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Alison Broinowski. Who decides when we go to war?

 Setbacks for democratic reform of war powers.

Having taken one step forward, Australia’s major allies have now taken two steps back from reform of their war powers.

In the UK, the Defence Minister has set aside years of bipartisan promises of legislation that would require British governments to consult the Parliament before committing forces to war, and has rejected what he now calls this ‘artificial’ constraint.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought legislation to bring to an end the exercise of the war powers by a prime minister under executive privilege. He hoped to transfer the decision for war to the Parliament, but abandoned the attempt in 2007. A bipartisan committee secured support of both houses in 2011 to enshrine in legislation the convention of executive consultation with MPs before committing armed force. Having asserted, in Opposition in 2006, that public trust depended upon MPs having the final say in troop deployments, David Cameron in government allowed the initiative to drift, but his plan to send RAF planes to Syria was defeated in the Commons in 2013. Cameron then secured a majority in favour of a similar deployment this year. Cameron has now reversed himself and rejected the prospect of legislation to change the war powers, even though the convention that governments should consult Parliament apparently remains in place.

In the US, following several attempts to revise the 1973 War Powers Act, President Obama requested Congress in February 2015 ( to authorise him to dispatch forces against Islamic State, and to repeal the 2002 authorisation for President G.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. He offered to limit the new deployment to three years, and to restrict ground combat to Special Forces. The measure was opposed by some Democrats and rejected. Obama subsequently sent US planes and troops to Iraq and Syria regardless, relying upon the authority granted by Congress in 2001 to his predecessor to fight Al Qaeda, which remains law. Then, in January 2016, in Obama’s final year as president, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican majority leader, introduced a Bill for the ‘Authorisation for Use of Military Force’, for which Obama had signed an executive order in September 2015. If it passes, the Act will take effect in August 2016. What the Bill appears to seek is virtually unlimited power for the President to deploy US ground forces anywhere in the world and for any length of time, including in the United States, without having to provide legal or strategic justifications to Congress.

These US and UK developments set a dangerous example for Australia, where politicians have in recent years begun to see the risks of allowing ‘captain’s picks’ to decide the dispatch of Australian forces to war. When democratic processes are bypassed, the restraints of international and domestic legality are overridden. When accountability for war and its outcomes is not shared with the people’s representatives, the executive can do as it pleases, can withhold from the public the details of what is being done in their name, and can repeat its past errors with impunity.

‘Australian governments’, historian Henry Reynolds has recently written, ‘find it easy to go to war’ (Unnecessary Wars, 2016: 238). Reynolds calls Iraq an episode of military adventurism for which Australian leaders suffered no opprobrium nor inquiry; made no public expression of regret; and showed no sense of culpability or responsibility. ‘Calls for a formal investigation into the circumstances of Australia’s entry into the Iraq war,’ he adds, ‘have met with official silence’. We and many others live with the consequences of the Iraq disaster, and the prospect that our governments may repeat it.

Dr Alison Broinowski is Vice-President of Australians for War Powers Reform and Vice-President of Honest History.

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Alison Broinowski. Losing ‘our’ Uruzgan.

Most Australians live in cities where the only newspapers are owned by Murdoch. So unless they found Fairfax on line, they were spared the sorrowful report on 3 May that Afghan government troops have pulled out of more ‘strongholds’ in Uruzgan province. To the surprise of no-one who read it, Taliban are back.

The withdrawal, Reuters reported mournfully, followed ‘many years of work and much blood shed by Australian troops to maintain peace and stability in the province, before the last Australians left in 2014’. After Australians spent thirteen years in Tarin Kowt, 41 died, and many more were injured, the Afghan authorities have made ‘a tactical decision to deploy forces more effectively’. So many Afghan soldiers and police have deserted or been killed, they say, that the province is short of its ‘assigned strength’. (One thing they appear to have learnt from years of US/NATO training is Western management-speak).

The sombre announcement stirred barely a ripple of interest in Australia, for three possible reasons.

First, Australia is over Afghanistan. Only a fortnight ago those at Anzac day services swore not to forget our past wars, which include several egregious disasters, but we do forget them. Many of us forget, for example, that Australia has not declared or won a war since 1945, unless East Timor and Gulf War I count as victories. Since well before Federation, Australians have habitually and repeatedly gone to fight in distant countries, which are then forgotten as we prepare for the next one. As Henry Reynolds says in his new book Unnecessary Wars (2016), most Australians don’t ask why we fought or what resulted, only how we fought, as if war was a game of football.

Second, Afghanistan can’t be occupied. The British learned this to their cost in the Afghan wars of 1839-42 (‘Auckland’s folly’), 1878-80, and 1919, after which the rulers in Kabul took control of their country. The USSR fell into the Afghan quagmire in 1979 and was forced to withdraw ten years later by the United States’ proxies, the Mujahideen and the Taliban. In 2001 America attacked Afghanistan in revenge for the 9/11 attacks (in which no Afghan took part). The invasion made even less sense after Osama bin Laden fled al-Qaeda’s Afghan headquarters and was allowed to escape to Pakistan. Iraq was top on Bush’s list of target countries: Afghanistan was merely low-hanging fruit on the way to the invasion. Starting as a counter-terrorist war, the conflict in Afghanistan became a counter-insurgency, in which the only local support the US/NATO could expect for their objectives was what money could buy, and only for as long as they kept paying.

Third, Uruzgan is not Australia’s province. It can no more be claimed as uniquely Australian than Nui Dat or Kapyong, the Kokoda track or Gallipoli could. As the junior ally of Britain and the United States, our troops have always gone where they tell us to go, fought who they tell us to fight, and left when they leave (with the honourable exceptions of Curtin bringing Australian forces back to defend Australia in 1942 and Whitlam pulling them out of Vietnam in 1972). Uruzgan meant no more to Australia than it did to our Netherlands predecessors there, who gave it up as a bad job. Australia was stuck in Uruzgan at the United States’ pleasure, as a consequence of John Howard’s unilateral globalisation of the Anzus Treaty.

