Former Australian PM Keating slams AUKUS deal
Keating’s criticism of senior politicians
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has criticised the country’s decision to strengthen its defence ties with the US and UK, through the AUKUS deal to build and buy nuclear-powered submarines.
Mr Keating also offered a scathing assessment of the government’s most senior politicians, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Defence Minister Richard Marles, and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, dubbing Mr Marles and Senator Wong “seriously unwise ministers”.
Keating speaks out against the AUKUS deal
“This week, Anthony Albanese screwed into place the last shackle in the long chain the United States has laid out to contain China,” Mr Keating said in a written statement.
“No mealy-mouthed talk of ‘stabilisation’ in our China relationship or resort to softer or polite language will disguise from the Chinese the extent and intent of our commitment to United States’s strategic hegemony in East Asia with all its deadly portents.
“History will be the judge of this project in the end. But I want my name clearly recorded among those who say it is a mistake.”
Keating’s criticism of the cost and need for nuclear submarines
Mr Keating has been critical of the AUKUS defence pact since it was first struck between the three nations 18 months ago. “For $360 billion, we’re going to get eight submarines,” he said. “It must be the worst deal in all history.”
Australia will eventually build British-designed nuclear-powered submarines with American combat systems.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton described Mr Keating’s comments as “unhinged”.
Mr Keating dismissed China’s growing military as posing a threat to Australia. “Let me say this: China has not threatened us.” he said.
Marles and Beazley respond to Keating’s comments
Former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley disagreed with Mr Keating’s assessment stating “I actually think we need these submarines. It’s a question of their speed and the areas that they have to cover.” Defence Minister Richard Marles refused to criticise Mr Keating for his opinions but insisted the government was acting in Australia’s best interest.
“Whatever Paul Keating says about myself, the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister – you won’t hear a bad word from us about him,” Mr Marles said.
“The Hawke-Keating government was the great peacetime reformist, long-term government in our history. It’s a government that finished in 1996, and our responsibility is to be governing the country in the national interest in 2023.”
Mr Marles also defended Senator Wong against Mr Keating’s assessment of her time as foreign minister, arguing she has done a “great deal” to repair international relations in the Pacific region.
Albanese’s role in the deal
Mr Albanese met with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in California earlier this week, where they finalised a deal for Australia to buy and build nuclear-powered submarines, costing up to $368 billion over three decades. Australian, American and British officials have cited the growth of China’s military as a key reason for Australia needing nuclear-powered submarines.
However, Mr Keating believes that Australia does not need submarines to sink an ‘armada’ and could use planes and missiles instead.
Mr Marles praised Mr Albanese for his presence on the international stage, stating “He’s actually the person who stabilised our relations with China, but he understands the importance of getting the hard power equation right — that’s what we’re doing here.”
Keating’s final thoughts]
“Who believes that, despite its enormous cost, it does not offer a solution to the challenge of great power competition in the region or to the security of the Australian people and its continent.”
Mr Keating’s strong critique of the AUKUS deal comes amidst tension between Australia and China, with Beijing imposing tariffs on Australian wine and barley, restricting tourism and student visas, and halting ministerial contact. The Chinese embassy in Canberra has responded to AUKUS, calling it an “extremely irresponsible” move that goes against the global trend of peace, development, and win-win cooperation.