Paul Keating has blasted some of the nation’s most senior journalists and Penny Wong in a sensational address following the signing of the landmark AUKUS agreement.
The former prime minister took no mercy as he hit back at reporters who questioned his vocal criticism of the multibillion-dollar nuclear-submarine deal.
“You haven’t received a briefing on the issue since the mid-1990s. Could you be out of touch on this issue?” he was asked.
“Because I’ve got a brain. And I can think. And I can read. And I read every day,” he responded matter of factly.
“What would be the point of China wanting to occupy Sydney and Melbourne? Militarily? And could they ever do it?
“You don’t need a briefing from the dopey security agencies that we have in Canberra to tell you that. I mean, I know you’re trying to ask a question, but the question is so dumb, it’s hardly worth an answer.”
Mr Keating has been a staunch opponent of the AUKUS agreement since it was announced in 2021 by the former Morrison government, claiming it would undermine Australian sovereignty.
Throughout his colourful appearance, the former Labor leader argued Australia did not need the submarines because China was not a threat.
He launched a tirade at reporters from the Nine Newspapers for publishing a special report “Red Alert” that included an assessment Australia could be at war with China within three years.
“I’m surprised you even have the gall to stand up in public and ask such a question, frankly,” the former Labor leader said.
“You ought to do the right thing and drum yourself out of Australian journalism.
“I mean, that’s the most egregious, the worst, the most bias presentation … I mean, if I were you, mate, I would hide my face and never appear again.”
His answer came in response to a question about the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs.
While he said he wasn’t going to “defend” the CCP, he questioned how Australia would respond if Beijing harped on about the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody.
“Wouldn’t it be a valid point?” he hit back.
It wasn’t just reporters in the room whom Mr Keating criticised. He also put Foreign Minister Penny Wong on blast for embracing AUKUS and for allowing the military to have “overtaken foreign policy”.
“Let me just make this point: Running around the Pacific Islands with a lei around your neck handing out money, which is what Penny does, is not foreign policy. It’s a consular task,” he said.
“Foreign policy is what you do with the great powers. What you do with China. What you do with the United States. This government, the Albanese government, does not employ foreign policy.”
In agreeing to the “kabuki show in San Diego”, Mr Albanese had made the “worst international decision by an Australian Labor government since the former Labor leader Billy Hughes sought to introduce conscription to augment Australian forces in World War I”.
“History will be the judge of this project in the end, but I want my name clearly recorded among those who say it is a mistake,” he said.
Mr Keating said he had sought to meet with Mr Albanese to share his concerns and be briefed on the AUKUS program.
“The message was delivered but I heard nothing from the Prime Minister,” he said in the statement.
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