The announcement of Australia’s decision to purchase nuclear-powered submarines from the United States has sparked debates and concerns. The cabinet members, who had never before considered such a policy shift, now stand by the decision as the strategic answer the country needs. However, the focus of the discussion seems to have shifted to whether the parliamentary Labor party can maintain control over its rank-and-file members.
The Labor Party national conference has become a battleground for these debates. There is a belief that conflicts within the conference can harm the party’s reputation and provide ammunition for political opponents. However, history has shown that the party can survive and persuade its members, as seen in the Hawke Government’s handling of contentious issues in the 1980s.
The recent effort to incorporate the term “AUKUS” into the party’s platform is indicative of the Labor government’s cautious approach to national security and defense matters. While the government has made progress in areas like workplace relations and income support, it struggles to convince its own supporters of the rationale behind its decisions.
The details surrounding the engineering, manning, and availability of the nuclear-powered submarines remain uncertain, even after two years since the decision was announced. The implications of the deal on the nuclear proliferation treaty and the question of nuclear waste disposal also lack clarity.
Labor MP Josh Wilson raised concerns about the risks and challenges associated with the acquisition of nuclear submarines, including the handling of nuclear waste. The issue of nuclear waste disposal has been a longstanding problem in Australia, with no resolution in sight. The rejection of a planned nuclear waste dump on the Eyre Peninsula has left Woomera as the only viable option, despite resistance from the Defense Department.
Overall, there is a sense of drifting without concrete progress on the complex issues related to the nuclear-powered submarine deal. The government’s thinking and actions on the matter have not advanced in the past year. The focus in the recent debate centered on job creation and references to historical figures, rather than addressing these critical concerns.
As Australia moves forward with the AUKUS defense and security pact, there are lingering unanswered questions that need to be addressed for the sake of transparency and informed decision-making.