“The Americans will never condone or accept a state as large as them. That’s what China presents. They would have preferred that [China] – 20 per cent of humanity – remained in poverty forever. But the fact that China is now an industrial economy larger than the United States … it is not in the playbook.”
“This is what [Aukus] is about, the maintenance of the US strategic hegemony in Asia.”
Keating urged Australia to seek its security in Asia utilising its sovereignty, and not with defence deals with the likes of the US, which he said hoped to be the “primary strategic power in Asia” despite having “no land in the metropolitan zone of Asia” and is 10,000 kilometres away.
He also pointed to a similar move by the UK to edge into Asia, on the premise of putting together a “global Britain”.
“So they’re looking around for suckers and they found all here,” he said.
“So here we are, 230 years after we left Britain .. we are returning to Cornwall [G7 meeting] and now Rishi Sunak, to find our security in Asia. How deeply pathetic is that?” he said.
While the Albanese government had promoted the potentially A$368 billion (US$245 billion) Aukus submarine deal as necessary to protect Australia’s national security, it would be ineffective in the event of a war with China, Keating said.
The war in Ukraine has showcased how invasions would involve Chinese land troops and troop ships coming to Australia, with their advance taken down by Australian planes and missiles long before they get to the shores of Australia. There was also the problem of the long stretch of ocean between the two countries, he added.
“The idea that we need American submarines to protect us – three [submarines] are going to protect us from the might of China. The rubbish of it, the rubbish,” he said.
The submarines – which would not arrive until 2030s – are also large and detectable from space unlike Australia’s traditional Collins-class submarines that were designed to sit on Australia’s continental shelves and repel invasions, Keating said.
Australia’s Collins-class submarines were ageing and were due to be replaced by an original order of diesel-powered submarines from France, until that contract was torn up by the former Scott Morrison government in favour of Aukus. Photo: Reuters
The Collins-class submarines were ageing and were due to be replaced by an original order of diesel-powered submarines from France, until that contract was torn up by the former Scott Morrison government in favour of Aukus.
It sent Australia’s diplomatic relations with France into a tailspin.
Keating also said the Australian government failed to tell the Australian public that the Aukus submarines – designed to sit off the coast of China to take down Chinese threats – could also be spotted quickly on the shallower Chinese ocean shelves.
On Australia’s response when China acts aggressively in the South China Sea over territorial disputes, Keating said it was important to know that it was not a problem until Chinese activity interfered with US presence in the sea.
“The US Defense department’s annual report to Congress in late 2022 said ‘the PRC aims to restrict the United States from having a presence on China’s periphery’. In other words, China aims to keep US navy ships off its coast. Shocking. Imagine how the US would react if China’s blue water navy did its sightseeing off the coast of California,” he said.
It was also wrong to categorise China’s recent trade restrictions as threats that warranted military retaliation or defence, he added.
“You can’t impute that a tax or a tariff on wine or barley is equivalent to an invasion of the country. China does not threaten Australia, has not threatened Australia, does not intend to threaten Australia,” he said, pointing out that commercial rows between countries are common.
China also imposed anti-dumping duties on Australian barley and wine for unfair dominance in the Chinese market. These have reduced Australian exports to near zero.
Against Beijing’s two wine and barley complaints at the World Trade Organization, Australia in turn brought 87 anti-dumping cases against the world’s second largest economy.
When asked how he was so sure that China did not pose a military threat, Keating said: “What would be the point? They get the iron ore, the coal or wheat? What would be the point of China wanting to occupy Sydney and Melbourne militarily?”