A Major Lurch Towards War With China

- Murray Horton

The AUKUS pact (Australia, UK & US) came out of nowhere in 2021 when Australia broke a $A90 billion contract to buy French submarines and, instead, signed up with the US and UK to form AUKUS, which will build eight nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarines for Australia. The first get together of the AUKUS leaders did not go very well for Australia, when President Biden could not remember the name of its then Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

Morrison went behind the backs of the French, in order to instead do a deal with the US and UK. It led to the most extraordinary diplomatic bust up between those countries - France recalled its Ambassadors from both Australia and the US (it is America's oldest ally, dating back to the American Revolution); President Macron called Morrison a "liar". When Morrison was voted out a few months later, France's outgoing Foreign Minister said: "I can't stop myself from saying that the defeat of Morrison suits me very well".

Nuclear free New Zealand was not invited to join AUKUS (nor was fellow Five Eyes member, Canada) but the Ardern government had a FOMO (fear of missing out) reaction and said NZ would like to get involved with other aspects of AUKUS, such as artificial intelligence. AUKUS rapidly went about proving it's about much more than a few nuclear subs - in April 2022 it announced that its three members would work together to develop hypersonic missiles to counter Russia and China, which already have them.

In May 2022 Scott Morrison's Government was resoundingly voted out of office but Anthony Albanese's Labor government wholeheartedly carried on with his Tory predecessors' foreign policy, including being committed to AUKUS. The last time that an Australian Labor government offered a markedly different foreign policy was the 1972-75 one led by Gough Whitlam - and we all know what happened to that (my obituaries of Whitlam and his Tory successor, Malcolm Fraser, are in Watchdog 138, April 2015)

Both Whitlam and Albanese had themselves sworn in as Prime Minister immediately after their respective election wins, but the contrast could not be starker. Whitlam wanted to get stuck into his radically different foreign policy; Albanese wanted to immediately scurry off to Tokyo to meet Joe Biden and reassure him of Australia's continued loyalty as a good and obedient servant. The Australian Labor Party has never questioned the American alliance since Whitlam.

2022 came and went and two of the original three AUKUS leaders - Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson - were kicked out of office but AUKUS carried on, building up to its big launch in March 2023, which was hosted by President Biden, alongside Prime Ministers Sunak and Albanese, in front of a massive US nuclear submarine at a San Diego Navy base. Australia will build eight nuclear-powered subs in Adelaide. They will be built to a British design but have American technology.

Eyewatering Cost

The cost is truly eyewatering - anywhere between $A268 billion and $A368b, by 2055. Yes, that's right - those eight subs won't be ready for more than 30 years. The first of these eight subs are unlikely to be ready until the 2040s, so - to fill that gap - Australia will buy three existing US subs from the early 2030s, at a cost of up to $A58b, with an option to buy two more. There has been zero official discussion about the multitude of things that are likely to have changed over the next 30 years, militarily, let alone in the wider global society. Think about what has changed in the last 30 years. I'd put money on these monstrosities being obsolete long before they're built.

But the politicians and military leaders who commissioned them will be long gone, leaving future taxpayers to shoulder the costs - and the highly likely adverse consequences of such a major push towards war with China. Because that's who AUKUS and its nuclear submarines, and all other following military technology developments, is aimed at. It has got nothing to do with defending Australia, and everything to do with projecting power far from home. That's the point of nuclear-powered subs - they don't need to return to home port to refuel.

"We Are Not At War, But Neither Are We At Peace"

New Zealanders may not have appreciated the degree of militarisation in Australia, much more so than here. AUKUS should jolt us out of any complacency about what is going on with our nearest neighbour - it is preparing for war. Australian media commentary at the time of the AUKUS launch made that clear. "The monumental price tag of the AUKUS pact has made it clear. We are not at war, but neither are we at peace ..."

"Almost $A400b, even over three decades, is not peacetime spending in anyone's book - a fact Government ministers concede privately. Rather, we are navigating a dangerous and unpredictable new grey zone of superpower rivalry between China and the United States. It's a contest in which we are poised to be a central player despite our geographical isolation and relatively small population".

