Former Australian PM says subs are ‘worst deal ever’

Sydney – Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating launched a savage attack on his nation on Wednesday plan to buy nuclear submarines from the United States to modernize its fleet and said: “It has to be the worst deal ever.”

At a National Press Club event, Keating said the submarines would serve no useful military purpose.

“The only way the Chinese can threaten or attack Australia is on land. That means they’re bringing in an armada of troopships with a huge army to garrison us,” Keating said. “That’s not possible for the Chinese.”

He added that Australia would sink any such Chinese armada with planes and missiles.

“The idea that we need American submarines to protect us,” Keating said. “If we buy eight, there will be three at sea. Three will protect us from the power of China. Really? I mean the junk of it. The garbage.”

Australia’s deal, announced Monday in San Diego by US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, came amid growing concerns about China’s military buildup and influence in the Indo-Pacific. Biden stressed that the submarines would not carry any nuclear weapons.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said the deal was necessary to counter the largest conventional military buildup in the region since World War II.

“We must take the step of developing the ability to operate a nuclear submarine so that we can hand down to our children and grandchildren a much more self-reliant nation,” Marles said.

China said on Tuesday that the US, Australia and the UK “continue to tread the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest” to sign the deal, which has been given the acronym AUKUS.

Keating was Prime Minister for more than four years in the 1990s. He was from the Labor Party, the same party as Albanese.

Keating said the submarine deal was the Labor Party’s worst international decision in more than 100 years when it tried unsuccessfully to introduce conscription during World War I.

Keating also poked fun at the cost of the deal, which Australian officials have estimated at A$268 billion to A$368 billion ($178 billion to $245 billion) over three decades. Australian officials say the deal will create 20,000 jobs.

“For $360 billion, we get eight submarines,” Keating said. “This has to be the worst deal ever.”

At the press club event, Keating was asked if his own ties to China influenced his views.

He said he has no commercial interests in China and quit working on a bank board five years ago.

“I was on the board of the China Development Bank for 13 years and as chairman for 10 years,” Keating said, adding that his fee, or fee, was $5,000 per year.

Keating also lashed out at some journalists at the event, telling one reporter that her question “is so stupid it hardly deserves an answer” and another that “you should hang your head in shame” about the recent one His newspaper’s coverage of China’s perceived threat to Australia.

“For the record, Mr Keating, we take great pride in our journalism and believe it has made an important contribution to the national debate,” replied the second journalist, Matthew Knott of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Former Australian PM says subs are ‘worst deal ever’

Sarah Y. Kim

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