Jenny Leong speaks on Aukus Pact and anti Aukus rallies

Last week in Brisbane hundreds of anti‑war activists, trade unionists and peace advocates took to the streets outside the Labor conference in opposition to the AUKUS deal. We are in the middle of the worst housing crisis in generations, the cost of living is out of control and essential workers are still striking to lift the wages cap. But instead of investing in solutions to any of these problems, the Albanese Federal Labor Government is choosing to spend billions of public dollars on nuclear submarines. Labor will not spend $2.5 billion a year on building public and social housing to house the tens of thousands of approved applicants on waiting lists, nor will it increase income support by more than a pathetic $4 a day, but Labor will spend $32 million each day for the next 30 years for the incredibly dubious privilege of hosting nuclear submarines in Australian waters.

There is no doubt that tensions in the Pacific region are on the rise, but it is beyond belief that, rather than using our privileged and powerful position within the region to de‑escalate tensions and call for peace and stability, the Federal Labor Government is instead choosing to sabre-rattle against China and participate in a dangerous arms race against our largest trading partner. As typhoons and floods batter our South‑East Asian neighbours, our Pacific Island neighbours struggle to stay above water. What we need is international cooperation and coordination on addressing the climate crisis, not a dangerous military pact tying us to the United States [US] and United Kingdom [UK] for the next two decades. And while AUKUS does just that—tie us to the US and UK with a long fuse that may, indeed, one day detonate—make no mistake, this was the Albanese Federal Labor Government's choice.

There are those who say that the AUKUS deal was merely something inherited from the former Coalition Government, that Australia is merely complying with American and British ambitions of war, and that this deal highlights that Australia does not have an independent foreign policy. I say that these people are wrong. The Albanese Federal Labor Government could have chosen to renege on the AUKUS deal on assuming office, but it did not. Instead, it has been driven by its own military ambitions and own foreign policy goals to seal the deal on AUKUS and, in doing so, ignored the explicit concerns of other countries in our region. I note that the Prime Minister of Malaysia has called AUKUS, "A catalyst towards the nuclear arms race in the Indo‑Pacific Region", and Indonesia's foreign Minister has approached the deal with apprehension, stressing the need for Australia to continue meeting all of its nuclear non‑proliferation obligations. They know, and The Greens know, that submarines in the water around our countries do not make us safer. In fact, they do the opposite. They propel us toward an arms race and instability.

I acknowledge that the movement in opposition to AUKUS is building. Our communities are getting angry, and they are getting organised. I recognise a few of the civil society organisations and trade unions that are coming together to build a coalition for peace: Wollongong Against War and Nukes; the Sydney Anti‑AUKUS Coalition; the Electrical Trades Union; the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union; the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union; the National Tertiary Education Union; and my own union, the Australian Services Union, as well as diaspora communities from countries within the Pacific that would absolutely be in the firing line if militarism were to escalate in our region. As my former Greens colleague Brisbane City Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan says, "For change to happen we need two feet in Parliament and thousands of feet on the streets." Until these subs are built and sent into the sea, there is still a chance to fight for change and to see this deal and our public money diverted towards health, housing and public education instead. The Greens look forward to working with all those who are building a movement against AUKUS until this deal is finally sunk.

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