"Accepting such a role will require tough spending decisions the nation as a whole is not yet ready to confront. Already, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is flagging his willingness to support reduced spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme to pay for the submarine programme. Other unsettling trade-offs will need to be discussed. Even in the short term, before the big bills start arriving, difficult calls will have to be made.... This is will cut $A3b from existing defence programmes...This is likely to anger other branches of the military, such as the Army, while the Navy is lavished with money" (Nine, reprinted in the Press, 15/3/23, "Eye-Watering Truth", Matthew Knott).

Albanese tried to put a positive spin on it, saying that the "scale, complexity and economic significance of this investment is akin to the creation of the Australian automotive industry in the post-war period" (ibid.). This is disingenuous in the extreme - there is no comparison between creating an industry to enable the much touted "Aussie battlers" to buy a Holden, and creating an industry to build nuclear submarines to join the US (and its "special relationship" mate, the UK) in confronting China, trying to contain China and, quite possibly, fighting a war with China.

Criticism From Inside The Political Elite

Pleasingly, AUKUS was not unopposed among Australia's political elite (or, at least, former leading members of it). Paul Keating, who was Labor Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, really put the boot into the good submarine AUKUS and all who sail in her. He did so in a March 2023 speech, the day after the AUKUS announcement. "Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has launched an extraordinary attack on the Albanese government over its adoption of the AUKUS pact, accusing it of making the worst foreign policy decision by a Labor government since the attempted introduction of conscription in World War I".

"He said signing up to AUKUS had broken Labor's long 'winning streak' on foreign policy over the past century and was a 'deeply pathetic' moment in the Party's history. 'Falling into a major mistake, Anthony Albanese, befuddled by his own small-target election strategy, emerges as Prime Minister with an American sword to rattle at the neighbourhood to impress upon it the United States' esteemed view of its untrammelled destiny...'".

"'Naturally, I should prefer to be singing the praises of the Government in all matters, but these issues carry deadly consequences for Australia and I believe it is incumbent on any former Prime Minister, particularly now, a Labor one, to alert the country to the dangerous and unnecessary journey on which the Government is now embarking'".

"'This week, Anthony Albanese screwed into place the last shackle in the long chain the United States has laid out to contain China ... I don't think I suffer from relevance deprivation, but I do suffer concern for Australia as it most unwisely proceeds down this singular and dangerous path', he said. Keating presented a largely benign view of China's rise, saying it was 'not the old Soviet Union' and was 'not seeking to propagate some competing international ideology' to the United States. The fact is China is not an outrider', he said. 'China is a world trading state - it is not about upending the international system'. Keating said":

"Every Labor Party branch member will wince when they realise that the Party we all fight for is returning to our former colonial master, Britain, to find our security in Asia - 236 years after Europeans first grabbed the continent from its Indigenous people. That of all things, a contemporary Labor government is shunning security in Asia for security in and within the Anglosphere'" (Sydney Morning Herald, 15/3/23, Matthew Knott),

Nor was Keating alone in his criticism from within the elite. "The Australian National University's Hugh White, an Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies, unleashed a quite extraordinary criticism of Australia's nuclear submarine plan... Professor White, a former Deputy Secretary of the Defence Department, said Australia was not only going to 'hand over some serious dollars' to the US but also pay with 'a promise' to enter any future conflict with China".

"'This is a very serious transformation of the nature of our alliance with the United States', White said in an interview recorded for the ANU's politics podcast Democracy Sausage. 'The US don't really care about our submarine capability - they care deeply about tying Australia into their containment strategy against China'".

"White said he couldn't see why the US would sell its own submarines - of which they have fewer than they need - unless it was absolutely sure Australia's submarines would be available to it in the event of a major conflict in Asia. He said a war between America and China over Taiwan would be 'World War III' and have a 'very good chance' of being a nuclear conflict".

"'Australia's experience of war is shaped by the fact that we've tended to be on the winning side, but there is no reason to expect America to win in a war with China over Taiwan', he warned. He suggested there was also a high chance the AUKUS deal could fall over under a future American Administration and a worsening strategic environment".