If anything can be learned from the current collapse of ‘strongpoints’ in Uruzgan, it is that invasion rarely defeats insurgency, that neither invasion nor occupation can last forever, and that Western invasion of Islamic countries attracts Muslim hostility like a magnet. Australia, learning nothing from Vietnam, repeated its errors by invading Iraq in 2003 and again in 2015, and by bombing Syria in 2015-6. The sooner the decision to commit Australian forces to these futile wars is taken out of the hands of an ill-advised prime minister, the better.

Dr Alison Broinowski is Vice-President of Australians for War Powers Reform and Vice-President of Honest History.

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Richard Broinowski. French submarines for RAN – Why?


The 2016 Defence White paper asserts that Australia’s future acquisition of 12 French submarines costing around $50 billion is the largest defence procurement program in Australia’s history. The first vessel is to be delivered ‘in the early 2030s’, the twelfth in ‘the 2040s or 2050s’. They are said to be for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, not only in Australia’s maritime zones, but in our maritime approaches and further afield. They are to be ‘regionally superior, with a high degree of interoperability with the United States’.

No doubt the boffins in Defence put much expert thought into submarine selection, but given their enormous cost at a time of financial stringency, we groundlings are entitled to candid and detailed explanations about the choice of these vessels and the uses to which they will be put.

First, why French? Apart from its small fleet of nuclear-powered and armed ballistic missile submarines, France operates six attack submarines, currently being phased out and replaced by the Barracuda class boats also being chosen by Australia. But compared to the submarine industries in Japan and Germany, France’s is small and relatively inexperienced. Japan began its submarine industry in 1904 and its main factories at Mitsubishi and Kawasaki have designed and built a huge variety ever since. Both Japan and Germany made enormous technical strides in submarine design during World War Two when France was occupied by Germany. German submarine technology has an equally long history. Its Dolphin-class attack boats currently built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and used by the German and Israeli navies are just as sophisticated as the Sōryūs.

One suspicion worth ventilating here: Direction des Construction Navales Services (DCNS) that makes Barracudas at Cherbourg, predominantly builds nuclear-propelled submarines. Is the Australian government, which favours an international spent fuel nuclear dump in South Australia, surreptitiously planning to widen Australia’s nuclear industry by dropping nuclear power plants into its Barracudas at some later stage of their development? How would Australian punters feel about that?

Second question: precisely how will our French boats be ‘regionally superior’? Compared to which other fleets? A cursory look at Jane’s Fighting Ships shows that a dozen Royal Australian Navy Barracudas won’t hold a candle in numbers to 15 Korean, 18 Japanese, an unknown number of Russian and nearly 60 Chinese diesel electric boats currently operating in the Western Pacific, let alone new ones constantly being built and added to these nations’ fleets.

What about local fleets? Indonesia has had a submarine force since 1960. Its current fleet comprises five attack submarines with five more being planned. Singapore has two Swedish Vastergotland boats with more on order. Malaysia has two French-built Scorpene class boats based at Kota Kinabalu. Thailand is planning to acquire two German boats. More potent than any of these, Vietnam plans to take delivery of six Russian Kilo-class submarines between 2013 and 2020. The Chinese have considerable experience with these boats, and will be very concerned if the Vietnamese manage to operate them competently.

These acquisitions do not represent a flat-out arms race, but add a sudden and significant new maritime sea-denial capability to littoral states in the South China Sea. Inevitably, these states will also acquire anti-submarine warfare counter measures, such as surface ships equipped with helicoptors, drones, sonars, mines and depth charges. The area will suddenly becomes a very crowded space indeed.

According to the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Australian government hopes to be able to operate its Barracudas in these contested waters ‘with a high degree of interoperability with the United States’. But, my third question: why should we be interoperable with the US alone? Our submarines won’t even be available for deployment for another decade and by then may not be regionally superior. And is interoperability what Washington wants? Radical thought though it may seem, wouldn’t it be more productive for us to operate our boats in cooperation with those of Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia? After all, their desire for a ‘rules based’ maritime environment is geographically more urgent than the perceived needs of a great power which is finding itself manoeuvred out of its customary position as top dog in the western Pacific.

A footnote on Japan’s failed bid to sell us Sōryū submarines. On 16 April 2016, the Japanese Ambassador hosted a reception in Sydney for crews of three MSDF ships which had just engaged in exercises with RAN ships. One of them was Hakuryu, a Sōryū submarine. Amid speeches and toasts, Australian and Japanese guests were aglow with goodwill and the optimistic expectation that the imminent announcement of Australia’s next submarines would be for Sōryūs. In his short speech, Harukyu’s skipper said this was the first visit by a Japanese submarine to Sydney since 1942. There were quiet smiles at his unintended solecism. A photograph of Hakuryu heading home through Sydney Heads the next day coincided with newspaper headlines that France, not Japan, had secured the bid. The poignancy of the situation was palpable, and those of us who have had a long association with Japan felt it. The bilateral relationship is strong enough to withstand the decision, but the healing will take some time.

Richard Broinowski is a former diplomat and Ambassador to Vietnam, Korea and Mexico. He is currently President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs in NSW. 

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Douglas Newton. Lost opportunities for a negotiated peace during the Great War: from 1917 to 1918. Part 2.

During 1917-1918, the Australian divisions in France endured casualties far worse than at Gallipoli. There were huge losses.[1] New evidence shows that ‘four out of five’ of the AIF who survived were affected by disability of some kind.[2] Yet, for contemporary Australians, it is battle-honours that leap to mind, especially Villers-Bretonneux. This is scarcely surprising, considering the money being spent.

