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Speech: AUKUS Land Acquisition Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise as one of two speakers for the Greens today to speak to the AUKUS (Land Acquisition) Bill 2024. We are told it is a bill for an act to facilitate the AUKUS submarine project by providing for the acquisition of certain land. That certain land, of course, is on the Lefevre Peninsula.

The Greens will be opposing this bill. We are horrified that yet again something to do with AUKUS has been rushed through without community consultation and without a public conversation. We do actually stand with the community, we believe. There has never been a public conversation in Australia about signing ourselves up to AUKUS.

There was long discussion about previous submarine programs and, indeed, long discussion saying that they would not be nuclear powered, then suddenly overnight under the Morrison government we wake up one morning to find that we have signed up to a deal with the UK and the US—the US, which is verging on a failed state at this point, with uncertain leadership into the future— and then to have that, after the election, repeated by the now Albanese government without public conversation, without public social licence and, within the Labor Party, without a platform that supported that prior to the last election.

Indeed, there are 368 billion reasons why we oppose this AUKUS deal. It is a dud deal. In fact, it is around $32 million every day for the next 30 years to acquire a decreasing number of— seven or eight—nuclear submarines. That has to be the most expensive job creation scheme in world history.

What we do know of that $368 billion is that South Australia has yet to see very little of it. Our state is supporting things like an AUKUS office, and the Premier flies interstate and overseas to spruik AUKUS and to keep in good with those in pillar one, the UK and the US, but what we actually have seen and what we have been guaranteed is something that the Greens believe should be the debate of our parliaments.

As I say, yet again here we are in a state parliament stripping away our current state laws, ramming and rushing a bill through the parliament to swap a small parcel of land all for the god of AUKUS. Indeed, the Albanese federal government's half trillion dollar nuclear submarine plan is not about defending our nation, it is about projecting force in the South China Sea and trying to make us complicit with the war-making ambitions of the US and the UK. It is a dangerous deal that makes us less safe.

It particularly makes the people on Lefevre Peninsula less safe. In this bill that we debate right now in this parliament the people of the Lefevre Peninsula have not been consulted, they have not even been asked. In fact, as we will get to when we explore the committee stage of this bill, there was a letter written to the mayor, after a phone call to the mayor, pretty much on the day that this bill lobbed into the parliament. That is not consultation, that is not a commitment to democracy and it is not the social licence being given that should be for such an obscene amount of money.

In fact, for that obscene amount of money, so large that it does not fit into the federal budget and is now cited as a proportion of GDP, we could actually fix any single issue in this nation that needs fixing with money. Yet, here we are, debating and making it even easier for them to fritter away all of that. Most of us will be long gone when the AUKUS deal—should it come to fruition—ever comes to fruition. I note the words of the Hon. Frank Pangallo, that he hopes to see it before he meets his maker. I would not hold my breath if I was anyone in this place expecting these promises, this dud deal done in the dead of night, first under the Morrison government and now perpetuated by the Albanese government, to actually come to fruition.

Many people, quietly, in the corridors, say, 'Don't worry, it's actually not going to come to fruition'—that is even worse. For those who have a commitment to this they should be prepared to put their case for it, explain and have a conversation with the Australian people about this AUKUS deal, but for those who just say, 'Don't worry about it, it will fritter away,' we are also frittering away a lot of money and that is a lot of lost opportunity that could go into investment, into education, into health, into a whole range of environmental good, and it is also frittering away the inheritance of future generations. In fact, history will not look kindly upon us all for this dopey deal. Indeed, after Morrison's midnight mania, Albo showed that the only discernible difference between himself and ScoMo is the football team they both support.

Labor wants to spend almost $32 million every day for the next 30 years acquiring nuclear submarines, and that can happen; however, if we want to lift people out of poverty in this nation, if we want to close the gender pay gap, if we want to really invest in higher education, education or health, apparently we have to wait and it cannot possibly be done.

What we should be doing is building a safe and peaceful future for our nation and our regions. What we should have is a defence force designed to defend Australia, not to threaten our neighbours. Yet, this toxic deal has bipartisan, old party support with barely a whimper raised. I have been told, particularly by journalists, that moves within the Australian Labor branch rank and file movement to move motions at a local branch level are quashed, staffers are brought in, numbers are stacked and dissent is silenced. I note that the federal member for Fremantle does appear to be listening, but he may not be the federal member for Fremantle much longer at this rate.

