View from The Hill: For Morrison AUKUS is all about the deal, never mind the niceties


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraScott Morrison, whose COVID face masks have the Australian flag emblazoned on them, likes to talk about “the Australian way” of doing things and Australian values.

But it is not “the Australian way” to secretly plan, over a very long time, to deceive a close friend of this country, and then to treat them in a most humiliating and disdainful manner. That does not align with “Australian values” of honesty and fair dealing.

If Australia is really surprised an angry French government has withdrawn its ambassador from Canberra (as well as its ambassador from Washington) it suggests it has no grasp of the proprieties of international diplomacy.

To add insult to injury, on Sunday Defence Minister Peter Dutton suggested the Australian government had been “upfront, open and honest” – the French could have read the signals of our discontent with their $90 billion submarines contract, including in Senate estimates hearings. This latter reference brought to mind then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggesting to Barack Obama that if he’d kept up with the Northern Territory News he’d have known about Australia’s lease of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese.




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C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?


As recently as the end of August, Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne held the “Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations” with their French counterparts. In the “bilateral cooperation” section of the communique came the sentence: “Ministers underlined the importance of the Future Submarine program”.

It’s telling that the unveiling of the new AUKUS agreement last week was surrounded by more showmanship than diplomacy. The leaders of Australia, the US and Britain were successfully linked for a synchronised performance. But Morrison apparently did not manage to speak personally to French President Macron when a massive contract was being torn up.

AUKUS carries Morrison’s individual branding. It may be the most significant legacy of his prime ministership; however long he is in office, it will certainly be one of them.

It has all the Morrison hallmarks: his own work, conceived and executed in secrecy, kept to the smallest possible round of colleagues, details to be worked out much later, and little concern for the incidental fallout.

If, 30 years on, historians rate it as a stroke of strategic foresight that greatly protected Australia in a time of Chinese potential aggression, Morrison will deserve all the credit. He says he’s been working for 18 months on this – the mustering of a new Anglosphere in our region – and he has managed to pull it off with Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, who both had their own reasons for being receptive.

On the other hand, if after 30 years, AUKUS is judged in the rear vision mirror to have escalated tensions with China to a greater degree than it protected us from Chinese aggression, history’s judgement will be different.

Even as we’re consumed by the short term, it is always worth a look at the long view. Especially when Afghanistan is fresh in our minds – a commitment that was necessary initially, but ended in a fiasco that has restored the Taliban.

Morrison’s planned nuclear-powered subs come without any estimated cost (except they’ll be more expensive than the French ones); or precise timetable (except they won’t be available for a couple of decades); or decision about which boat will be chosen (except it will be American or British), or firm indication of how much building will be done in Australia (except that it won’t be all of it and possibly only a modest amount).

If any of these aspects returns to bite, blame will (or should) rest on Morrison’s head, whether he’s around or not.

Then there’s the French relationship to manage. How long their fury will last is anybody’s guess. But given their interests in the region, it is no small thing to deliver this rebuff in what can only be seen as a crass manner.

Marise Payne may not be of great use in repairing the tear in the relationship. Her diplomatic credibility is one of the immediate casualties of the affair, especially after the recent ministerial talks. One can only imagine how the feisty Julie Bishop would have reacted to being left so compromised.

With Australia’s ambition for a free trade agreement with the European Union in mind, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, flak jacket packed, is off to Paris next week.

Also important is the message that’s been sent to some key regional countries. Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed concerns. The risk is Australia could be seen as an unexpectedly capricious player in the way it operates.

AUKUS is a mark of the supremacy of the hawks in Canberra. Although Morrison said he started planning it with former defence minister Linda Reynolds, it is a precise fit for current minister Dutton.

In thinking about defence strategy, governments of both complexions have circled around questions of long range capability, of which nuclear-powered submarines are part.

But it was not until Morrison, in the lead up to the 2020 defence strategic update, started to push Reynolds and the defence establishment to contemplate the acquisition – and potential use – of such weaponry that the real momentum came. In Dutton, Morrison has a defence minister who not only shares his instinct on this, but has a full time focus on it.




Read more:
C’est fini: can the Australia-France relationship be salvaged after scrapping the sub deal?


Some months ago the secretary of the home affairs department, Mike Pezzullo, himself a hawk, wrote of hearing the “drums of war”. It was obvious well before that Australia was preparing to refurbish and expand its own drum set in the face of an assertive China already targeting Australia economically.

Dutton and others have increasingly dropped the government’s earlier attempt to avoid naming China as the potential enemy, even if we haven’t quite got back to the red arrows from the north of those 1960s depictions.