"White said there were cheaper, quicker, less risky and less demanding ways for Australia to get the submarines it needed, labelling the AUKUS plan a waste of money that 'doesn't make sense. There's going to be no actual net increase in the number of submarines available until well into the 2040s, even if it goes to plan - which it probably won't'", he said (NZ Herald, 19/3/23, Catie McLeod),

Breakneck Militarisation

AUKUS is only part, albeit a very big one, of Australia's breakneck militarisation. "Flying under the radar of last week's AUKUS submarine announcement was the revelation that the United States had agreed to sell Australia up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This follows Australia's purchase in January (2023) of 'high mobility artillery rocket systems', known as HIMARS, which have been used by Ukraine on the battlefield in response to Russia's invasion. And in 2020, the US approved the sale of up to 200 long-range anti-shipping missiles (LRASM) to Australia".

"(The Tomahawks) will be deployed on three Australian warships, known as Hobart class destroyers. These ships are primarily designed to defend the Navy from aerial threats such as aircraft and missiles, but adding Tomahawks would allow them to strike targets on land or sea. What's more, the Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines Australia is purchasing from the US under the AUKUS agreement are also capable of launching Tomahawks".

"It's safe to assume Australia's future AUKUS class nuclear-powered submarines will also be able to deploy Tomahawks. This would provide Australia with a potent deterrent. It would mean Australia could conduct long-range precision strikes against potential adversaries, using a stealthy platform that would be extremely difficult to detect".

"Australia's purchase of long-range anti-shipping missiles (LRASM) is intended to increase the strike range of two types of Australia's fighter jets. This would allow Australia to accurately strike hostile shipping at long range. They will replace Australia's ageing Harpoon anti-shipping missile. They have a range of about 560km, which is approximately four times greater than the Harpoon. This capability is highly desirable given that, in the event of a regional conflict, the greatest threat to Australia is a blockade of its key trade routes".

"In particular, the Tomahawks and LRASM allow aircraft and warships to launch the missiles further from potential danger. This is particularly important as countries such as China are heavily investing in military systems designed to prevent access and freedom of operation in contested waters such as the South China Sea, a strategy referred to as Anti-Access/Area Denial, or 'A2AD'".

"Crucially, these missiles (within the broader context of other defence procurements) offer Australia two things. Firstly, they provide an increased deterrent in an increasingly turbulent region. If Australia can hold key targets under threat, then a potential adversary is less likely to undertake a hostile action, or at the very least think more carefully before doing so. It also facilitates what's called 'interoperability' with key allies such as the US, so Australian and US forces can operate more easily in a joint manner if need be".

"Secondly, these platforms allow Australia to have our own 'A2AD' capabilities. While an invasion of Australia is extraordinarily unlikely, it's possible an adversary may try to block shipping routes to prevent our people and/or goods from free navigation (a naval blockade). Or, they may attempt to close strategic chokepoints and navigation routes to Australia's north, such as the Malacca Strait".

"Having the ability to strike targets at long range holds those undertaking such actions under threat, increasing the difficulty in sustaining a blockade, or making it unappealing to attempt to do so due to high potential costs. Of course, these systems also come with significant costs. The purchase of approximately 220 Tomahawks will cost $A1.3 billion, while 20 HIMARS launchers and missiles attracts a bill of $A558 million. About 200 LRASMs costs a further $A1.47 billion" (Stuff, 22/3/23, James Dwyer).

Shortly after Albanese was elected as Prime Minister in May 2022, he initiated the Defence Strategic Review. It was classified but a redacted version was publicly released in April 2023. It was billed as Australia's biggest defence overhaul since World War 2. "Australia has said the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, long-range strike capabilities and its northern bases will be among the country's six priority areas after a major review of its defence strategy found the armed forces were not 'fully fit for purpose'".

"Albanese said the Government would adopt three other priorities recommended in the Review for immediate action: Initiatives to improve the growth and retention of a highly skilled defence workforce, improving Australia's capacity to rapidly translate new technologies into defence, and a deepening of defence and diplomatic partnerships with 'key partners' in the Indo-Pacific".

"The report stressed the need for Australia to deepen its engagement and collaboration with countries from Southeast Asia to the Pacific, as well as with India and Japan" (Al Jazeera, 24/4/23, "Australia Unveils Biggest Defence Overhaul Since World War II").

Former NZ PMs, Of Rival Parties, Oppose It

When AUKUS was first announced in 2021, New Zealand (which was not invited to join) simply confined itself to saying that nuclear powered submarines would not be allowed into NZ territorial waters, or ports, because of our nuclear free law dating back to the 1980s. So, the issue flew below the radar (or sailed under the sea, to put it more appropriately). However, once AUKUS really kicked off in March 2023, debate and disquiet started in NZ.

