National Students Union Calls for Uni Boycott Of $368 Billion AUKUS Subs Program


The National Union of Students – the nation’s peak union for university students – has called on the nation’s tertiary education sector to boycott the provision of training or technology for the AUKUS submarine program.

NUS Education Officer Xavier Dupé, said the partnership increased the risk of war or nuclear environmental damage, and universities should not participate in it.

“The AUKUS deal escalates the threat of war in which students and workers will suffer,” Mr Dupe said. “The government wants universities to provide research and skilled workers for this war drive, but students have a right to education that’s for the public good, not an arms race that threatens our future.”

In March, the Albanese government formalised its support for the development of a new security partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. It followed the cancellation by the previous Morrison government of a $90 billion French contract to build military submarines in Adelaide.

The ‘AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine pathway’ means that in partnership with the US and UK, Australia will become one of only seven countries world-wide – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India and Australia – to operate nuclear-powered submarines.

In a joint Australia-US-UK statement, the governments claimed the “pathway” would “deliver significant long-term strategic benefits for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States”. “It strengthens the combined industrial capacity of the three partners, with increased cooperation making trilateral supply chains more robust and resilient,” the joint statement read.

It will also cost Australia hundreds of billions of dollars: eight nuclear-powered submarines will be built in Adelaide, to begin service in the 2040s, and the Albanese government has revealed the full cost, including maintenance, will run anywhere from $268 billion to $368 billion, by 2055.”

Australian Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Richard Marles MP speaks to the media during a visit to HMAS Stirling, Western Australia in March 2023. (IMAGE: LSIS Ernesto Sanchez, Royal Australian Navy)

NUS’ Xavier Dupé criticised Universities Australia for encouraging closer ties between universities and the submarine program.

“The Vice-Chancellors in Universities Australia have gotten rich from partnering with weapons corporations like Thales and Lockheed Martin, and stand to profit even more from this program.

“Meanwhile, students’ education has gotten worse. We should resist this attempt to use our education for war and destruction.”

Yasmine Johnson, Education Officer at University of Sydney, is already part of the university’s ‘Cut Ties With Thales’ campaign.

“On our campus, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, Thales, is strengthening its ties with the university,” Ms Johnson said.

An airfield defence guard from No. 1 Security Forces Squadron moves towards a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle for extraction during a demonstration at the 2023 Avalon International Airshow. (IMAGE: CPL David Cotton, Department of Defence)

Over the weekend, Johnson and other students joined a union rally in Port Kembla, south of Wollongong, against the port being used as a submarine base.

“This union rally is an important first step in building opposition to militarism on our campuses and in our cities. Students will continue to stand against the AUKUS deal and the integration of our universities with weapons companies and the military.”

Thales Australia is actually a French corporation. It builds a variety of weapons, but is perhaps best known for supplying the Bushmaster, Australia’s answer to the American  Humvee armoured vehicle.

In 2017, the University of Sydney and Thales Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing to partner in research and development of weapons.

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