AUKUS News, Views, Analysis.


Lethe

Senior Member
Do we know if there is any Aussie former prime minister that supports the nuclear submarine deal at all?

I'm sure Tony Abbott does, though I haven't heard anything directly from him on the subject. He's an Anglophone throwback like no other. May have been too busy giving speeches at right-wing British thinktanks to notice what is going on in Australia these days. Julia Gillard was forthright about her lack of knowledge or interest in international politics or strategic affairs and and so her input or lack thereof can safely be discounted.

I haven't heard anything from John Howard aka America's ex-deputy sheriff. Given his history, which includes committing Australia to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the F-35 program, one might be expect him to be supportive, but complicating this is that he is also of that bygone era of Australian strategic relations in which he famously declared that we "do not have to choose" between America and China, so his perspective may be more nuanced than expected. But he is also an "honoured elder" of the modern Liberal party and is certainly not going to jeapordise his legacy by publicly breaking with the present government. So we have...

Malcolm Fraiser (Lib) -- Deceased. Author of "Dangerous Allies" warning of the danger to Australia of becoming too deeply enmeshed with the United States in the Great Game of the 21st century. I think we can safely say that he would disapprove.

Bob Hawke (Lab) -- Deceased. Not sure what he would've thought.

Paul Keating (Lab) -- Architect of Australia's policy of engagement with South-East Asia. Publicly describes AUKUS as Australia surrendering itself to a foreign power. Criticism turned to 11. Always was an outspoken and entertaining guy.

John Howard (Lib) -- See above.

Kevin Rudd (Lab) -- Formulated the initial requirement for 12 future submarines (up from present six). Modest criticism, mostly on the France angle and its repercussions.

Julia Gillard (Lab) -- Irrelevant. See above.

Tony Abbott (Lib) -- In favour. See above.

Malcolm Turnbull (Lib) -- Estranged from present Liberal party and so free to speak his mind. Organised partnership with France. Vocal in his disapproval though with more moderate language than Keating, mostly on the France angle and its repercussions.
 
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Lethe

Senior Member
My favourite Paul Keating line is from 2007 when he said that former Treasurer Peter Costello is "all tip and no iceberg".

A little explanation because humour and analogies can be difficult to translate across languages and cultures. This is building off the idea that an iceberg has most of its mass underwater such that what you see on the surface is only a small part of the whole. Accordingly, the phrase "the tip of the iceberg" is often used in English to suggest a larger or deeper issue beneath what is currently visible, e.g. "the current corruption scandal is just the tip of the iceberg". So by saying Costello was "all tip and no iceberg" Keating is suggesting that this is a man who lacks real substance, gravitas or credibility. Irrespective of what one thinks of Keating or Costello, I think it's one of the best "polite" insults I've ever heard.
 
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weig2000

Senior Member
I'm sure Tony Abbott does, though I haven't heard anything directly from him on the subject. He's an Anglophone throwback like no other. May have been too busy giving speeches at right-wing British thinktanks to notice what is going on in Australia these days. Julia Gillard was forthright about her lack of knowledge or interest in international politics or strategic affairs and and so her input or lack thereof can safely be discounted.

I haven't heard anything from John Howard aka America's ex-deputy sheriff. Given his history, which includes committing Australia to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the F-35 program, one might be expect him to be supportive, but complicating this is that he is also of that bygone era of Australian strategic relations in which he famously declared that we "do not have to choose" between America and China, so his perspective may be more nuanced than expected. But he is also an "honoured elder" of the modern Liberal party and is certainly not going to jeapordise his legacy by publicly breaking with the present government. So we have...

Malcolm Fraiser (Lib) -- Deceased. Author of "Dangerous Allies" warning of the danger to Australia of becoming too deeply enmeshed with the United States in the Great Game of the 21st century. I think we can safely say that he would disapprove.

Bob Hawke (Lab) -- Deceased. Not sure what he would've thought.

Paul Keating (Lab) -- Architect of Australia's policy of engagement with South-East Asia. Publicly describes AUKUS as Australia surrendering itself to a foreign power. Criticism turned to 11. Always was an outspoken and entertaining guy.

John Howard (Lib) -- See above.

Kevin Rudd (Lab) -- Formulated the initial requirement for 12 future submarines (up from present six). Modest criticism, mostly on the France angle and its repercussions.

Julia Gillard (Lab) -- Irrelevant. See above.

Tony Abbott (Lib) -- In favour. See above.

Malcolm Turnbull (Lib) -- Estranged from present Liberal party and so free to speak his mind. Organised partnership with France. Vocal in his disapproval though with more moderate language than Keating, mostly on the France angle and its repercussions.

Thanks. Quite a bit education on Australian politics for me.

So Paul Keating is quite an outlier, and standing-out. I've read two recent articles of his opposing the deal and the AUKUS alliance, getting a lot of attacks on him from the media and mainstream I suppose. Takes a lot of courage.
 

Lethe

Senior Member
"arse end of the world" is mine.

shows just how ridiculous is Australia's detachment from Asia (esp. South-East Asia)

I think this needs some context. More than any other PM, Keating pushed Australia to deepen its relationships with its South East-Asian neighbours. The material fruits of this push were modest in the form of APEC and ASEAN, but they reflected an existential struggle between differing conceptions of Australian identity: the previously dominant conception of Australia as an Anglo outpost "in" Asia, that had little in common with its regional neighbours and looked as a matter of course to the United States and United Kingdom for its sense of identity, and the alternative view advanced by Keating (and others) in which Australia should not only be "in" Asia, but "of" Asia, a nation that would loosen its emotional and institutional ties with the US and UK in favour of charting a course as a proudly independent multicultural nation with robust and productive relationships with its regional neighbours. This is from Keating in the 1990s advancing that argument against its detractors:

"By the year 2000 we should be able to say that we have learned to live securely, in peace and mutual prosperity among our Asian and Pacific neighbours. We will not be cut off from our British and European cultures and traditions or from those economies. On the contrary, the more engaged we are economically and politically with the region around us, the more value and relevance we bring to those old relationships. Far from putting our identity at risk, our relationships with the region will energise it."

In one sense, AUKUS can be seen as the latest development in Australia's ongoing conversation with itself about what sort of country it is and should be, a development that has been advanced by one particular faction in that argument. Paul Keating's robust criticism of AUKUS similarly reflects his role as one of the leading exponents of an alternative vision for Australia. In crude terms you could say that Keating, Rudd and Turnbull represent one faction in this ongoing debate, while Howard, Abbott, and Morrison can be seen as representing the other. But it is a mistake to focus too much on individuals. What is important is that these are the strands of thought that are alive in Australian public discourse and that the dialogue between them continues.

Keating is an interesting figure in Australian politics. I suspect that his expansive vocabulary and creative insults would play better with the public today, in the age of social media, than they did back in the 1990s. He was an intellectual, but of working-class origins, and he had little respect for mere credentials. More importantly, Keating was also a man of considerable political vision and courage, arguably moreso than any Prime Minister we have had since. We'll miss him when he's gone.
 
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