Helen Clark was the Labour Prime Minister (1999-2008) who has dined out for 20 years on having refused to let NZ join the US, UK and Australia in the illegal and disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq (in all other aspects Clark was a very loyal servant of the US). She came out quickly and said that NZ is better off outside AUKUS (the word she used was "entanglement").

She wasn't alone as the only former NZ PM to criticise it. "...former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger (1990-97) participated in a forum about New Zealand's foreign policy in Wellington, in which he is reported by the Herald's Audrey Young to have criticised the Australian submarine buy up as 'beyond comprehension' because of the cost and the damage to peace in the Pacific region".

"Bolger said that New Zealand certainly doesn't want any such submarines, and challenged proponents of the AUKUS deal to defend it: 'If you can find any Australian official who can explain why they need nuclear-powered submarines, come and tell me. I'd like to know'. And Young reported Bolger asking rhetorically, 'How mad are we getting?' She says 'he spoke with despair about the near-daily threats of nuclear war, which had the potential to destroy the planet'" (RNZ, 25/3/23, Bryce Edwards)

NZ Opposition Right Across Political Spectrum

"As part of the AUKUS deal Western Australia will play host to US and UK nuclear submarines from 2027. With nuclear-capable American B52 bombers and thousands of American Marines rotating through the Northern Territory, Australia is lining up as a loyal lieutenant to the United States in the Pacific and would be expected to fight should war break out".

"Would New Zealanders fight in a war between the nuclear superpowers? While we aren't required by treaty obligations to act if America or Taiwan are attacked, we are if Australia is. It is not an exaggeration to say Australia could be a target in a future war and already the country has been threatened with missile attacks in that scenario".

"The risks of New Zealand being dragged in are real. Unlike in Australia, the conversation in New Zealand has been much more muted with limited discussion on the likelihood of war. Why aren't we talking about it? New Zealand is in a difficult situation contemplating conflict between our largest trading partner and traditional security partner".

"We weren't invited to join AUKUS and Australian nuclear submarines won't be allowed to berth here under our nuclear-free legislation. That same legislation sees New Zealand as only a friend and not an ally of the United States, but we are increasingly acting like we are an ally. In the years since New Zealand's principled decision not to join the invasion of Iraq we have become more enmeshed with the United States defence apparatus".

"Our troops fought together in Afghanistan and later served together in Iraq. Rocket Lab launches US Air Force payloads, and we remain in the intelligence inner circle as a Five Eyes nation. New Zealand Navy vessels took part in exercises off Guam and Okinawa with carrier strike groups including participating in freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea".

"New Zealand's military spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) has increased significantly under the Labour government and big new spends have been focused on interoperability. This includes the purchase of four new P-8A Poseidon aircraft to replace the decades-old P3 Orions. At $NZ2.3b the Poseidon aircraft were much more expensive than alternatives that could have also undertaken search and rescue and fisheries patrol work because of their ability to work with partners and conduct anti-submarine warfare in a future conflict".

"Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern even received an unprecedented invitation to attend a NATO Leaders Summit in Europe. Today, it's almost as if the ANZUS split of the 1980s never happened. Just because New Zealand is more closely linked with the United States by history, culture and values doesn't mean we have to blindly fall into line and follow whatever they do...."

"New Zealanders need to talk more about the risks, our decision-makers need to explain why New Zealand is aligning more closely with the United States military and as a sovereign country we have to ask are we acting independently or as a cog in a machine? Our role could be focused on reducing tensions, finding solutions and building trust. War is never inevitable" (Stuff, 18/3/23, Gareth Hughes, former Green MP).

Former politicians right across the spectrum have come out against AUKUS. For example, Richard Prebble, one-time Labour Cabinet Minister and later ACT Party founder and Leader. He is currently a relentless Rightwing critic of the Labour government. His take on AUKUS is the classic mercantilist one. "China is New Zealand's biggest trading partner. This country has joined China's Belt and Road initiative. China has signed a free trade agreement with New Zealand, something the US Senate refuses to consider".

"Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has warned that New Zealand's exports to China could be caught up in a 'storm', saying 'it may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us. The signal I'm sending to exporters is that they need to think about diversification'. New Zealand's exporters are only too aware of their dependency. There is no other obvious alternative to the New Zealand-China trade".

"New Zealand has no territorial disputes with China. When we recognised the Government of China 50 years ago, we acknowledged Taiwan is part of China. Paul Keating and Helen Clark are correct. New Zealand's strategic interest is in the peaceful resolution of conflicts with China rather than sleepwalking into anti-Chinese alliances" (New Zealand Herald, 5/4/23).

Academic Scepticism

Leading academic Robert Patman spelled it out in an article entitled "Why New Zealand Should Remain Sceptical About AUKUS" (Stuff, 18/3/23). "The basic problem facing AUKUS is that it is based on a binary assumption that the fate of the Indo-Pacific will be largely shaped by the outcome of US-China rivalry and, in particular, by the capacity of America and its closest allies to counterbalance Chinese ambitions in the region".

"Such a perspective is problematic on a number of counts. First, it exaggerates the influence of great powers in the 21st Century in a large, diverse region like the Indo-Pacific. The region contains 60% of the world's population including significant economic players like Japan, South Korea and fast-growing economies such as Vietnam and India".

"Second, AUKUS does not factor in the Indo-Pacific and European nations' quite distinctive security and economic interests in countering China. While countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam and EU states like Germany and France are deeply worried about China's forceful diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, they remain sceptical that a security arrangement involving three English-speaking states, two of whom have baggage in the region, is an adequate response".

"Third, China's global ambitions are very real, but they should not be over-hyped. AUKUS states depict China as a 'systemic threat' and, according to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the 'only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, a power to do so'. Really?..."

"Fourth, the provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia has raised very real fears in the Indo-Pacific about nuclear proliferation. In 1995, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) member states signed the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ). Furthermore, Singapore is now the only ASEAN state yet to sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a diplomatic initiative heavily promoted by New Zealand".

"Fifth, it is unlikely - given New Zealand's membership of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement, its status as a NATO partner, and close bilateral ties with Australia and the US - that Wellington could or would be frozen out of talks concerning new security technologies in the Indo-Pacific region. Indeed, a senior American official said as much recently".

"Overall, while the current Labour government has few illusions about China's authoritarian system and increasingly assertive foreign policy, it is not clear that exclusion from AUKUS has strategically sidelined New Zealand. New Zealand remains sceptical that China is a systemic threat to US dominance, sees a good fit between its non-nuclear security policy and the Indo-Pacific region, and views detachment from AUKUS as both consistent with the goal of diversifying New Zealand's trade ties and building a diplomatic network of like-minded states to strengthen the international rules-based order through measures like UN Security Council reform".

Madness To Support US War Against China

Mike Treen, veteran union leader and Leftwing activist, put it all very succinctly in an article in the Daily Blog, (21/4/23); "The US is going to war against China because it is losing the international economic competition that previously enabled its military and economic bullying to dominate the globe. The empire is in slow decline".

"China's extraordinary rise as an economic powerhouse over the past few decades means that it is now the top international trading partner for 120 countries. This has given the world the freedom to act in ways they have never before - politically and economically. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw China broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. All three nations simply ignored the US. Whatever we may think of these regimes, this will help bring peace to Yemen and the region. The world is becoming a safer and freer place because of that independence".

"That is also why there is a division inside the capitalist class and their political representatives in New Zealand and Australia about being part of the US-led provocations against China. They know where their exports are going and don't want to poke that country in the eye for no apparent sensible reason. After being thrown out of the ANZUS military alliance for New Zealand's anti-nuclear position, let's not keep trying to curry favour with the US empire and its military adventures".

"New Zealand was wrong to join the war against Afghanistan. We were wrong to join the occupation of Iraq. We were wrong to become an 'observer' at NATO. And it would be foolish and dangerous to become a participant in any way with the AUKUS military provocation against China. New Zealand should be a neutral power that offers medical aid to the world, not a tiny jumped-up militarised puppet of the US empire like Australia has become".