The lesson hammered home in the Anzac centenary is quite simple: war is a bad but necessary thing – so it is just as well that Australians are so good at it. This is to keep Australians locked in a kind of protracted adolescence with regard to war.

Missing almost completely from speeches and from many books on Australia’s Great War is the history of alternatives to the appalling loss of life. 

In fact, from 1917 to 1918, across Europe there were rising popular pressures to revise war aims, to democratise, and to resolve the war – by negotiation. The war was kept going only by authoritarianism, propaganda, and censorship. Promising opportunities to end the cataclysm were stifled.[3] 

  1. Emperor Karl’s peace initiatives (December 1916-June 1917)

Following the death of Franz Josef in November 1916, the new Austrian Emperor, Karl, pressed for peace. He used his French brother-in-law, Prince Sixte de Bourbon, in secret negotiations with France. In March 1917, Karl accepted the restoration of Serbia and Belgium, and the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France. Lloyd George and French premier Ribot were interested, but the Italians hostile, fearing that territory promised in the Treaty of London of 1915 might be sacrificed. The Italians stonewalled.

  1. Anglo-German negotiations on POWs (June-July 1917)

A British delegation, led by Lord Newton, negotiated with a German delegation, at The Hague. British diplomats and politicians opposed the extension of these talks from POWs to peace. 

  1. Stockholm Socialist Conference proposal (May-August 1917)

Planned by Scandinavian and Dutch socialists, a conference for European socialists was promoted by the new Russian government. They hoped to hammer out a compromise peace. The USA, France, and Britain sabotaged the plan by refusing passports to their socialist and labour representatives. 

  1. Russian proposal for an Inter-Allied Conference (May-June 1917)

Russian Foreign Minister Tereshchenko proposed a conference to revise war aims and prepare for negotiations. The Entente and the USA dragged their feet, then ignored the proposal, following the failure of the Russian offensive of July 1917.

  1. Morgenthau Mission (July 1917).

Henry Morgenthau, the ex-US Ambassador to Turkey, undertook a mission to test a negotiated peace with the Ottomans. In Gibraltar, he met with a British mission. It dissuaded Morgenthau from continuing, arguing that any peace was impossible without gains for the Armenians, the Arabs, and British control of Palestine (a prospective homeland for the Jews). 

  1. Reichstag Peace Resolution (July 1917)

The Reichstag’s Centre-Left majority pronounced in favour of a non-annexationist peace guaranteed by a League of Nations. This was scorned by the Entente nations. Attempts to mount matching resolutions were defeated in the parliaments. The western allies made no coherent response to this breakthrough by the future Weimar Coalition, favouring peace and democratisation. 

  1. Papal Peace Note (August 1917)

Benedict XV proposed a territorial settlement close to the status quo before the war, plus a League of Nations and disarmament. Wilson dismissed the note, bizarrely calling on the German people to revolt. The Entente powers hid behind his answer and made no reply. Chancellor Michaelis then spoiled the effort, refusing a public commitment to Belgian independence. Private assurances were not revealed.

  1. Armand-Revertera talks, Switzerland (7, 22 August 1917)

These French-Austrian talks showed Austria ready to moderate terms; this prompted the Kühlmann offer. 

  1. Kühlmann Peace Feeler (September-October 1917)

German foreign minister Kühlmann privately contacted both the British and French. The deal was for a territorial compromise: the restoration of Belgium in return for western concessions: territorial integrity for Germany and Austria-Hungary, colonies, and a disavowal of commercial war. The plan was weakened by French political infighting. Kühlmann then dodged and weaved, vowing to keep Alsace-Lorraine (9 Oct.), and Lloyd George announced unequivocal support for France (11 Oct.). 

  1. The Lansdowne ‘Peace Letter’ to the Daily Telegraph (29 November 1917)

Lord Lansdowne went public, pleading for war aims revision in the Daily Telegraph. The ‘knock-out blow’ press rubbished him. The government cut him adrift. The USA failed to support him.

  1. British-Austrian talks, Switzerland: Smuts-Mensdorff (18-19 December 1917) and Kerr-Skrzynski (March 1918)

British secret talks luring Austria-Hungary away from Germany, while avoiding general peace – failed. 

  1. Brest-Litovsk talks (December 1917-January 1918)

Lenin’s new Bolshevik-led Russian government issued a six-point program for a general peace in December 1917. The Germans, under Kühlmann, made an offer accepting a non-annexationist peace. The Allies censored all news of these approaches for a general peace. Fearing domestic repercussions, the Allies rejected peace brokered by socialists. 

  1. Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’ and ‘Four Principles’ speeches and the Central Powers replies (January-February 1918)

Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points Address’ (8 Jan.) marked a significant moderation. Promising public speeches followed from Austrian and German leaders, Czernin and Hertling. Lloyd George and Clemenceau sabotaged this with a belligerent statement, rejecting all negotiations, at Versailles on 4 February 1918.

  1. Archbishop Söderblom’s international Christian conference, Sweden, (December 1917 and February 1918).

Some British Christians pressed for acceptance of Swedish Archbishop Söderblom’s plan for church leaders to discuss peace in Uppsala in December 1917. But most Anglican bishops opposed the meeting. Söderblom called a second conference for February 1918. Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, warned that British delegates would not be given passports.

Reflections at Villers-Bretonneux

The Tasmanian-born Radical MP, Leonard Outhwaite, warned the House of Commons in February 1916 what a disaster it would be ‘to hoist the flag of victory over an international graveyard.’[4] And so it was. Visitors to Villers-Bretonneux will reflect upon the dead – German, British, and Australian. We should reflect also upon the many lost opportunities to make peace, before these men were ordered to turn the machines of industrialised slaughter upon each other.

