Adelaide ‘no nuclear subs’ campaign sets sail

“Here we are again,” said MC Anne McMenamin, harking back to decades of protest against war, the nuclear industry and military adventures with the US. McMenamin was launching the 24 September No Nuclear Subs rally on Kaura Yerta (Adelaide).

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), School Strike 4 Climate, Friends of the Earth and several other groups supported the evening protest, which gathered about 150 people at Parliament House.

“It’s not OK to be building nuclear subs anywhere, but certainly not in suburban Adelaide,” Jim Green from Friends of the Earth told the crowd. Green stressed the “crude, ugly racism” of the existing push to dump nuclear waste on the lands of the Barngala people, against their wishes.

The $100 billion-plus cost of the waste dump could match the bill for the subs themselves, doubling the obscene waste of resources.

Greens Senate candidate Barbara Pocock highlighted how conservatives “wrap themselves in the cloak of employment creation” to get support for their schemes. “We know that the jobs we need in our state are in the renewable sector, in green manufacturing, in green hydrogen, in our health system, in our education system. We should be investing in our arts industry and our universities.”

Pocock continued: “We need to shift the blank cheque that’s been proposed for this idea, over $90 billion … to the true existential crisis we face, not create another existential crisis, and that’s to the issue of climate change, and to the employment future for our kids.”


In the days before the rally, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and MUA released excellent statements against AUKUS and the submarine plan.

The MUA marked the 21 September International Day of Peace by declaring: “Workers have no interest in war with China or any other country. Every effort should be made to pursue peaceful relations.

“The MUA stands in solidarity with workers in all countries in opposing war and wasteful environmentally harmful military spending. We pledge our opposition to oppose the development of nuclear submarines in Australia, and the development of any other nuclear industry.”

Unions were represented in the speeches by a statement from Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) SA Branch Secretary John Adley, which argued: “In introducing nuclear military technology, Morrison will create unnecessary defence, security, environmental and health and safety risks for Australians without any consultation and without any endorsement from the people who are picking up the bill, whilst trashing our national reputation.”

The peak body SA Unions has been more ambiguous. While a statement mentioned “the risks and dangers of nuclear power”, the ABC quoted Secretary Dale Beasley saying: “It’s … welcome news that the future nuclear submarines will be built in SA.” An online petition calling for SA Unions to take a clear stand against nuclear subs has already gained over 150 signatures.


Adley’s statement touched on a potential pitfall for the movement, also evident in talk of “surrendering control to the US”, “following the US into wars” and calls for an “independent Australia”.

“Australia” is an ongoing imperialist project of occupation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land. It’s no accident that its rulers, Labor and Liberal alike, seek every opportunity to strengthen their ties with a bigger imperial ally like the US. The Guardian reported that “British sources said the conversations about the nuclear power deal were initiated by the Australians”.

When former Australian Submarine Corporation CEO Hans Ohff slammed the nuclear subs plan as “insane”, rally organisers considered inviting him to speak. But Australian bosses—let alone Australian arms bosses—are Australian workers’ main enemy. Instead we need to stand for First Nations sovereignty and international working class solidarity.

Our allies are the workers in China who are targeted by Australian weapons, not the bosses who profit from them. Fantasies of a non-imperialist Australia can only lead to illusions in “progressive” bosses, and more divisions between workers along national lines.

The rally crowd was on the older side, with many veterans of past peace and anti-nuclear campaigns. Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott warned: “Our kids, our little ones are going to hate us parents for leaving big holes in the ground, sending them off to wars, killing somebody else. That’s got to stop.”

Stephen Darley, from the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, spoke of the need to “convince young people, in particular, that the war drive and addressing climate change are wholly incompatible with each other”. Encouraging university and School Strike climate activists to join the fight in numbers will help it build.

An open campaign organising meeting was heavily publicised at the rally: Saturday 9 October, 2.30pm at The Joinery, 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide city. Activists look forward to building on a great start, aiming to sink the AUKUS subs deal once and for all.

By an Adelaide socialist


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