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Paul Keating brands Albanese’s AUKUS move a Labor betrayal

Paul Keating's comments at the National Press Club

Anthony Albanese’s support for nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS agreement is Labor’s worst decision in government for a century, former prime minister Paul Keating says.

Mr Keating, a long-time critic of Australia’s foreign policy sacred cows, including the American alliance underpinning national security, more delivered his brutal assessment of the current PM at a National Press Club event in Canberra on Wednesday.

The AUKUS deal is a mistake, and Labor’s worst in power since wartime PM Billy Hughes sought to introduce conscription, Mr Keating said in a statement circulated before his appearance.

What’s more, it broke the party’s foreign policy winning streak, he said.

“Every Labor Party branch member will wince when they realise that the party we all fight for is returning to our former colonial master, Britain, to find our security in Asia,” he said.

Mr Albanese joined his US and British counterparts in San Diego on Tuesday to announce a $368-billion plan for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

“We have been here before: Australia’s international interests subsumed by those of our allies,” Mr Keating said.

“Defence policy substituting for foreign policy. But this time it is a Labor government lining us up

“Anthony Albanese’s government has picked up and has taken ownership of the strategic architecture of the Morrison government – but taken it up in full and with unprecedented gusto.”

Mr Keating said Mr Albanese had not pursued a chance to discuss foreign policy issues with him earlier this year.

Mr Keating has previously mocked the notion that nuclear submarines would deter China as comparable to throwing “toothpicks at a mountain”.

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