Assoc. Prof. Douglas Newton is a retired academic. He has taught history at Macquarie University, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, and Western Sydney University. He is the author of a number of studies of war and peace, including most recently, The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War, 1914 (London, Verso: 2014) and Hell-bent: Australia’s Leap into the Great War (Melbourne: Scribe, 2014). He is currently writing a book tentatively entitled, Ending Armageddon: The Search for a Negotiated Peace during the Great War, to be published by Scribe in 2017.

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that 10,738 missing Australian servicemen are commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

[2] See David Noonan, Those We Forget: Recounting Australian Casualties of the First World War (Melbourne, 2014), 194. ‘Of the total of 255,800 men [of the AIF] who survived the war, some 206,500 were either discharged medically unfit (130,500) or applied for pension assistance (76,000) before they turned sixty.’

[3] For sources on the search for a negotiated peace in 1917-18, in addition to those cited in an earlier post, see Rex Wade, The Russian Search for Peace, February-October 1917 (Stanford, 1969), V. H. Rothwell, British War Aims and Peace Diplomacy, 1914-1918 (Oxford, 1971), Arno J. Mayer, The Political Origins of the New Diplomacy 1917-1918 (New York, 1979), F. L. Carsten, War Against War: British and German Radical Movements in the First World War (London, 1982), David Kirby, War, Peace and Revolution: International Socialism at the Crossroads (London, 1986,) David Stevenson, The First World War and International Politics (Oxford, 1991), Daryl Le Cornu, ‘Bright Hope: British Radical Publicists, American Intervention, and the Prospects of a Negotiated Peace, 1917’, unpublished PhD thesis (Western Sydney University, 2005):

For German sources see Wilhelm Ribhegge, Frieden für Europa: Die Politik der deutschen Reichstagstagsmehrheit, 1917-18 (Essen, 1998) and the major document collections assembled by Wolfgang Steglich.

[4] R. L. Outhwaite, HC Deb 23 February 1916 vol 80 c773 (23 Feb. 1916).

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John Menadue. Are Conservatives better economic managers?

According to opinion polls the public clearly believe that Conservatives are better economic managers. Like other Conservative leaders, Malcolm Turnbull keeps asserting that this is so.  Tonight in the budget, Scott Morrison will probably tell us about the importance of growth and jobs and that the Coalition can deliver in this area but Labor cannot.

But the evidence does not support the view that the Conservatives are better economic managers.

In this blog on 20 April 2016, Ian McAuley discussed this issue in ‘Are Conservatives better economic managers?‘  Amongst other things, Ian McAuley pointed out that over the last 50 years we have had 17 Federal Treasurers and that only two have been awarded the coveted Euromoney ‘Finance Minister of the Year Award’.  They were both Labor Treasurers: Keating and Swan.  The former received this award for leading major economic reform in Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s. The latter received the award because of his handling of the global financial crisis.

In The Guardian on 7 May 2016, economist Stephen Koukoulas asserts that ‘Labor’s economic record is better than the Coalition’s‘. Koukoulas points out that

‘in terms of jobs and growth, the ABS data show that average quarterly GDP growth and average monthly increases in employment are stronger when Labor has been in government compared with the Coalition. … GDP and employment growth both rise at a faster pace when Labor is in government.’

I will be posting additional articles on this issue ‘are Conservatives better economic managers?’

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Douglas Newton. Lost opportunities for a negotiated peace during the Great War: from 1914 to 1916. Part 1

A big centenary is approaching: the battle of Villers-Bretonneux, April 1918. Right now $93.2 million is being spent on the battle site to build the Sir John Monash Centre, ready for Anzac Day 2018.[1] Villers-Bretonneux is irresistible. It simplifies everything: German invaders, liberating Australians, grateful French. But it will provide a mere pinhole on the war, obscuring the big picture.

No one at the opening ceremony is likely to ask: Why were millions of men, including Australians, still struggling on the Western Front in April 1918?

The centre is likely to teach one lesson: the war was awful, but a dire necessity. Our political leaders frequently say so. On Anzac Day 2014 Prime Minister Abbott asked rhetorically, ‘But what was the alternative, in Britain’s time of need, and when Europe was at risk from Prussian militarism?’[2]

The governing assumption clearly is that there was never an alternative to the carnage. In fact, there were many lost opportunities for a negotiated peace.[3] 

  1. Woodrow Wilson’s deathbed cable (4 August 1914)

On 4 August 1914, US President Woodrow Wilson, from his wife’s deathbed, cabled all the major belligerents, offering to take the Balkan dispute to The Hague. All made excuses, protested their innocence, railed against the enemy, and pretended war was irrevocable.

  1. Danish initiatives 1914-15

The Danes began shuttle diplomacy in late 1914 between Berlin and St Petersburg, seeking a compromise peace. Loyal to the Pact of London (September 1914), Tsar Nicholas slammed the door.

  1. Ambassadorial mediation, Washington (September-December 1914)

In September 1914, prompted by German Ambassador von Bernstorff, William Jennings Bryan, US Secretary of State, launched British-French-German ambassadorial talks in Washington. The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, who was negotiating to bring Italy, Greece, and Rumania into the war, and to give the Straits to Russia in order to keep her in the war, closed the talks down. 

  1. Christmas truce (December 1914)

Inspired by Pope Benedict XV’s suggestion (supported in the US Senate), soldiers on the Western Front began a spontaneous truce on Christmas Eve. Horrified, the Entente was careful to include ‘Article 15’ in the Treaty of London (April 1915), agreeing to shut down all Vatican peace diplomacy. 

