National Tertiary Education Union speaks out against nuclear subs plan

NTEU Statement on Australia’s Nuclear Submarine Announcement

Posted 22 September 2021 by Matthew McGowan (NTEU National Office)

The NTEU is alarmed by the announcement by the Australian Government of its agreement with the United States of America and the United Kingdom to build nuclear powered submarines, with no apparent regard as to the costs to be incurred or regional political impact of the arrangement.

The Government has told universities and other public higher education providers that they can’t afford to assist Australia’s 4th largest export industry, yet this Government is prepared to agree to what it already acknowledges will be a multi-billion dollar agreement, sight unseen.

Furthermore, after billions of dollars and years wasted on the now cancelled $90 Billion French submarine agreement, the Government’s ‘blank cheque’ approach to this announcement is stunningly irresponsible and belies the lip service they pay to higher education.

The Union strongly supports the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) and condemns the expansion of both the number of countries with nuclear weapons and the global numbers of nuclear weapons since the treaty was concluded.  While the Federal Government has indicated that these submarines will be fitted with conventional weapons, there are decades to come between this announcement and the actual delivery, and history has shown that in all instances, the possession of nuclear-powered submarines is linked to the development of nuclear weapons capacity in the countries concerned.

NTEU joins ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) in calling on the Federal Government to immediately ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in line with our regional neighbours.

The NTEU also recognises that the decision by the Australian Government to adopt nuclear technology within our military capacity will potentially negatively affect Australia’s strategic foreign policy standing. In particular, the Union is deeply concerned that the Government’s decision carries real risks of increased regional instability with Australia becoming a central player in a “cold war” strategy.

The NTEU supports the peaceful use of nuclear technology where it exists to support humanity and protect our environment, primarily in the use of nuclear medicine. However, adapting nuclear technology for military purposes, without ratifying the Treaty is needlessly reckless.