Paul Keating slams Labor, AUKUS deal in press club address
Former prime minister Paul Keating has decried Anthony Albanese’s AUKUS submarine announcement as the “worst international decision by an Australian Labor government” since World War I.
With characteristic invective, Keating fired broadsides in just about every direction in an appearance at the National Press Club today.
But much of his firm opinions were targeted at the Labor government and several ministers in the cabinet.
“The Albanese government’s complicity in joining with Britain and the United States in a tripartite build of a nuclear submarine for Australia under the AUKUS arrangements represents the worst international decision by an Australian Labor government since the former Labor leader, Billy Hughes, sought to introduce conscription to augment Australian forces in World War I,” 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.”
He described Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles as “seriously unwise”.
“And the then opposition leader (Albanese), not ever having displayed any deep or long-term interest in foreign affairs, fell in with Wong and Marles as leader of the great misadventure,” Keating said.
“Signing the country up to the foreign proclivities of another country – the United States, with the gormless Brits, in their desperate search for relevance, lunging along behind is not a pretty sight.”
Keating also brushed off the notion that China posed any significant threat to Australia.
“What would be the point? They get the iron ore, the coal, the wheat,” he said.
“What would be the point of China wanting to occupy Sydney and Melbourne?”
When asked why he was sure China didn’t most a military threat, Keating replied: “Because I’ve got a brain. And I can think. And I can read.”
When he was asked to criticise China’s Communist Party and their treatment of the Uighur people by the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Matthew Knott, he steered his vitriol towards the journalist.
Keating referred to articles Knott had co-written on China on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the newspaper’s Red Alert series.
“You should hang your head in shame,” Keating said.
“I’m surprised you even have the gall to stand up in public and ask such a question, frankly.”
When Knott pressed him to answer on China’s treatment of the Uighurs, Keating referenced the persecution of Muslims in Indian Kashmir and the deaths of Indigenous Australians in prisons.
He also referred to former UK prime minister Boris Johnson as “one of the great vulgarians of our time”, Australian security agencies as “dopey” and the Defence Department as “hapless”.
The Albanese government yesterday committed up to $368 billion by 2055 to build nuclear-propelled submarines.