  1. The first Colonel House Mission (January-May 1915)

House travelled to Europe as special US emissary. He found both sides coy on disclosing war aims. US proposals for a simultaneous end to both German submarine warfare and the British blockade of Germany were then derailed by the Lusitania crisis. 

  1. The International Congress of Women, The Hague (April-May 1915).

Female suffragists met to promote the liberal internationalist alternative to the bloodshed: neutral mediation, a diplomatic settlement, and a new rules-based order with stronger international institutions. This boosted new like-minded pressure groups, the League of Nations Society in Britain, the Dutch-sponsored Central Organisation for a Durable Peace, the League for a New Fatherland in Germany, and the League to Enforce Peace in the USA. 

  1. The Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation (1915 to 1917)

The American peace movement urged America to lead neutral mediation. Wilson was reluctant, preferring private diplomacy. US peace activists then set-up the Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation in Stockholm in February 1916 and later at The Hague. There were successes: a delegation to Berlin persuaded German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to announce Germany’s acceptance of international arbitration and a League of Nations on 9 November 1916. 

  1. The second House Mission (January-February 1916)

House encouraged both sides to moderate war aims and compromise. But London and Berlin preferred to gamble on coming battles (Verdun and the Somme). House and Grey did sign a memorandum: Grey agreed to invite US arbitration at a favourable moment; House agreed that, if Germany refused a reasonable settlement, the USA would ‘probably’ enter the war. Grey refused to initiate US mediation. 

  1. Wilson’s speech to the US League to Enforce Peace (27 May 1916)

Wilson committed the USA to enter a League of Nations, based on collective security, thus offering the ‘guarantees of security’ all claimed to be fighting for. Responses were cool.

  1. Emily Hobhouse’s ‘peace mission’ (June 1916)

Emily Hobhouse journeyed to Berlin from Switzerland, and obtained an interview with von Jagow, German Foreign Minister. He declared a readiness to respond to a peace offer from Britain. Grey refused to see Hobhouse on her return to Britain. 

  1. Asquith Cabinet discussions and Lansdowne Memoranda (November 1916)

In September, British Prime Minister Asquith invited his Cabinet to reconsider war aims. Lloyd George told the US press there must be a fight to the finish, a ‘knock-out blow’. In November, Lord Lansdowne opted decisively for negotiations. With the support of the ‘super-patriotic’ press, Lloyd George then rolled Asquith. On 5 December, he headed a Tory-dominated government, shunning peace by negotiation. 

  1. German and American Peace Notes (December 1916)

Bethmann-Hollweg offered a Peace Note on 12 December. However, the new High Command hobbled it by insisting that no terms be specified. The new Lloyd George government condemned the offer as a ruse of war. An American Peace Note followed (December 18), urging peace terms. This evoked an incomplete response from the Entente (10 January 1917). The Germans offered to enter talks, but were silent on terms. Wilson then lifted the pressure. In his ‘Peace without Victory’ speech (22 January 1917) he argued that a negotiated settlement would be more durable. Peace hovered. He had stopped loans and supplies to the Entente. But Wilson’s efforts were wrecked by the German elite’s decision to reinstate unrestricted submarine warfare (1 February 1917) – much to the relief of ‘knock-out blowers’ everywhere. Here, typically, the wild men on one side came to the rescue of those on the other. And peace was snuffed out.

Assoc. Prof. Douglas Newton is a retired academic. He has taught history at Macquarie University, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, and Western Sydney University. He is the author of a number of studies of war and peace, including most recently, The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War, 1914 (London, Verso: 2014) and Hell-bent: Australia’s Leap into the Great War (Melbourne: Scribe, 2014). He is currently writing a book tentatively entitled, Ending Armageddon: The Search for a Negotiated Peace during the Great War, to be published by Scribe in 2017.

[1] Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, Report 6/2015, Referrals made May and June 2015.

[2] Prime Minister Tony Abbott, ‘Address to the Anzac Day National Ceremony, Canberra’, 25 April 2014,

[3] For sources on the search for a negotiated peace, see Kent Forster, The Failures of Peace: The Search for a Negotiated Peace During the First World War (Washington, 1941), Laurence W. Martin, Peace Without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the British Liberals (New Haven, 1958), Z. A. B. Zeman, A Diplomatic History of the First World War (London, 1971), David S. Patterson, The Search for a Negotiated Peace: Women’s Activism and Citizen Diplomacy in World War I (New York, 2008), Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (New York, 2011), Neil Hollander, Elusive Dove: The Search for Peace During World War I (Jefferson, 2014).

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Peter Gibilisco. A Synergistic Approach to Disability

Here is my proposal for a Dictionary definition of Synergy:

the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

“the synergy between artist and record company” or disability support workers and people with disabilities with high support needs.

In some of my writings I have referred to what I call the “synergistic” outcomes that result from the interaction of people with disabilities and their support workers. These effective working relationships should be given the respect that is their due since they make an indispensable contribution to ongoing efforts to devise effective models of leadership in such workplaces.

But then I ask: Why are these highly successful working relationships so often below the radar when it comes to forming social welfare policies for the disabled? Could it be that these highly efficient working relationships are simply out of sight and out of mind? Is that why they seem to be ignored when it comes to the discussion of how to make improvements in the disability workforce? Maybe we need to look again at the manuals that are written for workers and develop a distinctively new theory of management. And why not? The synergistic approach I advocate might best be seen as an “inside out” approach to the management and organisation of the disability workforce. It will demonstrate public confidence in the abilities of the people who are served to exercise control over their own lives. Let me try and explain this “synergistic” model of work-place leadership in more detail. In order to make sure that this kind of model is flexible enough to allow change, even if complete change does not take place, the aim is to avoid an approach which sees the disabled person as a problem and instead reckon with such a person as a “problem-solver”, just like anyone else, and just like the support worker as well. In this a “synergistic” model develops a distinctive understanding of societal inclusion.

