Tuesday 25th of June 2024

the ghost of aukusville.....

Marise Payne’s tenure as Australia’s Foreign Minister was rightly marked with criticism. Australia’s international and strategic interests went backwards during her time. But was she really Australia’s worst Foreign Minister as some commentators assert? It’s important to consider the root cause of the damage done to Australia’s national interests: the belligerent interference and harm done by Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton.


By Gregory Andrews


Australia’s standing in the international arena and our strategic foreign policy interests clearly degraded while Payne was Foreign Minister from 2018 to 2022. From deteriorating relations with China to strained ties with key allies and the Pacific things went backwards. But to label her as Australia’s worst Foreign Minister based solely on these outcomes would be an oversimplification. It would assume she was in control and had agency on foreign policy. This was clearly not the case.

Marise Payne allowed herself to be bullied as Minister into outsourcing foreign policy to then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. On key national interest issues, Marise Payne was silent and seemed almost embarrassed while decisions were made elsewhere. This damaged Australia’s capacity to project coherent and effective foreign policy. Payne’s subservience to Morrison and Dutton contributed to the overshadowing of her role. It allowed Morrison and Dutton to run the show.

Good Foreign Ministers are those who engage in nuanced, diplomatic negotiations, free from the interference of domestic political agendas. Unfortunately, Payne’s tenure was consistently marked by instances where for personal or Party-political reasons, she was overshadowed by the ambitions of others. This weakened Australia’s diplomatic relations and sent troubling messages to the international community about our commitment to principled foreign policy.

A lesson for the current Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, is to make sure that she doesn’t fall victim to the same dynamic. Foreign policy should be driven by a clear vision that aligns with long-term national interests. It’s essential for Foreign Ministers to articulate and advocate for this vision, even in the face of personal or internal political pressures. While compromise and collaboration are integral parts of governance, Foreign Ministers must display the courage to assert their authority when it comes to matters of national significance. Marise Payne didn’t do this. And there are signs that Penny Wong isn’t either – particularly on critical issues like climate change and AUKUS.

As a major fossil fuel exporter and nation highly vulnerable to climate change, Australia’s foreign policy must align with international efforts and the science on combating the climate crisis. Wong must demonstrate stronger leadership on ending fossil fuel dependency. She must ensure and advocate clearly that Australia’s stance aligns with our national interests in rapid decarbonisation and an end to fossil fuel exports and subsidies, irrespective of domestic political considerations.

The AUKUS alliance was clearly rushed into by Scott Morrison. But is also appears to have been blindly followed by Labor for domestic political reasons. While promising enhanced security, it actually carries significant risks and costs. Ensuring that Australia’s foreign policy interests are grounded in a strategic vision that safeguards our long-term security doesn’t mean blindly continuing with AUKUS. Resonating arguments against AUKUS are that it not only represents a massive waste of money but also creates a significant security risk to Australia by provoking China and straining relations with our Southeast Asian neighbours with whom we have shared interests concerning China. But Penny Wong seems to be still toeing the Labor line and allowing the Defence and Prime Minister to run the show. This is a high price to pay – for the budget and our national interests.

Good Foreign Ministers have vision, assertiveness, and the courage to act in the best interests of the nation, rather than in response to personal and Party-political pressures. Marise Payne’s legacy is a reminder of these essential qualities. Her tenure should not be dismissed as solely the result of her inadequacy. Indeed, it serves as a reminder of the importance of insulating foreign policy from domestic politics. Only when Foreign Ministers are brave and empowered enough to have the autonomy and authority to lead can Australia truly advance its interests and standing on the global stage. Marise Payne’s experience should be food for thought for Penny Wong.





paying for THEIRS....

Paul Keating rightly calls it the “worst deal in all history,” and the Albanese Government intends to use Australian taxpayer’s money to build up the US and UK submarine construction and ship repair industry. Rex Patrick looks into the AUKUS detail.

Under Article 4 of the United States Treasury Act, it is the US Treasury that receives and takes care of the United States Government’s money. The US Constitution demands that no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, unless it has been appropriated by law.

That means that Anthony Albanese can’t just write out a cheque and hand it to Joe Biden to spend on AUKUS. It takes a bit more than that.

Which the US Congress is now setting up. On 9 June this year, Democratic Congressman Gregory W Meeks introduced the AUKUS Undersea Defence Act into the House of Representatives which creates a special account in the US Treasury to be known as the “Submarine Special Activities Account” and grants lawful authority for the Secretary of Defense to spend the money in that special account for specific purposes.

The legislation doesn’t permit the United Kingdom to deposit into it, only Australia can. Paul Keating was right about the “Kabuki show in San Diego” where he observed,

there’s three leaders standing there. Only one is paying. Our bloke. Albo.

Improving the US submarine industrial base

US shipbuilders and maintainers have started laughing all the way to the bank.

And so they should. Until now, they’ve conspicuously failed to meet the expectations of their US Navy customer. Australia will inject money to help them meet their US customer’s requirements.

There are just two submarine shipbuilders in the US, General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division of Groton, Connecticut, and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding, of Newport News.

Between them, they currently build 2 Virginia submarines a year, in circumstances where the US needs them to be able to build two and an additional Columbia Class ballistic nuclear missile submarine) – the equivalent of building five Virginia submarines being built per year.

There are four government operated Naval Shipyards that conduct maintenance on US submarines. They’re supposed to ensure 80% of the active submarine fleet is available for use at any time. But the industry base is short of workers and facility constraints. They are only achieving 60% availability. They’re also encountering some very difficult to resolve technical problems with their submarines, spares parts and supply chain problems.

They’re also encountering some very difficult to resolve technical problems with their submarines, spares parts and supply chain problems.