World Peace Day

In Parliament, Matters of Interest, Speeches

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:20): I rise today to talk about peace and about our priorities, both here in our state and in our nation. At least $2 billion was just squandered on the now scrapped French submarine program in South Australia. It is unbelievable to see the scrapping of this program, the wastage of billions of dollars, of people’s work and effort and time, spun as something positive. Though of course I guess if anyone was going to have a crack at spinning that as a positive it would be ‘that fella from down under’ of the many monikers.

Do not get me wrong: I have no intention of pretending that such an intense spend on building machines of war and violence was ever something I was a fan of. Indeed, I was not thrilled when we were going to throw all of our eggs into the defence basket and spend a cool $50 billion on the submarines at the start of the project and I certainly was not thrilled as that rose up to $90 billion. I never thought that was particularly good for our community.

But we have effectively wasted all of that, only to replace it with another deal, this time for nuclear-powered submarines, which we were told was impossible with the French deal. Indeed, we were retrofitting what were nuclear submarines to make them non-nuclear submarines back at the start of this debate to make that palatable for the public.

So what do we get in response to having wasted that cool $2 billion? And that is putting it mildly. We know that the figure is probably far larger than that. We have increased international tension, we have angry trade partners and we have a back door through which the nuclear industry can now sneak through into our state, not to mention all of the local jobs that are thrown into uncertainty and jeopardy.

I cannot help but stand here and reflect that yesterday (21 September) marked World Peace Day. This is a day that emerged from the horrors of World War II, where countries made a commitment to the principle of world peace. The day recognises that peace is found through fostering connections between people and between nations, and putting in the effort to understand each other. I therefore find it pretty jarring that this day, juxtaposed against last weekend in Australia and international politics, was when the Morrison government has steadfastly done just the opposite.

In announcing the purchase of nuclear-powered submarines, the government did much more than just tear up a $90 billion contract with the French government. Such announcements come at a bigger price, and I do not just mean those additional billions of dollars it will cost to build those nuclear submarines. We know that price is probably going to go up.

The AUKUS partnership comes at a price and that is the potential for escalation of violence this deal invokes. It makes Australians less safe, it aggravates already tense relationships with China and it creates new tensions internationally. It comes with a price of driving further wedges between Australia and our neighbours. I want us to consider the words of Felicity Gray, who, among other things, is writing her PhD on non-violent conflict resolution. In her response to last year’s Defence Strategic Update she stated:

There is no evidence that shows having a bigger and ‘better’ defence arsenal actually deters violence or creates peace. In fact, there is lots of evidence to the contrary.

I am proud to be a member of the Greens and have as one of our four core pillars: peace and non-violence. We should be and could be doing better as a nation to pursue peace, rather than engaging in further warmongering.

If you want your region—and I want our region—to be safe and peaceful, you do not invest in these machines of war, you do communicate with your neighbours, you provide foreign aid, and not only do you address inequality within your own country but you also meaningfully tackle issues like climate change. As Tim Hollo, Director of the Green Institute, states:

Australia has to renew its commitment to peace. In a world of nuclear-armed militaries fronting up across the South China Sea, in a world increasingly destabilised by climate disruption, in a world of pandemics, we need the deepest possible commitment to cooperation and respect.

Surely we have to be thinking, ‘What else could we have done with this money?’ We could have invested in eliminating inequality, supporting and working with our near neighbours, building social housing, investing in public transport, making sure that everyone in this state has a place to call home, not squandering it all on a deal that has now been ripped up at a cost far more expensive than that price tag.