One of Australia’s most famous former PMs has issued a serious warning over our approach to China.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has issued a fresh warning to Australia over China, urging the Morrison government to reassess its approach to the volatile global superpower.
Speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Keating said it was shameful that Australia had failed to successfully established its position in the strategic environment of Asia.
“We are still trying to find our security from Asia rather than in Asia,” Mr Keating said.
“We have the Prime Minister going back to Cornwall, where James Cook had left 245 years earlier. Here we are back there to find our security from Asia.
“The appalling ignominy of it. It speaks volumes about our incapacity to absorb the (Asian) region.”
The former PM urged Scott Morrison not to get involved in the US-China conflict over Taiwan, insisting the contentious flashpoint was not worth risking Australia’s security for.
“Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest, let me repeat that, Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest,” he said.
“We have no alliance with Taipei. None.”
Mr Keating insisted China was likely to lead as world hegemon relatively peacefully providing the US made no “ill-conceived” attempts to change the status of Taiwan.
“China is not about turning over the existing world order, it only wants to reform it,” he said.
“It‘s not the old Soviet Union pursuing some international ideology.”
Stepping away from Australia’s relationship with China, Mr Keating was asked about its relationship with France, which has been left in tatters after a $90b submarine contract was scrapped in favour of transitioning to nuclear powered ships under an agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.
He said the boats will be “very old” when they’re ready by 2035.
“Eight submarines against China (in) 20 years time, a handful of toothpicks at the mountain,” he said.
“Kim Beazley and I … built the Collins. I built the Anzac frigates … they were built for the defence of Australia.
“Their range was to stop any incoming military vessels against us.
“These (new) submarines were designed in the 1990s. By the time we have half a dozen of them, it will be 2035, they will be 60 years old.
“In other words, our new submarines will be old tech, like buying an old 747. And here we are, we’re going to wait 20 odd years to get the first one and 35-40 years to get the lot … for what will then be very old boats.”
Mr Keating said if Australia wanted to explore nuclear capabilities, the best bet would have been to accept the French vessels in the nuclear form they were intended for.
“If we were unhappy with diesels, the obvious choice was the most modern submarine on the drawing board, which is the French nuclear submarine,” he said.
“No no, we are rushing over, this has the Liberal Party fingerprint all over it, they’re going to rush back to the Americans, to a data design but the whole point of these hunter killer submarines is to roundup the Chinese nuclear submarines and keep them in the shallow waters of the Chinese continental shelf before they get to the Mariana Trench and become invisible. To stop them having nuclear capability towards the US.”