CND Chair Dave Webb participated in an international rally against AUKUS in October 2021. Please find the text of the speech as follows:
Firstly, I would like to express solidarity with Australian peace campaigners who are mobilising the protest against AUKUS and the nuclearization of Australia. I also want to apologise to the many peoples of the Pacific for the death and destruction created by past policies of the UK in the region and for the present aggressive polices and actions taking place now.
I will be speaking from a UK perspective and we can only speculate why or how the UK is involved – no detailed information has been forthcoming but it does seem like Boris Johnson is once again very happy to cling to the coat-tails of the US in another desperate attempt to retain a nuclear industry in the UK, create a few more jobs in nuclear reactor production, and boost the humiliating and nonsensical idea of how a ‘global Britain’ can become an important international player.
Johnson said to Parliament that the new agreement does not contravene the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – as the transfer of technology involves nuclear power not nuclear weapons and Scott Morrison has said that Australia will not be pursuing a nuclear weapons or a civil nuclear power capacity but from what we have just heard, this does not seem likely.
And, although the NPT does not stop the exchange of civil nuclear technology, it does require that it must be ‘for peaceful purposes’ and in this case, weapons-grade enriched uranium will be provided to a non-nuclear weapons state to power their military submarines which will be used in an area of the world where international tensions are running dangerously high.
This cannot in any way be viewed as ‘for peaceful purposes’.
If the technology were to come from the UK, then it would be another example of a breach of international law to be added to the 40% increase in the UK nuclear arsenal which was announced just a few months ago in the recent integrated defence and security review. A legal opinion by legal experts commissioned by CND found that the UK is guilty of a clear breach of Article VI of the NPT and also of international humanitarian law, which we will be reporting to the up-coming NPT conference.
At the moment though, there are a lot of unanswered questions – will Australia build the submarines or purchase them – and if they are to be purchased then who from? Where will the highly enriched uranium needed for the reactors come from? And perhaps one of the most important points, from the UK point of view, who will provide the reactors and the technology to run and maintain them?
The reactors involved use uranium enriched to 95% – weapons grade material. The US and UK have cooperated on this type of technology under the terms of the Mutual Defence Agreement, which came into force in 1958. The agreement is renewed by parliament every decade, and the last time, in 2014, it allowed for greater cooperation on reactor technology
For Australia, it would seem to be much easier to buy these reactors than develop them themselves and Johnson’s comments so far about jobs that he will try and get reactor orders for the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby.
And this is also another example of the UK dangerously provoking China. It follows on from the UK aircraft carrier’s tour to the South China Sea, the banning of the Huawei equipment from UK networks and the moves to kick China General Nuclear off the project to build a £20bn nuclear power station at Sizewell C power station and for the government to take a stake in it instead, alongside the French state-backed EDF. Although who knows how that will work now that the French government has been elbowed out of their lucrative contract with Australia?
All of these actions, have been highly controversial at home and internationally – the joint governments’ statement has even suggested that AUKUS will ‘promote stability in the Indo-Pacific’ – but there is absolutely no chance of that!
It is in fact increasing tensions in the region and beyond just before COP 26 when cooperation with China and between all nations is so urgently needed to deal with the climate emergency.
Thanks very much.