Defence Minister Tempted By AUKUS

The AUKUS carrot is being dangled in front of NZ and Defence Minister Andrew Little is keen to take a bite. "Little met White House National Security Council Coordinator, Kurt Campbell, in March 2023, after which Campbell said the United States thought there was potential for New Zealand to join non-nuclear aspects of the AUKUS pact. Little said New Zealand was interested in joining the second 'pillar' of AUKUS, which would involve defence technologies 'associated' with the nuclear-powered submarines, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and advanced information technology".

"He said the Defence Force needed to maintain its technology to the standard of its Australian and American counterparts, so the militaries could communicate while working together.... He said he was 'quite satisfied' this aspect of the AUKUS arrangement would be separate from any nuclear hardware. He said he told Campbell any participation by New Zealand could not compromise 'legal obligations and our moral commitment to (being) nuclear-free'".

"'We already work very closely with allies and partners who have nuclear-powered vessels and submarines and nuclear-armed missiles and submarines... It doesn't change anything that we're currently doing'" (Stuff, 28/3/23).

But Not PM Or Minister Of Foreign Affairs

However, both the PM, Chris Hipkins, and Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, have since "dismissed suggestions the Government has shown interest in joining aspects of the pact". Mahuta made a May 2023 speech stressing that NZ's nuclear-free position is a "cornerstone of our independent stance" which is about "making our own determination about which tools of statecraft are the right fit for our national circumstances. Independence should not be confused with isolation, neutrality, or a fixed pre-determination of how we will act on a particular issue" (Press, 4/5/23, Thomas Manch, "Mahuta Says NZ Can 'Speak Out Alone'").

AUKUS Causing Alarm In The Pacific

"The Pacific Islands Forum warns 'AUKUS will bring war much closer to home and goes against the Blue Pacific narrative on nuclear proliferation and the cost to climate change'. Forum Secretary-General Mark Brown said AUKUS would heighten geopolitical tensions and disturb the peace and security of the region".

"A communiqué issued by former Pacific leaders - Marshall Islands' Hilda Heine, Palau's Tommy Remengesau, Tuvalu's Enele Sopoga, and Kiribati's Anote Tong - is calling on governments to 'do more to combat climate change first and foremost. Nuclear power carried risks, especially after the 2011 Fukushima disaster and as we discuss nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific, we must also address concerns about increased militarisation of the region'" (Stuff, 19/4/23).

The US and Australia were caught on the hop in 2022 by China moving to aggressively court a whole range of tiny South Pacific nations - which Australia and NZ like to patronisingly call "our backyard" - scoring the greatest success in the Solomon Islands. See my article on this: "Pacific Geopolitics In The Raw. Bullying, Hysterical Hypocrisy", in Watchdog 160, August 2022.

The US has since been making up for lost time in a region it has neglected for decades (having subcontracted the "property management" to Australia and NZ). It has reopened its Embassy in the Solomons, having closed it in 1993. It has courted South Pacific governments - in May 2023 it signed a new security pact with Papua New Guinea (a move which led to protests by PNG students) - plus it has concluded an agreement with the Philippines to get access to four more military bases in that country, and strengthened its military presence in both Japan and South Korea.

NZ Needs To Be Aware Of War Drums Next Door

"Ardern now has the practical distinction of being the most pro-US Prime Minister since Sir Robert Muldoon" (Luke Malpass, Stuff, 4/7/22). In 2022 she became the first ever NZ PM to attend a NATO Leaders Summit. Her successor Chris Hipkins attended the 2023 one. NZ is actively supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. There is an irony in our Government being so invested in a war, and its attendant geopolitics, on the other side of the world. While right next door to home, our Aussie Big Brother is making a major, major push towards war via AUKUS and accompanying militarisation.

I don't think New Zealanders have yet grasped the full implications, and sheer scale, of what is happening next door. We can't just shrug and ignore it, regardless of whether we'd like to. A significant percentage of New Zealand's population lives in Australia. In my case I have travelled all over that country and taken part in anti-bases activity on both coasts of its vast spread.

Like countless other Kiwis, I have family, friends and colleagues there. More than that, I have Australian blood (one quarter), including a fair dinkum convict ancestor in the family tree. So, it matters what happens next door. It affects us, not just in a general sense, but - for a huge number of us - in a directly personal way. Make no mistake - AUKUS is a major lurch towards war with China and it is unfolding before our very eyes.

The Australian peace movement is waging a vigorous and very active campaign against AUKUS. Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).


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