‘We don’t want war!’ Australia shamed over ‘reckless’ Aukus deal as conflict fears soar

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Agreed on September 15, the Aukus deal between Canberra, London and Washington allows Australia to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines with British and American assistance. The move has enraged China and France, with Australian trade unions warning the agreement opens up the country to danger on multiple fronts.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has said it is in “total opposition” to the Aukus deal.

Skewering the Australian Prime Minister, the union said Scott Morrison should have focused on securing Covid vaccine supplies and helping Australians affected by lockdown, instead of “pursuing secret military deals”.

MUA then added the defence pact will “continue to escalate unnecessary conflict with China”, saying the announcement already led to “seafarers stranded on coal ships and some trades shut down”.

They then added: “Workers have no interest in war with China or any other country.

“Every effort should be made to pursue peaceful relations.”

MUA continued the Aukus deal would push Australia to try and obtain nuclear arms for use with submarines provided by the agreement.

The union then pointed out “extraordinary sums of money have been wasted” on the canceled contract with France, and the delivery of nuclear submarines will likely cost the country much more than that.

The Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) also described Canberra’s decision to join AUKUS as a “betrayal.”

ETU National Assistant Secretary Michael Wright argued the agreement is undermining “generations of highly-skilled, secure, well-paying Australian shipbuilding jobs”.

He added: “It is dangerous and delusional to rely on nuclear submarines for our defence.”

On Thursday, Mr Morrison said it was entering a “forever pact” with the US and UK, but was also scrapping a $90billion (£48billion) contract with France.

Originally, Australia planned to acquire 12 new Attack-class submarines under a program with France’s Naval Group.

Mr Morrison insisted: “Let me be clear – Australia is not seeking to establish a nuclear industry or establish a civil nuclear capability, and we will continue to meet all of our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

In response, France looked to delay a planned EU-Australia trade deal over the planned $90bn contract.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen weighed into the diplomatic row on Monday, and said France had been treated unacceptably by the US, Australia and the UK.

Dan Tehan, Australian trade minister, downplayed fears the Aukus row would mean Canberra won’t get a trade deal with the EU.

He said: “It’s just very much business as usual when it comes to our negotiations on that free trade agreement.

“Everything points to the fact that it’s in both the European Union and Australia’s interests that we continue that FTA.”

France has recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra, and Florence Parly, French armed forces minister, postponed a planned meeting with the Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary.

China accused the US, UK and Australia of having a “Cold War mentality” that would hurt their own interests.

The state-run Global Times warned of an arms race for nuclear submarines, and grimly stated Australian soldiers were likely to be the “first to die” in a Chinese “counterattack”.

On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said foreign powers should not be allowed to interfere in the country’s affairs.

According to state media, he said: “The future of our country’s development and progress should lie firmly in our own hands.”

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