A step back from the brink

PEACE protestors trekked almost 24 kilometres from shipbuilder BAE Systems in Henderson to the causeway across to the Stirling Navy Base on Garden Island on Saturday to call for the scrapping of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese returned from the US last week, where president Joe Biden put forward a bill to Congress seeking an additional $3.4 billion to bump up his country’s capability to build up to five Virginia-class nuclear submarines for sale to Australia and service its own fleet.

• Nuclear Free WA and Stop AUKUS WA members make the 24km trek from BAE Systems to the Garden Island causeway. Photos supplied

But AUKUS is facing some opposition from Republican senator Roger Wicker who says US shipyards are under-resourced, while a report from the Congressional Budget Office also raised concerns it might reduce the US Navy’s fleet and leave the country relying on Australia to step into any western Pacific conflict – something it couldn’t guarantee.

That’s encouraging to Nuclear Free WA and Stop AUKUS WA, who organised the weekend walk from BAE, whose UK arm will be the key designer-builder of the new UK and Australian SSN-AUKUS class submarines.

No debate

Walk organiser and Nuclear Free WA spokesperson KA Garlick said AUKUS was signed with no Parliamentary debate and could undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that Australia had signed onto.

“We oppose the nuclearisation of Australia,” Ms Garlick said.

• The protestors outside BAE Systems, whose UK branch will build Australia’s nuclear AUKUS subs.

“The war in Ukraine has been a constant reminder of the devastation of war and the risks associated with nuclear reactors.

“Nuclear powered submarines house naval reactors and the AUKUS ones use highly enriched uranium.”

Stop AUKUS WA’s Nuclear Free Cockburn Sound spokesperson Chris Johansen, who’s also a Cockburn resident, said if there was an accident with Australia’s nuclear subs, or the increasing number of US and UK subs visiting Garden Island from 2027, it would be devastating for the local community.

“The increased presence of these submarines will change our access to Cockburn Sound for fishing and boating and there has been no assessment of the environmental impacts from the upgrades to HMAS Stirling and increased traversing of nuclear submarines through Cockburn Sound.

“Nuclear powered submarines in Cockburn Sound risks making us a military target should hostilities break out in our region involving the US.”


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