Former prime minister Paul Keating has slammed the new nuclear submarines deal between the US, UK and Australia, arguing the US military can’t beat a bunch of Taliban rebels in pick-up trucks.
In a damning assessment of the agreement jointly announced this morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Keating said the deal represented a further ‘dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty’.
Mr Keating, the famously acid-tongued Labor PM from 1991-1996, released a statement that questioned the wisdom of Australia locking in its military equipment and defence forces with the US to counter the growing power of China.
‘If the US military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK-47s rifles in pick-up trucks. what chance would it have in a full-blown war with China, not only the biggest state in the world but the occupant and commander of the biggest land mass in Asia,’ Mr Keating wrote.
Paul Keating, who was prime minister of Australia from 1991-1996, released a statement questioning the wisdom of Australia’s announcement of a nuclear submarines deal with the US and UK early on Thursday morning
‘If the US military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK-47s rifles in pick-up trucks. what chance would it have in a full-blown war with China,’ Mr Keating said in the statement
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces the nuclear submarines agreement with the US and UK this morning
Mr Keating said Australia had experienced difficulty in running ‘a bunch of Australian built conventional submarines’. ‘Imagine the difficulty in moving to sophisticated nuclear submarines, their maintenance and operational complexity’
Mr Keating said Australia had experienced difficulty in running ‘a bunch of Australian built conventional submarines’.
‘Imagine the difficulty in moving to sophisticated nuclear submarines, their maintenance and operational complexity,’ he noted.
He said Australia would make itself ‘hostage’ to the US maintaining a supply chain across ‘the whole Pacific’ to east Asia from the US West Coast.
‘I don’t share Prime Minister Keating’s view and I prefer to be in the company of John Curtin and Robert Menzies when it comes to this issue, and John Howard,’ Mr Morrison responded to the statement in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
‘The former Labor prime minister is entitled to his views and to be respected for his views but they are not views my government shares.
‘My government is grounded in the decisions of Curtin and Menzies.. our relationship with the United States is a forever relationship.’
In recent years the former prime minister has been a strident critic of Australia’s overreliance on its alliance with the US, arguing we should focus more on our relationships in south-east Asia, particularly China.
Prime Minister Paul Keating with US President Bill Clinton during an APEC meeting in Indonesia in 1994
‘The foreign policy of Australia is basically we have tag-along rights to the US, and … certainly since I left public office … in years since, we’ve had more or less a tag-along foreign policy,’ he told the ABC’s 7.30 Report in 2016.
‘It’s time to cut the tag. It’s time to get out of it.’
In a controversial few years as treasurer in the Hawke government, and then prime minister, Mr Keating is often remembered for his ‘recession we had to have’ remark during the economic recession of 1990.
He also created a diplomatic furore with Malaysia when he described the country’s prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as ‘recalcitrant in November 1993.
PAUL KEATING’S STATEMENT
The announced agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia for Australia to move to a fleet of US supplied nuclear submarines, will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the United States with only one underlying objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the United States against China.
The arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as materiel dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate.
Australia has had great difficulty in running a bunch of Australian built conventional submarines, their maintenance and operational complexity.
And all this at a time when United States reliability and resolution around its strategic commitments and military engagement are under question.
If the US military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK-47s rifles in pick-up trucks. what chance would it have in a full-blown war with China, not only the biggest state in the world but the occupant and commander of the biggest land mass in Asia.
When it comes to conflict, particularly among great powers, land beats water every time.
It has to be remembered that China is a continental power and the United States is a naval power. And that the United States supply chain to East Asia would broadly need to span the whole Pacific from its base in San Diego and others places along the American west coast. Australia, by the announced commitments, would find itself hostage to any such a gambit.