The Australian media’s warmongering rhetoric towards China could become a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to a devastating nuclear attack, former foreign minister Bob Carr has told Central News.

He said Australia, not the US, could find itself the prime target of a nuclear strike while supporting a US-agenda, adding the Albanese government should take on a peacemaking role between the US and China and we risked having no say over our military involvement in the Asia-Pacific

In an exclusive interview Carr, who served in the Gillard-Rudd government and was also NSW premier for a decade, urged the Albanese Government to push-back against US pressure over militarisation, and predicted it would be ‘taken for granted’ that Australia’s AUKUS submarine deal was a commitment to defend Taiwan and fight China.  

“America has been pushing at the red lines that in the past have kept the peace,” he said. “US politicians have made noises about showing support for Taiwan if there were to be a showdown with China.

“As the Chinese see it, this is the world abandoning them and abandoning strategic ambiguity. The submarine deal raises expectations, especially in America, that were there to be a showdown [with China] Australia could be counted on.

“Unless Australia is prepared to push back, we’ll absolutely be taken for granted. We won’t have any say, we won’t have any influence, even when our forces are involved.”

The aftermath of last week’s announcement of a $368 billion deal to buy 11 nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact has been met with a wave of criticism from senior political figures.

Former defence minister Gareth Evans, former environment minister Peter Garrett, and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull all voiced concerns the deal will inflame the already strained relationship between Australia and China. None was more bold than former prime minister Paul Keating who blasted the media and the Albanese government, calling it “the worst deal in all history”.  

In a showdown between the US and China in which we declare for the US… then Australia presents to the Chinese some surrogate targets.

Carr was also critical of recent media coverage speculating on the threat of war with China which had fuelled national fears over Australia’s defence capabilities and presented a Chinese invasion as “inevitable”. Carr said buying into this narrative could have catastrophic outcomes and that a self-fulfilling prophecy of war was the real danger.  

“Once you create the impression of a showdown as inevitable you’re increasing the possibility that any difference can be over-egged and seen as a justification for war,” he said. “A war would be a disaster for our region, with a real danger of it becoming nuclear – a tragedy for the planet.

“In a showdown between the US and China in which we declare for the US, because that seems to be the way the media and some of our security officials are trending, then Australia presents to the Chinese some surrogate targets.

“That is targets they could pick off rather than taking the huge step of hitting the American mainland. And that is a terrifying position for Australia.”

Carr, who addressed a peace rally in Marrickville on Sunday alongside MP David Shoebridge, slammed the deal in a sit-down interview at his office in Martin Place, telling Central News he feared it would swiftly evolve into a regional arms race and had cornered Australia into one defence strategy.  

The key to preserving the peace in the Taiwan Strait, he said, had been Australia’s diplomatic formula of “strategic ambiguity” – acknowledging Taiwan as a province of China, a position until recently also shared by the United States.  But the US’s abandonment of the strategy and development of the AUKUS pact with Australia and the UK had raised the stakes in the alliance, while leaving many unanswered questions about Australia’s preparedness to maintain its independence in conflict.

On Monday, Defence Minister Richard Marles insisted Australia has no formal commitment to support the US in any future conflict over Taiwan in exchange for nuclear submarines, saying they were to protect Australia’s sea lanes and shipping trade routes.  

However, Mr Carr said the country’s defence strategy could have been achieved with the now scrapped French submarine deal with Naval Group, that could have provided more submarines at a fraction of the cost. 

Is sinking every available dollar into one technology the best way of assuring our position?

“When you allocate this much, $360 billion, to one defence technology there is what economists call an opportunity cost,” he said.

“There are things that would be desirable for our defence you simply cannot afford. Is sinking every available dollar into one technology the best way of assuring our position?”

Carr said the provocative difference between investing in nuclear submarines versus conventional was the ability for Australia to operate further afield, potentially into Chinese waters and attack Chinese targets.

“That’s a pretty belligerent posture for Australia to take,” he said. “That means us taking an adversarial position towards a nuclear power.”

An anti-war advocate, Carr said the future of diplomatic relations between Australia and China should be strengthened through transparent communication and cooperation.  

“I just want an emphasis that gives us a bit more collaboration and peaceful competition and gets away from the war talk,” he said.

“We manage our differences. That we can accept we’re dealing with countries with different political systems and different strategic challenges. We’ve got a lot to work on in common and we should be elevating that common agenda.”

At the rally on Sunday, which also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the US’s illegal invasion of Iraq, he argued the AUKUS deal’s real purpose was to bolster US dominance in the Asia-Pacific as the global superpower, and that the Biden government needed to view China as a respective superpower. 

“[Australia should be] steering the Chinese to exploring, at every opportunity, peaceful coexistence with the United States,” he added, “and, with the Americans… steering them to the view that every difference is not an invitation for them to assert their primacy, their dominance, their leadership. But an opportunity to achieve common solutions to common problems.”

Main image MidJourney montage with Dept. of  Foreign Affairs/Flickr pic.