In this context, an emphasis upon synergy for the disability workforce aims to provide a corrective to the guidance that is often put to people with these “different abilities” and their support workers. To have an “inside out” approach is about reckoning with life chances and the creation of opportunities. Therefore, by initiating such an approach we confront the support worker who sometimes sees him/herself as a person languishing at the lowest, grass roots level who then needs the disability sector for employment. We need to turn this around. In my view a synergistic approach to the disability sector is not just about better help for the disabled person – it is about raising the status of all involved, and ascribing due respect.

It may be highly contentious to say outright that disabled people are second-rate citizens but if so much of our social value is measured by income then maybe “2nd rate citizen” is exactly what the income disparity tells us.

In the disability field, does love conquer all?

The best form of care is, of course, supplied by family members or close friends. These are those whose support is supplied by love. They are living testimony that love conquers all. Love is mighty and powerful and particularly when administered with compassion, empathy and patience.

Wherever we may be located by the flow-charts of such organisations, we are all human with our own individual pursuits of happiness. When it comes to high support needs for people with disabilities, love is something that is beyond the control of the “medical model’s” contribution to meeting the needs of disability. But hopefully it will be there as the indispensable motor of any positive medical contribution. A person with a disability at times will require more than just physical support in medical, dietary and psychological terms. That is, we need to promote communities of people who consciously function in ways that humanise the clinical methodology of the medical model, and this can be done by giving greater attention to what I would thereby call “the social model”. Society is a network of coinciding and interdependent responsibilities. An emphasis upon a “social model” of disability support will find it is necessary to emphasize this again and again.

Let me give an example that has stuck in my mind. Some time ago, around 1987, a friend of mine with Friedreich’s Ataxia (the same disease I have) was to be married to the guy of her dreams (an able-bodied individual). But as she signed the register, she became so excited that she suffered a heart attack and died. In hindsight, the wedding was a beautiful moment, and the embodiment of the social model. But now I am wondering: what should have been done to prevent the heart attack? Perhaps those enthused by the prospects of her wedding had under-estimated the impact of their own advice upon those with “medical model” responsibilities. In other words, we need to find the wisdom to enhance the interaction, the synergy, between the medical and social models of disability. That synergy is important. It is so important. 

I have come, much to my own surprise, to another related conundrum: how can the medical model be modified to avoid a standardised approach to disability care that simply confirms mythic stereotypes about seriously disabled people. I struggle daily with the way the facility where I live in shared support accommodation is managed. I am therefore wondering whether at a deep, cultural level its modus operandi presupposes the medical model. I’m wondering: is the organisation somehow stuck in a rut assuming that we residents are actually “sick”, that our lives are basically structured by illness?

I’m not saying that the residents are free of physiological problems that require special care. I am not even thinking here primarily about physiology; I am thinking about the way in which our “roles” are understood by the prevailing management. Are we, in effect, occupying the role bundle of the person who is sick, who is subject to medical care?

It is perhaps somewhat dangerous (it might seem that I am tooting my own trumpet) but consider my own case. Before coming to live in this place, I lived for 21 years(1990-2011), on my own and during those 21 years I completed a double degree in Arts and Accounting at Monash University, a Master of Arts at Monash University and finally a PhD at the University of Melbourne. This is not to say those years were easy; of course I had added pressure upon me in my studying because of the physiological complexities that had to be addressed by medical means since the onset of Friedreich’s Ataxia at 14(1976). University started when I lived on my own at 28, and graduating with my PhD at 43(1991-2006)). Over the 21 years of living on my own I had two long stays in hospital, but all in all my educational conquests far outweigh any medical complications. This all has me thinking: I’m living as part of a situation in which I have been confronted by nothing less than the reality of what I have referred to above as “the social model”. This is a situation that will be endorsed by most people who have physical disabilities without any intellectual impairment.

To conclude this reflection about synergy – love and the management of the disability sector, leads me to encourage us all, particularly public policy researchers, senior management in “not for profit” organisations and elsewhere, to think carefully about the “who?” question when dealing with the severely disabled people they are committed to serving. This certainly means that an ethos of equity is needed along with the legislated provision of further assistance. It will require political courage to ensure that an ethical culture is developed in which people with disabilities who have high support needs are cared for individually and effectively.

I prefer the term “resident” to the current lingo that wants to view me as a “customer”, which can be used in stereotypical ways to standardise care and thus give rise to stereotyped opinions in public discourse.

My desire to rise above the privations of this shared support accommodation fuels my motivation for this and also many of my previous articles. Thanks for reading.

A special thank you to Bruce Wearne for his editing and helping to tweak this piece and Christina Irugalbandara for her excellence and academic support work.

Dr Peter Gibilisco is an Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne. He has published a book ‘The Politics of Disability’. 



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Douglas Newton. What we fought for: from Bullecourt to the Armistice, 1917-1918

From 1916 to 1918 on the Western Front, the Australian divisions suffered 181,000 casualties, including 46,000 dead.[1] Some 10,892 of these dead have no known grave.[2] They died mostly from shrapnel and high explosive shells designed to tear people to pieces, or bury them alive. Pulverised, or ploughed under, their remains were unidentifiable.

So, more terrible centenaries loom from 1917-18. Bullecourt, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux, the Hindenburg Line. For what did Australians die?

To repel the German invader? It is simplistic to see in the German enemy a singular evil, a complete explanation for the protracted war, or a vindication of all that was done to resist German aggression. In this imperial bloodbath, all sides clung to territory conquered, all planned more conquest, all became more authoritarian, and all had their wide-mouthed politicians and generals insisting on more war.[3] The plague was on all houses – and they reinfected each other.

