Do you have plans for 5:00 p.m. today? You might want to keep that hour open for important news, at least if a report out of Australia has any truth to it.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that top government officials in Australia were called to an emergency meeting today for news that’s supposed to be announced out of the U.S. at 7:00 a.m. Thursday morning, Australia time. That’s 5:00 p.m. Eastern time today, and it sounds like a big deal.
Australia, which is currently enduring a particularly bad covid-19 outbreak, even granted emergency travel exemptions for people to fly to the capital city of Canberra for this emergency meeting.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Several federal cabinet ministers were called to a top-secret meeting in Canberra on Wednesday ahead of a major international development expected out of the United States on Thursday morning.
Sources familiar with the development said some members of cabinet were granted border exemptions to urgently fly to Canberra for the hastily arranged meeting, which sources say will have international significance.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, who are in Washington for a series of meetings over the next two days, were said to have joined the meeting via a secure connection.
The Herald reports that Australian Labor Party politicians were even invited to the conservative government meeting, something that’s exceptionally rare unless there’s really big news. Australia’s Liberal Party Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is scheduled to have his first in-person meeting with President Joe Biden next week.
What on Earth could be happening? Your guess is as good as ours. But the inclusion of the opposition party in Australia’s meeting has us concerned that it has to do with war or a major upheaval in the international order. Australia is part of the so-called Five-Eyes alliance of countries that collect and share intelligence, including U.S., Canada, the UK, and New Zealand.
Best case scenario, the Australians are freaking out about nothing and this is just about some new tariffs on Vegemite or something. Vegemite has had it too good for too long in the U.S. market if you ask us.
Either that or it’s about China and we should all get to our nuclear fallout shelters as quickly as possible. You folks still have those, right?
Update 9/15/2021, 9:05 a.m. ET: Politico now has a report that the U.S., UK, and Australia are joining a new defense pact against China where they’re share information on advanced tech:
The trio, which will be known by the acronym AUUKUS, will make it easier for the nations to share information and know-how in key technological areas like artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities
One of the people said there will be a nuclear element to the pact in which the U.S. and U.K. share their knowledge of how to maintain nuclear-defense infrastructure.
This isn’t a huge surprise, giving the realities of the New Cold War, but it may be controversial in places like Australia where nuclear weapons are frowned upon by the local population. There aren’t any U.S. nukes currently stationed down under, but it wouldn’t surprise us if that was eventually part of the deal.
Update 9/15/2021, 7:36 p.m. ET: We now officially know what the important thing is: nuclear-powered submarines.
Leaders from the U.S., the U.K., and Australia officially announced AUKUS, a new trilateral security partnership, Wednesday afternoon. The partnership’s main focus will involve increasing cooperation on security and defense capabilities. In addition, it will also promote information and technology sharing and the deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains, according to a White House statement.
Here’s where the nuclear-powered submarines come in. AUKUS’ first initiative will involve the U.S. and the U.K. helping Australia obtain the vessels. The countries estimate that finding the best way to get the nuclear-powered submarines to Australia will take 18 months and aim to help get the vessels running as early as possible.
The three country leaders maintain that all of this will help “sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” Nonetheless, AUKUS was also seen as a response to China’s military activities in the South China Sea and a warning to the Asian country. The U.S. considers China’s military activities in the region to be a “top security threat,” Axios reported.