One nuclear sub could fund SRS to 2040: Garrett 

For the cost of one AUKUS submarine, the federal government could fully fund the schooling resource standard for public schools up to 2040, music legend, activist and former Labor education minister Peter Garrett told Federation’s Annual Conference. 

In keeping with Federation’s long and proud history of involvement with the peace movement, Conference delegates voted to continue to work with the anti-war, peace and broader union movements to expose and oppose the threat inherent in the rise in militarism, represented by the AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) alignment. 

In his speech earlier, Mr Garrett sided with former prime minister Paul Keating, who labelled the deal for the eight subs under the AUKUS treaty the worst decision by an Australian Labor government since former Labor leader Billy Hughes sought to introduce conscription in World War I. 

“My initial reaction was that AUKUS stinks,” Mr Garrett said. “Closer scrutiny of the sketchy details confirms it stinks to high heaven and it is, as I’ve said, one of the biggest, most costly and risky decisions – short of committing a nation to war – that has ever been taken by any Australian government.” 

Mr Garrett told Conference that “for less than half the price we could buy off-the-shelf conventional submarines, which are more than adequate for the defensive task”. 

“And for less than the price of just one [submarine], the federal government could be funding the SRS [schooling resource standard] for 13 years of school for students up until 2040,” he said. 

“As for employment, it’s looking like around $18 million per job [to build them], which is pretty good; it’s not, it’s a scandal! Each submarine will carry around the equivalent of three Hiroshima bombs of radioactive material, where were these floating radioactive monsters dock? 

“The people of Port Kembla know about where they were thinking of having them dock, what protection will be afforded defence personnel and citizens, who live nearby and further afield.  

“If ever built, successive generations will have to store and control large volumes of high-level, weapons-grade nuclear waste for which there is currently no, repeat no, comprehensive or prudent plan to safely manage.” 

Mr Garrett reminded delegates that it was the anniversary of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that Australia is effectively bypassing the international disarmament framework – based on non-nuclear powers not embracing nuclear – which the nation has supported and been a part of for the past 55 years.  

“It is fanciful for current ministers to maintain that Australia will act in good faith in relation to our stewardship of weapons-grade nuclear materials and observe all the proprieties required by the International Atomic Energy Agency given that the current administration simply can’t define the future actions any subsequent government,” he said. 

“Now the Liberal-National Party has always harboured the desire for costly and unsafe nuclear power and, such is their insecurity and need for bravado, some have even argued for nuclear weapons in this country. Imagine Barnaby Joyce as defence minister. Need I say more?” 

Mr Garrett called his time as education minister in the Gillard government “one of the most satisfying” of his public life. 

“Formally building relationships with this union and with the union leadership and to see how important what you do is every day for every single family in this country, means a great deal to me and I remember that time very fondly,” he said.