For democracy’s sake? Enthusiasm for war and enthusiasm for democracy were at opposite ends of the political spectrum in every belligerent nation.

What then were the Entente’s war aims for which the war was prolonged?[4]

The Entente Reply to President Wilson’s Peace Note, 10 January 1917 (PUBLIC)

In January 1917, while Australian soldiers on the Western Front endured a severe winter, Britain and her Entente partners, after 29 months of warfare, at last published war aims. They issued a formal reply to the German and American Peace Notes of December 1916. It ruled out a negotiated peace. It promised the Entente was ‘not fighting for selfish interests.’ It proclaimed moderate aims: ‘reparation, restitution’ and ‘guarantees’ against aggression. The war was to liberate Belgium, France, and Serbia, and get ‘indemnities’ for them. Grand aims followed: ‘the reorganisation of Europe’ along lines of nationality, the liberation of the oppressed inside Austria-Hungary, and the ‘expulsion’ of the Turks from Europe. The insincerity was stunning. There was to be self-determination, but only for enemy empires. There was silence on the secret treaties of 1915-16, and silence on plans for economic war.

The Franco-Russian ‘Left Bank of the Rhine’ Agreement (or the ‘Doumergue Agreement’), 14 February and 8 March 1917 (SECRET) 

Oblivious to imminent revolution, Tsarist Russia and France still played grab. Russia agreed to support France’s claim to the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine, the Saar, and the seizure of the Rhineland. In return, France gave Russia ‘complete liberty’ to fix her borders with Germany and Austria. In short, France winked at Russian grab in the east, and Russia winked at French grab in the west.

Agreements on German colonies and other territories, 1914 to March 1917: (SECRET) 

The German colonial empire was carved up in a dozen agreements from 1914. Britain and France split German Togoland and the Cameroons (while Britain confirmed her annexations of Turkish territories, Egypt and Cyprus). In July 1916 Japan and Russia agreed upon their claims in China. By March 1917 the Balfour-Motono agreements were confirmed: Britain, France, and Russia granted Japan the German North Pacific Islands, and the German lease on the Shantung Peninsula, in China (Qingdao).

The Imperial War Cabinet Committees, April-May 1917. (SECRET)

While Australians endured hell at Bullecourt in April 1917, various Imperial War Cabinet sub-committees redrew maps of the colonial world. Louis Mallet’s ‘Committee on Territorial Changes’ recommended colonial seizures and swaps. Two imperial nabobs, both reactionaries, headed more powerful committees. Lord Curzon’s ‘Territorial Desiderata Committee’ insisted on Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq) for Britain, Germany’s elimination as a colonial power, and British territory running Cape to Cairo. Lord Milner’s ‘Committee on Economic Terms’ wanted more protection: ‘imperial preference’, ‘Control of Imperial Resources’, and indemnities to pay for the war. A League of Nations was ‘impracticable’.

St-Jean-de-Maurienne Agreements, 19 April 1917 (SECRET)

At the St Jean de Maurienne conference, France, Britain and Italy agreed to more annexations in Turkey, adding to Sykes-Picot. Italy was to gain a vast share, the ‘green’ area, that is the southern third of Anatolia (now Turkey) including Smyrna, and an area of indirect control to its north, on the Aegean coast and hinterland.

The Caxton Hall speech, 5 January 1918 (PUBLIC)

After the disaster of Passchendaele (38,000 Australian casualties), and facing pressure from both revolutionary Russia and President Wilson, Lloyd George shifted ground. At the Caxton Hall in London he espoused moderate aims. He disavowed annexations. Britain was fighting above all for Belgium and France. There was ‘no demand for war indemnity.’ Germany’s colonies were ‘held at the disposal of a conference’. Alsace-Lorraine deserved ‘a reconsideration’. Soaring ideals prevailed: the ‘sanctity of treaties’, ‘self-determination’ for all, and ‘some international organisation’. So, after 41 months of terrible war, Britain’s Empire at last had moderate war aims. But Lloyd George’s rhetorical slithers were everywhere.

True respect for Anzac 

Thus, from Bullecourt, through the quagmire of Passchendaele, and on to the armistice, Australians continued to die on the Western Front – for all these war aims, known and unknown, sincere and insincere.

Contemporary speakers on Anzac often indulge in sacrificial fantasies – young blood spilled to bring our nation to birth. They shower praise on the dead, imagining this is respect. It is not respectful of the dead to shun knowledge of the dubious causes smuggled into their heavy kits. It is not respectful of their generous instincts to gloss over what comes of empire. Catastrophes – such as the mechanised slaughter on the Western Front – demand the most searching inquiries.

To what war aims were the diggers sacrificed in 1917-18? Did the Australian government carefully weigh costs and objectives? Did it try to prevent the steady enlargement of war aims? Sadly, the truth is stark: our inexhaustible loyalty to our great and powerful friend saw our government marginalised and our soldiers left fighting largely in the dark.[5]

Therefore, was this horrific war truly a national awakening for Australia, or was it the high point of our imperial subservience?

Assoc. Prof. Douglas Newton is a retired academic. He has taught history at Macquarie University, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, and Western Sydney University. He is the author of a number of studies of war and peace, including most recently, The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War, 1914 (London, Verso: 2014) and Hell-bent: Australia’s Leap into the Great War (Melbourne: Scribe, 2014). He is currently writing a book tentatively entitled, Ending Armageddon: The Search for a Negotiated Peace during the Great War, to be published by Scribe in 2017.

[1] ‘WWI The Western Front’:

[2] Peter Pedersen, The Anzacs: Gallipoli to the Western Front (Camberwell, 2007), 411.