One problem with the subs deal is that, given the pace at which things move, a China-US military blow-up over Taiwan (if it comes to that) could be done and dusted, with god knows what consequences, by the time the boats are in the water. No wonder the talk now is of leasing a sub or two to fill in the gap, given the inadequacy of the Collins-class submarines we now operate.

It should be noted, incidentally, that some commentators expert in these things say the French nuclear-powered subs (as opposed to the conventionally-powered ones we’re ditching) would be more suitable to our needs than the US or UK boats.

The government says the problem is they’d need their nuclear power refuelled every seven to ten years offshore (because Australia wouldn’t have the nuclear facility), while US and UK subs are powered for their lifetimes. That would not seem a great difficulty, but obviously reworking the French deal would not have delivered the big technological and other advantages of going the full monty with the AUKUS partners.

AUKUS will bring Australia a whole lot of other US weaponry and more boots on Australian ground.

This takes us to the future of the Port of Darwin. Just as the Coalition has botched for years its attempts to get new submarines, so the Northern Territory awarding a Chinese company the lease of the Port of Darwin was a massive snafu.

It’s no good the federal Coalition saying it was all the NT government’s fault. The defence department knew about it and wasn’t worried.

Now the Morrison government has a review of the lease in train. In light of AUKUS, with enhanced military assets in the north and our assessment of the Chinese, it would seem a logical absurdity to let the lease stand. And yet quashing it would be another demonstration of Australia’s unreliability on done deals. It’s a mess.




Read more:
ANZUS without NZ? Why the new security pact between Australia, the UK and US might not be all it seems


AUKUS will no doubt have a good many more consequences. One (not formally or totally linked of course) is expected to be a more ambitious climate policy from Australia, which Joe Biden has been urging on the Morrison government for the Glasgow climate conference.

Morrison in coming weeks will want to deliver to Biden (and Johnson), although we don’t know the extent of that delivery, or whether Barnaby Joyce will find himself struggling with any collateral fallout among his own people.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ANZUS without NZ? Why the new security pact between Australia, the UK and US might not be all it seems


Alexander Gillespie, University of WaikatoWe live, to borrow a phrase, in interesting times. The pandemic aside, relations between the superpowers are tense. The sudden arrival of the new AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the US and UK simply adds to the general sense of unease internationally.

The relationship between America and China had already deteriorated under the presidency of Donald Trump and has not improved under Joe Biden. New satellite evidence suggests China might be building between 100 and 200 silos for a new generation of nuclear intercontinental missiles.

At the same time, the US relationship with North Korea continues to smoulder, with both North and South Korea conducting missile tests designed to intimidate.

And, of course, Biden has just presided over the foreign policy disaster of withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration needs something new with a positive spin.

Enter AUKUS, more or less out of the blue. So far, it is just a statement launched by the member countries’ leaders. It has not yet been released as a formal treaty.

The Indo-Pacific pivot

The new agreement speaks of “maritime democracies” and “ideals and shared commitment to the international rules-based order” with the objective to “deepen diplomatic, security and defence co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region”.

“Indo-Pacific region” is code for defence against China, with the partnership promising greater sharing and integration of defence technologies, cyber capabilities and “additional undersea capabilities”. Under the agreement, Australia also stands to gain nuclear-powered submarines.




Read more:
Australia to build nuclear submarines in a new partnership with the US and UK


To demonstrate the depth of the relationship, the agreement highlights how “for more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have worked together, along with other important allies and partners”.

At which point New Zealand could have expected a drum roll, too, having only just marked the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS agreement. That didn’t happen, and New Zealand was conspicuously absent from the choreographed announcement hosted by the White House.

Having remained committed to the Five Eyes security agreement and having put boots on the ground in Afghanistan for the duration, “NZ” appears to have been taken out of ANZUS and replaced with “UK”.

Don’t mention the nukes

The obvious first question is whether New Zealand was asked to join the new arrangement. While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed the new partnership, she has confirmed: “We weren’t approached, nor would I expect us to be.”

That is perhaps surprising. Despite problematic comments by New Zealand’s trade minister about Australia’s dealings with China, and the foreign minister’s statement that she “felt uncomfortable” with the expanding remit of the Five Eyes, reassurances by Ardern about New Zealand’s commitment should have calmed concerns.




Read more:
Why nuclear submarines are a smart military move for Australia — and could deter China further


One has to assume, therefore, that even if New Zealand had been asked to join, it might have chosen to opt out anyway. There are three possible explanations for this.

The first involves the probable provision to Australia of nuclear-powered military submarines. Any mention of nuclear matters makes New Zealand nervous. But Australia has been at pains to reiterate its commitment to “leadership on global non-proliferation”.

