Morrison’s Australia remains subservient under the AUKUS deal

Australia is happy to comply as AUKUS pursues hypersonic weapons, writes Binoy Kampmark.

If more clues were needed as to why AUKUS, the security pact comprising the US, UK and Australia, was created, the latest weapons announcement would have given the game away. Australia, just as it became a real estate to park Britain’s nuclear weapons experiments, now looks promising as a site for hypersonic missile testing, development and manufacturing.

In a joint statement, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to:

‘…to begin new trilateral cooperation in hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and deepen defense innovation cooperation.’

In February, efforts by officials from the three countries to, according to ABC, search Australia for the most suitable sites for the fledgling nuclear-powered submarine program seemed almost like heaven. To date, the country does not have a noteworthy infrastructure in this field, without skills worth mentioning for the development of such a fleet, and with a lack of clarity as to when the vessels could go to sea. There is also no clear indication of which model of submarine, British or American, will be preferred.

Last October, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, did his part to stir the pot of paranoia by suggesting that Beijing had gone ahead with its hypersonic capabilities.

He was particularly interested in a test of a hypersonic weapons system described as a “very significant event” and one of deep concern.

Russia has also staked its fame on the hypersonic race. The Russian military claims that its Avangard system, which entered service in December 2019, is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound with dizzying maneuverability.

Last month, Moscow announced that its new Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile was used to target a Ukrainian fuel depot in Kostiantynivka, near the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv.

Citizens have not been asked, much less consulted, about this crackpot plan to fuel another arms race. Democracy is treated like a sulky relative who only figures in passing. In a rather sleazy way, the hypersonic missile venture is being marketed to the Australian public as a wonderful opportunity to show independence, not subservience.

The Morrison government and various officials are publicly very appreciative of the latest developments, showing empires past and present what it takes to be a true wallah.

Rather than feel shame, there was joy that Australia could be so helpful to others’ energy projects.

In the hope that no one will notice, the danger has been emphasized. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce justifies the acceleration of the hypersonic weapons program by stating that Australia faces a “existential threat” from them. he would just take “about 14 minutes” that such devices reach Australia, “so we have to make sure we’re at the top of our game.”

Presumably this means going to great lengths to make Australia attractive, in an existentially doomed way, to other powers in the region.

Australia's defense program is dead in the water

China’s ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun has already warned against provoking such military arrangements:

“As the Chinese saying goes: if you don’t like it, don’t impose it on others.”

The Morrison government is trying to leave the impression that this will finally make the dream of self-sufficiency a reality, a notion repeatedly nurtured by think tanks such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Describe this as:

“An important step in the delivery of a billion dollar Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise, officially announcing strategic partners Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia.”

The Prime Minister also sees such weapons as part of a broader “strategic vision” for Australia that deals with long-range strike capabilities.

All of this is a striking contradiction in terms, given the role played by US arms-making giants. But Defense Minister Peter Dutton is trying to reassure himself about the chances of Australia weaning itself off the teat of empire.

He said:

“We know we need to work closely with our partners to bolster our self-sufficiency and this is another important step in delivering that sovereign capability here in Australia.”

Minister Dutton’s eyes must be dazzled at this moment:

“This is an incredibly complex undertaking that will see this new manufacturing capability built from scratch.”

Irritating references follow. To signal that the Australians will make a genuine effort, the Minister speaks of the hypersonic weapons enterprise as “A Whole Nation Effort”.

Unspecified “opportunities” are mentioned for Australian businesses and workers in several areas: manufacturing, maintenance, infrastructure, research and development, and testing and evaluation. Presumably someone needs to make the tea and coffee.

As this idiotic and servile undertaking proceeds, Australian territory, sites and facilities will become more and more attractive for assault in the fullness of time. That may well be quite a long way off, and judging by any military adventures in Australia of this sort, we can expect this to be more a case of decades than years.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark is a former Cambridge Scholar and is a columnist and Independent Australia Lecturer at RMIT University. You can follow Dr. Kampmark on Twitter @BKampmark.

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