear-powered submarines was confirmed on Tuesday morning, with Prime Minister Albanese joining US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the announcement in San Diego.
Under the AUKUS agreement, eight newly designed AUKUS-class submarines will be built in Adelaide, with the first to be completed by 2042.
The government will also purchase three US Virginia class attack submarines, with the first being delivered in 2033.
According to the Greens, this decision will come at the expense of more important public priorities and risks unleashing a regional arms race.
“With this one decision, Labor is mortgaging our future in order to stoke regional tensions with a dangerous escalation in regional defence spending,” Greens Defence spokesman David Shoebridge said in a statement.
“This is a $368 billion dollar nuclear-powered raid on public education, health, housing and First Nations justice that will starve core services for decades to come.”
Under the Greens Peace, Disarmament, and Demilitarisation policy – their alternative to a defence policy – the Greens propose to cut defence spending from 2.2 per cent of GDP to 1.5 per cent of GDP, renegotiate the US alliance, and decarbonise the defence estate (including “capabilities, bases, operations and other activities”).
Speaking about the AUKUS agreement, the Greens’ peace and nuclear disarmament spokesman Jordan Steele-John, said that AUKUS was a “fundamental threat to Australian independence” that would lead to the “nuclearization of our oceans” at the risk of a “nuclear disaster.”
“It will undermine the global effort to fight the climate crisis and unleash a regional arms race that only serves to enrich global arms manufacturers,” senator Steel-John added.
Senator Steele-Johns’ concerns about Australia’s independence were echoed by former Greens adviser Ben Oquist.
Speaking to Englishheadline Australia’s political editor Andrew Clennell, Mr Oquist said there was “no doubt” the AUKUS announcement decreases Australia’s independence, adding that there ought to have been a proper public debate about the decision.
“We are now more integrated with the United States and the UK than before… there’s an argument about how much sovereignty we’ve given away but we have given some,” he said.
“Whether that’s the best place for Australia in a very different world across not just 10, 50 or indeed 100 years hasn’t been discussed in our parliament, in our committees and in the public.”
The chief of staff to former Greens leader Bob Brown raised concerns about the secrecy involved in the initial signing of the AUKUS agreement, arguing it showed a clear “democratic deficit”.
“I think what’s really been missing in this is a proper full-scale debate about its implications…what it means for Australia and our place in the world, our relationships with China and our relationships with the region,” Mr Oquist said.
“We’re being told this is the biggest investment in Australia’s region and our positioning in our lifetimes. Perhaps a 100-year decision.
“Now if that’s the case the Australian public should have been taken into the confidence of the former prime minister and indeed the current regime.”
However, according to the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the agreement could not have been made without a the high level of secrecy.
“I am of the view that if the discussions had of leaked early, that in all likelihood it would have put the actual arrangement at risk,” Justin Bassi said.
Mr Bassi, the Chief of staff to former foreign minister Marise Payne when the AUKUS agreement was signed, added that while the Australian system had done an “unbelievably fantastic job” of holding the highly sensitive discussions, there would need to be a mix of secrecy and transparency with the agreement going forward.