Similar commitments or work-arounds could probably have been made for New Zealand within the AUKUS agreement, too, but that is now moot.

The dragon in the room

The second reason New Zealand may have declined is because the new agreement is perceived as little more than an expensive purchasing agreement for the Australian navy, wrapped up as something else.

This may be partly true. But the rewards of the relationship as stated in the initial announcement go beyond submarines and look enticing. In particular, anything that offers cutting-edge technologies and enhances the interoperability of New Zealand’s defence force with its allies would not be lightly declined.




Read more:
ANZUS at 70: Together for decades, US, Australia, New Zealand now face different challenges from China


The third explanation could lie in an assumption that this is not a new security arrangement. Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that New Zealand is not the only ally missing from the new arrangement.

Canada, the other Five Eyes member, is also not at the party. Nor are France, Germany, India and Japan. If this really was a quantum shift in strategic alliances, the group would have been wider — and more formal than a new partnership announced at a press conference.

Nonetheless, the fact that New Zealand’s supposedly extra-special relationship with Britain, Australia and America hasn’t made it part of the in-crowd will raise eyebrows. Especially while no one likes to mention the elephant – or should that be dragon? – in the room: New Zealand’s relationship with China.The Conversation

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia to build nuclear submarines in a new partnership with the US and UK


original.
AAP/EPA/Oliver Contreras

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAustralia will build a fleet of nuclear submarines as part of a new security partnership with the United States and United Kingdom, dubbed AUKUS.

The dramatic move is a response to the growing threat of China and will be seen as provocative by that country.

In an early morning address at Parliament House, part of a three-way virtual appearance with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia, the US and the UK had “always seen the world through a similar lens”.

“Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific.

“This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures. To meet these challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level.”

The submarines will be built in Adelaide, in co-operation with the UK and US.

Morrison stressed “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability”.

There will be an 18-month long effort by the three countries to develop the best plan to deliver the new capability. In doing this, expertise from the US and the UK will be used.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese indicated Labor’s general support for the submarines and sought a bipartisan mechanism for oversight of the process.

In a statement Morrison, Biden and Johnson said: “Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defence interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties.

“We will promote deeper information and technology sharing. We will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen co-operation on a range of security and defence capabilities.”

The leaders said: “The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

American nuclear-powered submarines visit Australia.

Currently, Australia has a $90 billion contract with the French for conventionally-powered submarines. This has been controversial because of the long lead time and escalating costs. Cancellation costs will run into billions of dollars.

The French government has reacted angrily. It declared the Australian decision to halt the current “Future Submarine Program” was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the co-operation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia”.

In a statement Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister for Europe and foreign affairs, and Florence Parly, minister of the armed forces, said: “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A former French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, tweeted: “The world is a jungle. France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia”.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating criticised the announcement as representing a further loss of Australian sovereignty.

The agreement for Australia “to move to a fleet of US supplied nuclear submarines will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the United States with only one underlying objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the United States against China” Keating said.

“This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under that under that country’s legislation, the nuclear submarines would not be able to visit there.

Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick, a former submariner, said the decision on nuclear submarines should come under rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

“I’ve been a strong critic of the French submarine deal. The delays and cost overruns are huge and unacceptable. But we have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly.”

Patrick said that “acquiring, operating and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet without a domestic nuclear power industry is a challenge that must not be underestimated”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt attacked the decision, saying it was “a dangerous move that makes our country less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities, increasing the risk of conflict in our region and putting Australia in the firing line”.

He said the government was trying to distract from its failures by preparing for a khaki election.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Could a France-style vaccine mandate for public spaces work in Australia? Legally, yes, but it’s complicated


Katie Attwell, The University of Western Australia and Marco Rizzi, The University of Western AustraliaSeveral jurisdictions overseas have introduced vaccine requirements for entry into public and private spaces such as schools, restaurants, public venues, and for domestic travel. Attention is turning to whether these policies would work in Australia and at what point they might be introduced.

An important consideration is whether the mandates are seeking to protect people against COVID transmission in key sectors or spaces, or whether governments are using them as a lever to push up vaccine rates in the population at large. While both can be legitimate, they are different policy goals and governments need to be transparent about which one they are pursuing.

Israel, the first jurisdiction to introduce a vaccine passport, has utilised this measure intermittently, depending on the transmission risk and coverage rates. This suggests the government has used it as a strategy to increase vaccine coverage overall.

EU countries are also utilising vaccine passports, but they have had design and implementation issues.

Despite ongoing protests to the measures in France, and to a lesser extent Italy, surveys show the majority of people in both countries approve of the measures. They have also led to a rapid increase in bookings for vaccinations.

