AUKUS deal ‘worst in history’ – former Australian PM – Reuters

Buying American-designed nuclear boats to ‘sink’ near China is no way to defend the country, says Paul Keating

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating fired a broadside at the incumbent government for its approval of the AUKUS security arrangement and the purchase of American submarines. This does not help protect the country and embroils it in the US bid to preserve its hegemony by containing China, he argued.

Keating, who chaired the Australian government in the 1990s, reiterated his negative view of the purchase of Virginia-class nuclear-powered boats in a lengthy rebuke this week. He marked it on “the worst international decision” by an Australian Labor government since statute of limitations in the First World War. Speaking to reporters from the National Press Club of Australia on Wednesday to defend his position, he added “This has got to be the worst case in history.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese formally confirmed the acquisition on Monday during a visit to California, where he and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were hosted by US President Joe Biden at a naval base. The plan was first announced in 2021, with Keating lambasting the then Conservative government in Canberra.

British government figures were “search around suckers,” said the famously acerbic Australian politician of the prelude to the announcement two years ago. “And they found – whoo! – here are a bunch of accommodating people in Australia.” The Albanian cabinet was equally keen to push the deal forward, he added.

The Royal Australian Navy is getting up to five attack submarines from the United States, building perhaps three more with help from the United Kingdom. The deal is valued at 360 billion Australian dollars ($240 billion).

With this investment, Australia could have 40 to 50 locally built Collins-class diesel-electric submarines, Keating suggested. They were designed to patrol Australia’s coastlines rather than carry out long missions, like nuclear-powered boats.

A larger fleet would protect Australia much better from a possible invasion, which would require a armada of troop ships reaching his rib, he believes. Meanwhile, nuclear submarines would be sent to Chinese shores to potentially participate in a US-China conflict, the former prime minister suggested.

“It’s a strange way to defend Australia to sink your submarines on the Chinese continental shelf in pursuit of Chinese submarines,” thought Keating.

“We are part of a [US] containment policy against China,” he added. “It is only about one subject: the maintenance of American strategic hegemony in Southeast Asia.”

The politician called “rubbish” the idea that China poses a military threat to Australia in the first place and shamed national journalists for peddling it.

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