On Tuesday, a group of protestors gathered outside the Sydney Town Hall to demonstrate against a newly-announced nuclear submarine agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS).
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"No Nuclear Subs", "AUKUS Steals From Us", and "Peace for the Pacific," were some of the banners that the Anti-AUKUS Coalition unfurled to denounce denounced that the budget for eight nuclear submarines could have been used to create 320,000 homes, 4,500 schools and 270,000 jobs.
On Tuesday morning, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak jointly announced Australia's acquisition of nuclear submarines. Their deal will cost up to US$245 billion by mid-2050.
Eight AUKUS-class submarines will be built in Adelaide, with the first to be completed by 2042. In the interim, Australia will acquire three U.S.-made Virginia-class subs as soon as the early 2030s. British and U.S. submarines will begin regular port visits and a rotational presence in Australia.
The tweet reads, "The threat diagram for China. As part of AUKUS, U.S. and UK SSN nuclear submarines will be able to dock on a rotating basis at the Stirling Naval Base (Perth, Western Australia)."
Albanese called the deal "a very good thing," adding, "I have no doubt that this agreement will be very welcomed in Australia." Protestors in Sydney, however, voiced disagreement over his words.
"We don't welcome it. And I think as it dawns on people what it means, I think it's going to become more and more unpopular," Dennis Doherty said, adding that the AUKUS deal means that Australia will be facing a massive expenditure for the next 40 years.
"Instead of dealing with the problems that are in our own country and in the region, there will be wasting money on these dreadful weapons of mass destruction. That is completely unnecessary," he stressed.
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating also slammed the AUKUS pact as "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."
The current administration is falling into a major mistake "with an American sword to rattle at the neighborhood to impress upon it the United States's esteemed view of its untrammeled destiny," he added.
Matt Fitzpatrick, professor at Flinders University, argued that with AUKUS, Australia has wedded itself to a risky U.S. policy on China -- and turned a deaf ear to the region.
"It leads Australia towards half a century of armaments build-up and restricted sovereignty within a U.S.-led alliance aimed at containing China," Fitzpatrick wrote in an article published by The Conversation.
"Australia could have tried to work towards a regional approach with other Asian and Pacific countries. But this week's agreement makes that all but impossible," the scholar noted.
A report from the Australian Financial Review also raised the alarm about high-level nuclear waste that would burden Australia under the AUKUS deal.
Australian Conservation Foundation Analyst Dave Sweeney said that a dump could become a Trojan horse for other high-level waste, as nuclear submarines are powered by highly enriched uranium which inevitably becomes high-level radioactive waste.
"AUKUS presents by far the biggest threat yet that Australia will become a dumping ground for the world's worst nuclear waste," Sweeney warned.