New York City has also mandated vaccination for certain public spaces — the first government in the US to do so. There is a legal basis to do so: the Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that states could require residents to be vaccinated against small pox or be fined.

Can it be done here legally?

There is scope for Australian governments to impose a similar “vaccine passport”.

It’s important to bear in mind this kind of mandate is very different from forced vaccination (where an individual is forcibly inoculated). Rather, mandates create a set of negative consequences in cases of noncompliance.

The most obvious example in Australia is the “No Jab No Play” policies that restrict access to childcare in most states for children who are not fully immunised.

In the same vein, COVID-19 vaccination could be made mandatory for specific purposes, such as access to certain public or private spaces, travel, or certain types of employment, such as the pending vaccine requirement for aged care workers.

Proof of vaccination sign in San Francisco.
A proof of vaccination sign is posted at a bar in San Francisco.
Haven Daley/AP

From a legal perspective, the key limitation for government mandates pertains to discrimination. The mandate must not discriminate, and therefore exemptions must be available for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

There is no protection under Australian law, however, for “discrimination” against people who are opposed to vaccination because of their personal beliefs.

Countries like France and Italy have dealt with vaccine refusal by enabling people to show proof of a recent negative COVID test as an “opt-out” measure to the vaccine mandate. This is good behavioural science, since it makes the option available — albeit more burdensome — than the default of vaccination.




Read more:
Can Australian employers make you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Mostly not — but here’s when they can


Private sector vaccine mandates are also feasible in Australia for COVID-19 and other diseases. These mandates can apply to workers, clients, or both, provided they align with existing employment and consumer laws.

Unlike in the US, where many major companies are mandating COVID vaccines for employees, the measure is still framed in Australia as a possible exception to the general rule.

However, this could become more widespread in Australia after the Fair Work Commission ruled in several cases this year that it was reasonable for employers in the aged care and child care sectors to insist on flu vaccinations for staff.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like the Fair Work Ombudsman may be open to a tiered system of employment mandates.

How public and private mandates differ

Mandates may be easier to establish and implement in the private sector because companies are generally subject to less scrutiny and accountability than governments. They can also rely on arguments about their duty of care to workers and clients.

International research also shows the private sector is highly trusted, and this can provide a useful anchor if companies ask their workers or clients to vaccinate. (There is a difference, of course, between providing vaccinations at a workplace or requesting it of employees, and demanding it!)




Read more:
Vaccine mandates aren’t the only – or easiest – way for employers to compel workers to get their shots


Moreover, private companies lack some of the constraints that governments face. Government vaccine mandates must be linked to other conditions for which governments are responsible and accountable, such as the available supply of vaccines. A broad-based government mandate in the absence of adequate supply could be subject to court challenge and risk being political suicide.

By contrast, private entities do not share the same level of responsibility for providing vaccines when enacting such mandates on clients. In the case of vaccine mandates for employees, however, the duty to provide vaccines is much higher.

Accordingly, it is heartening that companies introducing employee mandates are taking steps to ensure their workers have easy and funded vaccine access. It would be great to see more companies doing this without introducing mandates first.

Despite the fact that private sector mandates may be easier to introduce, the complexity of exemptions and enforcement leads us to prefer government mandates.

Would Australians support vaccine mandates?

Our research shows Australians are broadly supportive of vaccine mandates, and our recent unpublished work indicates they prefer vaccine passports to other kinds of mandates (such as punishments or financial incentives).




Read more:
Would Australians support mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine? Our research suggests most would


However, the high levels of support for government mandates we saw in our survey last year may not be the same now, given public perceptions of the government’s vaccine rollout failure. Australians may be less trusting of government, and therefore, less supportive of government-mandated vaccinations.

This demonstrates that the obstacles to the introduction of vaccine passports are not only legal, but highly political.

To appear legitimate, a mandate needs to serve clearly articulated public health goals and be proportionate. (In particular, it has to be effective, reasonable and without a less invasive alternative available.)

Mandates can be good public policy when they are appropriately designed and defensible from ethical and epidemiological perspectives. These attributes are largely within government control.

However, when governments do not take sufficient action to address hesitancy in the community, this can create the conditions that make mandates appear attractive or necessary. Our research shows this was the case in Italy with childhood vaccines.

The danger here is that all roads automatically lead to mandates, without governments first exhausting other important strategies to encourage vaccinations.
Excellent public communications targeted to specific groups, and making access to vaccines as easy as possible, are two no-brainers.The Conversation

Katie Attwell, Senior Lecturer, The University of Western Australia and Marco Rizzi, Senior Lecturer in Law, The University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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