By Alison Broinowski
If I hear Australian opinion leaders cite the ‘international rules-based order’ again I think I’ll scream. Even more loudly, every time I hear them cite ‘sovereignty’. I hope all members of AWPR will scream too, as we see Australia’s sovereignty diminishing before our eyes. Sovereign this, sovereign that, we hear. Not that much of it exists, since the transferred Royal Prerogative still determines how we go to war, and since we have forfeited it to the United States.
Defence Minister Richard Marles claims that a commitment to AUKUS and total support for the U.S. in its war drive against China “strengthens” our sovereignty. But his plan is for the ADF to be so closely integrated with US forces that American commands will be Australian commands. So much for sovereignty. The US may be able to launch bombing missions from Australian territory without seeking Australian Government approval, while ‘sovereign’ Australia – not the US –becomes a target.
For more than a decade, successive Australian governments have sided with the US against China in their hegemonic contest, while claiming we didn’t have to choose. In fact, they had already chosen. There’s longstanding bipartisan support for Pine Gap, Exmouth, Northwest Cape, Fremantle, and now for expanded operational bases in the Northern Territory and NSW, including for US long-range nuclear bombers and nuclear-armed submarines.
Richard Marles claims that Australia has made no promises, but Scott Morrison promised Australia’s acceptance of America’s expectations. AUKUS takes the choice further, by radically committing Australia to fight alongside America in a major war in Asia. As Hugh White points out, the purpose of AUKUS is not to defend Australia. Our late lamented member Bruce Haigh said the same: the fundamental purpose of AUKUS is to strengthen our alignment with America in its hegemonic rivalry with China.
The Report of the Inquiry into Australia’s Entry into Overseas Conflict (March 2023) proposes an amendment to the Cabinet Handbook, stating that the authority to deploy Australian military forces overseas be vested in the governor-general under Section 68 of the Constitution rather than the Prime Minister relying on Section 8 of the Defence Act for this authority. AWPR has for long argued that amending Section 8 of the Defence Act would democratise the process. What’s now proposed is the reverse.
Successive inquiries, and more to follow, seem all to be directed towards the same objective: to have Australia involved in a US war against China. There has never been a greater need for MPs and Senators, representing the electorate, to accept responsibility for such a decision.