Dozens of people gathered in Wollongong to protest the "proliferation of nuclear weapons" following the federal government's proposal to build a nuclear submarine naval base at Port Kembla.
Port Kembla has been touted as the preferred location for a future base for Australia and visiting nuclear-powered submarine fleets, under a federal government plan.
Rally organiser, Wollongong Undergraduate Students' Association Education Officer Sean McLachlan said the protest at Wollongong mall on Saturday demanded an end to the AUKUS pact where the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire highly-sophisticated nuclear-powered submarines.
"We see this proposal as a significant act of aggression and exaggeration towards potential war in the future," he said.
"This latest proposal of having the naval base in Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla, in our backyard, is quite shocking.
"It will be met with strident opposition."
Mr McLachlan said Wollongong had a strong history of "standing up against all forms of militarism".
"We are saying no to the naval base, no to AUKUS and no to war," he said.
"We oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear power in any form requires uranium, mining and a massive investment into infrastructure which can be used for the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
Mr McLachlan said ordinary people had no interest in the government investing in the military but would rather see money spent on expanding social welfare, public and social housing, disaster funding and climate change.
"This is what money should be funnelled into from the government - things that ordinary people could benefit from, not weapons," he said.
"Instead of building a naval base that will only increase the threat of devastating conflict in the region, the $10 billion slated for this base should be spent on building new schools and hospitals.
"They claim there isn't enough money for us, but there's somehow always money for death and destruction."
Maritime Union of Australia southern NSW branch secretary Mick Cross reiterated the union's opposition to nuclear proliferation.
"The MUA has always stood for peace, internationalism and justice, and so condemns in any shape or form the proliferation of nuclear capability in any country, especially our own. This includes the development or proliferation of nuclear-powered defence vessels," he said.
During the rally, Mr Cross said if the base was built, fishing would no longer be permitted, nor families using the foreshore due to security concerns.
"Shame on the LNP government and shame on those who think there is any positive aspect of this nuclear base being built in Port Kembla," he said.
Mr Cross said he was worried about Port Kembla becoming a "target" once submarines were based there.
He added the port was now entering a "progressive" phase with a focus on jobs in renewable energy industry into the long term, and that was better than than short-term jobs that would be needed to build the base.
Mr Cross said the announcement was a "distraction" ahead of the federal election.
Members of Wollongong Undergraduate Students' Association, Wollongong Socialists, Illawarra Greens, refugee campaigners, South Coast Labour Council and Southern NSW Maritime Union of Australia branch hoped Saturday's rally would be the start of an opposition campaign against the proposal.
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