The absurdity of the AUKUS deal is not lost on me, but for those members of this parliament and this council I draw to your attention the debate just recently in the US: the National Defense Authorization Act debate. It is worth reading. It was an actual debate and it involved AUKUS, and in that debate the emperor's new clothes were revealed to be non-existent.

Indeed, we are not guaranteed the sale of these nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS deal. The NDAA instead clarified that any possible transfer of nuclear submarines from the US to Australia is 'contingent on Australia operating within US national interests'—not Australian national interest but the United States' national interest. I ask you: in whose interest is that? Certainly not the people of Australia, and it certainly should not be something that the parliaments of Australia are standing by and complacently waving through.

The National Defense Authorization Act states that nine months before a submarine can be transferred a future US president—whoever that may be, and we know it may well be Donald Trump in coming months—would only use these submarines 'consistent with United States foreign policyand national security interests'. It goes on to absolutely underscore this with, 'If this is not guaranteed, then no submarines will be transferred.' Perhaps this is what those people in the Labor Party who have concerns about this are quietly hoping for, that apparently we will invest all this money and we may never actually get what we have signed up for.

Forget 'all the way with LBJ'; we are all the way with Trump now. Perhaps we are Biden's boosters. After Trump and Biden, what comes next? What have we signed ourselves up to? This is not the deal of the century. This is a dud deal and it should not be complicitly waved through every single time it comes to the floor of a parliament in this country.

We saw standing orders suspended for this bill in the other place, and the Liberal opposition in lockstep with the Labor government just rolled over. They did not ask many questions. They asked a few questions and accepted all the answers that they were given. They certainly did not query whether or not the local council, whose land is being acquired here, had actually properly been consulted.

The Hon. R.A. Simms: They don't care about that. It is whatever the US wants.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (The Hon. R.B. Martin): Order!

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: We see it yet again. I want to also draw members' attention to a recent meeting on the Lefevre Peninsula at St Bede's in Semaphore. There was standing room only of local community concerned about the AUKUS deal, who have not been asked by the Labor governments—be they Malinauskas or Albanese—who have not been consulted about this land grab by their local council, who are not complicit in the silenced dissent and lack of community conversation around this issue.

There was standing room only in that local church hall on a Sunday afternoon. That is what is coming for Labor and Liberal if they do not start to take seriously the utterly appalling amount of money that we are signing ourselves up to for something that may never even happen and if it does happen it will make us less safe, not more.

As our senator who is the spokesperson for the Greens for defence, David Shoebridge, has said, the debate in the US has been an unmasking moment because it is now written in black and white that Australia can either have an independent foreign policy or US nuclear submarines, but it cannot have both. The act does not guarantee Australian nuclear submarines. There are so many get-out-of-jail-free cards written into this legislation for the United States to meet the demand for the United States and AUKUS submarines. The US needs a fivefold increase in its nuclear submarine building industrial base, and there is no credible plan to even get close to this.

Ultimately, it is a media moment, not a structural solution, because it kicks the real problems down the road for future administrations to deal with. The immediate danger for Australia is not that we will receive hugely expensive nuclear submarines but that we will surrender any pretence of independent foreign policy to Washington.

I observe that currently the US cannot build enough nuclear submarines to meet their own needs. Anyone who is paying attention to the US Congress, anyone who is paying attention to the debate in the United States on this, will know they are not even making enough currently for their own needs. How on earth do you think they are going to be making enough to then sell to us?

The Greens stand with former Prime Ministers, the Greens stand with the community and the Anti-AUKUS Coalition, movements of peace, of unions—unions which have pledged green bans. The Greens stand with rank and file Labor Party members and Labor Against War in opposing this bill today, because we do oppose the AUKUS deal. It is a dud deal, it is a dopey deal and it is a deal that does not have democracy of our nation or our national interest behind it.

With that, I have many questions of the minister. I note that in the second reading contribution no speech was made by the minister in this place. The speech in the other place of Minister Champion is certainly something that was rushed through on the day and raises quite a few questions, and I look forward to each and every one of those questions being answered in this place, at least having some semblance of pretence of democracy left. With that, the Greens oppose the bill.

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