Protestors have marched down the streets of Sydney calling for the controversial AUKUS deal to be abolished months after Australia announced a $368 billion contract.

Over 150 people gathered at Town Hall last night to voice their opposition to the trilateral alliance between Australia, the UK and the United States. Frustrations continue to mount over the deal which will see Australia acquire 11 nuclear armed submarines over the next 30+ years.

“AUKUS is a bad policy agreed for the wrong reasons,” said Marcus Strom, spokesperson for the Labour Against War group.

“We want the government to review and reconsider the AUKUS pact with a view to withdrawing.”

Gem Romuld, Australia’s director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons slammed the deal saying it would invite armed conflict, rather than be a deterrant.

I think the AUKUS deal puts a giant target on Australia’s back

“This new government is taking us in the opposite direction of what so many of us want… a nuclear free and an independent foreign and defence policy,” she said. “The people want peace, we always want peace.”

James Miranda, assistant secretary of Australian Young Labour and national policy officer of the Electrical Trades Union, said the government had turned its back on addressing issues affecting everyday Australians.

“We won’t stand for $500 billion of public money being spent on shoehorning a nuclear industry into our backyards,” he said.

“Not while there is so much to do on energy transition, on getting wages moving again, on looking after our most vulnerable and resourcing our essential public services.”

Protesters at the rally organised by the Sydney Anti-AUKUS coalition (SAAC) expressed outrage at the path AUKUS would pave for the presence of nuclear weapons in Australia, with a new agreement for a regular rotation of US nuclear submarines through Australian ports.

“In terms of the scale of the destruction they [nuclear weapons] cause and their persistent radioactive legacy these weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate ever created,” said Romuld, who also founded Wollongong Against War on Nukes, a community led group opposed to government plans for a nuclear submarine base in Port Kembla.

Strom said the government is lagging behind in efforts to pursue nuclear non-proliferation, and urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Australia has not signed the treaty which came into effect in 2021.

“Time to sign the treaty Mr Albanese,” Strom said.

Marcus Strom addresses the crowd at Town Hall square. Image by Pranav Harish

The Prime Minister has defended the government’s decision to enter into the deal despite the criticism.

In his remarks alongside US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at San Diego when the three leaders announced the final details of the deal, Albanese said: “The AUKUS agreement… represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in all of our history.”

He said the the alliance between the US and Australia represents an important part of “strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region”.

The cost of the deal blew out of the water from previous government defence contracts, the largest being the original $90 billion submarine contract with France’s Naval Group, which the Morrison government controversially tore up before unveiling the AUKUS deal.

Image by Pranav Harish.

“We want a world of cooperation between countries. We want a world where the cooperation is not based on increasing militarisation” said Mahesh White-Radhakrishnan, Acting Chair of Hindus for Human Rights Australia and New Zealand.

Yasmin Johnson, an education officer at the University of Sydney’s student representative council was one of several protestors who believe Australia has put itself in harm’s way through the nuclear alliance.

“I think the AUKUS deal puts a giant target on Australia’s back,” she said. “Getting nuclear powered submarines… presents a massive threat to ordinary people rather than a form of defence.”

Another protestor, Julius, labelled the AUKUS pact irresponsible.

“Ordinary people are going through a cost of living crisis,” he said. “The government has chosen to spend on weapons of war.”

Main image credits: Pranav Harish.