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Keating Warns of Labor Revolt on Nuclear Submarines

Support for the hugely expensive US acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines has sullied Labor’s foreign policy record and has “no mandate” within the party, says former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Mr Keating took no prisoners in a sweeping National Press Club speech on the AUKUS submarine deal on the deal announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday, and his thoughts on senior government figures.

Under the deal, Australia will acquire 11 nuclear-powered submarines for $367 billion, three of them used in the US and the rest in a design yet to be finalized.

On Wednesday, Keating said that was impractical, but it was also a sign that the Albanian government’s foreign policy was focused on US interests.

“For the cost, $360 billion, we will get eight subs,” he said.

“It must be the worst deal in all of history.”

Keating reserved special criticism for “two reckless ministers” – Defense Secretary Richard Marles and Foreign Secretary Penny Wong – who he said had led Labor to try to neutralize the Coalition’s advantage on defense and foreign policy. by reducing the differences between the parties.

“If you adopt the foreign policy of the Liberal Party… you can stay out of trouble, but you are compromised,” he said. “Self-committed.”

Comments have been sought from the ministers’ offices.

Earlier, Keating described the AUKUS plan as the worst decision by Labor in government since wartime Prime Minister Billy Hughes tried to introduce conscription.

He was quick to respond when asked by a reporter why he was so sure that AUKUS was unnecessary and that China did not pose a military threat to Australia.

“Because I have a brain,” he replied.

The former prime minister was spared no sentiments as he meandered through topics such as the state of foreign policy, the quality of journalism in Canberra and the national security “ning nongs” in the intelligence services.

“If I were you, mate, I’d hide my face,” he helpfully advised a writer for a metropolitan newspaper whose recent coverage of China had been assessed as rather aggressive.

To another, who disputed his criticism of the deal because he hadn’t been brief “on the subject since the mid-1990s,” Keating was equally curt.

“You don’t need a report from the silly security agencies we have in Canberra to tell you that. I mean, I know you’re trying to ask a question, but the question is so dumb it’s barely worth answering,” she said.

In scathing comments that came close to inviting policy-dissatisfied MPs to test the waters in the party room, Keating said AUKUS had little support in local branches of the Labor Party or in the parliamentary party.

“There is no mandate within the Labor Party, no mandate (for what…) the Albanese Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and (Defense Minister) Richard Marles are doing it,” he said.

“When the average member of the Labor Party branch gets on this… I think there will be a big reaction.”

Keating said the longer-range nuclear submarines that were key to the deal would not better defend Australia. Instead, they would be used only to bring Australia closer to the coast of China, and possibly into conflict.

The former prime minister, a longtime critic of sacred cows in Australian foreign policy, including the American alliance, said that despite being on the Labor right, he had been rendered politically homeless by a foreign policy he said , had been devised jointly with the Coalition.

“Every member of the Labor Party branch will shudder to realize that the party we all fought for is returning to our former colonial master, Britain, to find our safety in Asia,” Keating said.

“They embraced the strategic wishes of the United States, without criticism,” he said.

“This is not allowed (…it now makes me and other former Labor MPs) look like Bolsheviks.”

Albanese joined their American and British counterparts in San Diego this week to announce the 30-year deal.

“However, only one pays: our guy,” Keating said.

“We’ve been here before: Australia’s international interests subsumed by those of our allies.

“The government of Anthony Albanese has taken over and taken over the strategic architecture of the Morrison government, but he took it on in its entirety and with unprecedented enthusiasm.”

Keating denied being motivated by personal business interests in China. Rather, he said that he was moved to speak out of concern.

“History will be the judge of this project in the end,” he said. “But I want my name to be clearly recorded among those who say it’s a mistake.”

Keating said Albanese had not sought the opportunity to discuss foreign policy issues with him earlier this year, prompting him to air them in a public forum.

“In general, I have found that the Prime Minister is responsive to calls, texts and emails,” he said.

That changed in February, he said, when he sent the prime minister a lengthy email outlining a leader’s duty to uphold national sovereignty.

When he received no response, Mr. Keating contacted Mr. Albanese’s office seeking discussion prior to any major decision on AUKUS. He said that he decided to speak publicly when that approach was also rejected.