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Labor Seeks to Ease Disquiet in Party Ranks on AUKUS, Redoubling Non-Nuclear Commitments


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Labor will redouble its non-nuclear commitments in an effort to reassure the party faithful, as the party’s national conference debates the decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS deal.

Labor delegates from across the country are in Brisbane for the party’s national conference to determine the direction of the party in the years to come.

The government is bracing for what Defence Minister Richard Marles said could be a “difficult” debate on AUKUS this morning, with the policy strongly opposed within some parts of Labor.

“We’re not afraid of a difficult debate. That’s what happens at Labor Party conferences and we let the country see that,” Mr Marles told Channel Nine.

“But I very much know how important this is for our nation … we simply have to take the step towards nuclear propulsion.”

The federal government has been unwavering in honouring commitments made by the former Coalition government to acquire nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the United States and United Kingdom, but there has been disquiet within the Labor Party.

A number of Labor branches have passed resolutions against AUKUS, while former prime minister Paul Keating, an icon of the party, has become a rallying standard against what he called Labor’s “worst” international deal since conscription.

The nuclear vessels have also sat uncomfortably with some unions that hold longstanding anti-nuclear stances.

Mr Albanese on 7.30 last night dismissed concerns about disagreement within Labor, saying it was a democratic party that welcomed debate.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said there was not unanimous agreement in the community and it was appropriate that delegates were raising the issue.

“One of the reasons why we have these conferences is to give people the opportunity to express a view,” he said.

“It’d be pretty strange if we invited thousands of people here to Brisbane for a conference where everybody already agreed with everything.

“There’s not a unanimous view in the party rank and file about that issue.”

While some delegates will be given the chance to express their views on AUKUS, the government has sought to ward off potentially damaging debate on national security in public view.

The most forceful debate has happened for months behind closed doors, with union leaders still meeting to determine their position hours before the conference formally began.

Labor to recommit to non-nuclear proliferation efforts

Defence Minister Richard Marles will this morning move a detailed statement to recommit the government to ensure the submarines will be built in South Australia, and to “uphold its proud history” of championing nuclear disarmament.

That agreement will include ensuring Australia remains fully committed to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga.

Ahead of the conference, anti-nuclear campaigners had called on Labor to set a time line for ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

While Labor’s party platform does not typically include time frames for commitments, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Gem Romuld, said a promise to sign the nuclear ban treaty had been in Labor’s platform since 2018 when it was moved by Anthony Albanese, and it was time to act.

“We hope this conference will be a meaningful step forward for that,” Ms Romuld said.

Source : ABC


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