[3] John Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War (Oxford, 2007), see Ch. 4 and 158: ‘It would be quite incorrect to speak of a German singularity of destructiveness…’ Hans-Ulrich Wehler, The German Empire, 1871-1918 (Leamington Spa, 1985), 194: ‘Wilhelmine Germany was not the only country to possess this sort of lunatic fringe.’ David Welch, Germany and Propaganda in World War I: Pacifism, Mobilization and Total War (London, 2014) p. xii: ‘This work reaffirms that German Society was a highly complex hybrid of competing groups and interests and that to compare the Kaiser’s war aims in 1914 with those of Hitler in 1939 (as some British military historians have attempted to do) is far too simplistic.’ Shelley Baranowski, Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler (Cambridge, 2011), 50: ‘Yet Imperial Germany was not Nazi Germany. Despite the horror of the German wars in Africa, the Imperial German suppression of colonial revolts did not differ significantly from the violent campaigns of other colonizing powers during the nineteenth century….’

[4] In addition to sources listed in an earlier post, ‘What we fought for: from Gallipoli to Fromelles, 1914-1916’ (, works with a special focus on Britain, the Entente, and US war aims include Paul Guinn, British Strategy and Politics 1914 to 1918 (Oxford, 1965), Lloyd C. Gardner, Safe for Democracy: The Anglo-American Response to Revolution, 1913-1923 (Oxford, 1987), John Turner, British Politics and the Great War: Coalition and Conflict (Yale, 1992), David French, The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918 (Oxford, 1995), Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton, 1992), Brock Millman, Pessimism and British War Policy 1916-1918 (London, 2001), and Peter Jackson, Beyond the Balance of Power: France and the Politics of National Security in the Era of the First World War (Cambridge, 2013).

[5] Neville Meaney, one of the most prominent historians of Australia’s Great War, has written that regarding Gallipoli Australia was ‘neither consulted nor informed about the British plans’; that on Japanese entry into the war London ‘was not disposed to consult Australia’; that in the formulation of war aims during 1917-18, Prime Minister Hughes ‘had had no part in making British policy’; and that Lloyd George simply ‘took the Dominions’ assent for granted.’ See Neville Meaney, Australia and World Crisis, 1914-1923 (Sydney, 2009), 44, 59, and 247-8.

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Richard Woolcott. Australia/China and Barracuda submarines.

It seems that one of the important roles for the new Barracuda submarines that we are to purchase from the French is for the submarines to be able to operate at long-range in the South China Sea. Quite apart from the cost of the submarine purchase, is this a wise strategy for Australia to pursue. I have reposted extracts below from an earlier article by Richard Woolcott in which he warns of an adversarial attitude towards China based mainly on Japanese policies and US support. John Menadue.

Extract from earlier article by Richard Woolcott ‘The Burning question – should Australia do more on the South China Sea‘ 9 March 2016.

Australia must develop a more balanced approach to its relationships with the United States and a rising China.

There is a danger that adversarial attitudes towards China, based mainly on Japanese policies and US support, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The present debate on China seems mainly to assume that Australia has no choice but to support American primacy in Asia against what is perceived as a rising Chinese hegemony.  This is a simplistic approach which has been challenged by Hawke, Keating, the late Malcolm Fraser and most of our former Ambassadors to China, as well as a number of well informed academics, including Hugh White at the ANU. While China can be expected to resist American hegemony in the Asian region, it does accept a continuing and constructive US role in Asia.

Australia should not take sides on China/Japan or Vietnamese, Malaysian and Philippine disputes within ASEAN, on rival territorial claims in the South China Sea, as the United States has done. Australia’s focus should be on the unimpeded passage to the mainland of China through international waters in the South China Sea, as the United States insists on in respect of its access to its ports. There is no reason why China cannot rise peacefully if it is not provoked.

China maintains it is simply protecting its regional interests from the US “pivot to Asia “, or “rebalancing “as it is now called. Although President Obama has not defined this policy in any detail, two senior US Admirals have recently said, in public, that it is directed at restricting China’s influence in the South China Sea.12

Richard Woolcott was previously President of the United Nations Assembly, Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and many other countries.

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Richard Broinowski. Australia’s maritime espionage

According to The Australian’s defence editor Brendan Nicholson, an Australian submarine twice penetrated the Cam Ranh Bay naval base in Vietnam in 1985. Nicholson’s claim appeared in an article in the newspaper on 27 April 2016 analysing Canberra’s decision to build French Barracuda submarines in Adelaide. HMAS Orion’s first intrusion resulted in ‘brilliantly clear’ footage of sonar and other hull fittings on a Soviet Charlie-class nuclear submarine. On the second, it shadowed a Soviet Kirov-class nuclear-powered cruiser and monitored its communications.

In 1985 I was Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam, resident in Hanoi. I knew nothing of Orion’s activities. Foreign Minister Bill Hayden had instructed me to repair relations with the country, damaged by the war and by former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s over-reaction to Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia in December 1978. I was to encourage bilateral trade, re-start an aid program halted by Fraser, formally hand back to the Vietnamese our extensive embassy properties in Saigon, initiate a missing-in-action mission for Australian soldiers, facilitate a Royal Commission into Agent Orange, and generally re-build trust with Hanoi. I was to engage the Vietnamese in a dialogue on Cambodia and find out specifically if and when they intended to leave.

At the time, the Cold War was at its height and Vietnam was commonly and quite mistakenly regarded in the West as a Soviet colony. Mr Hayden’s initiatives were strongly criticised by China, and five of the then six members of ASEAN (Indonesia, distrustful of China, and wanting a strong Vietnam to stand up to China to its north, was the exception). The Thais were particularly incensed, certain that the Vietnamese army would soon invade across the Cambodian border. Still smarting from their pull-out from Vietnam in June 1975, the Americans thought Hayden naive and foolish. Trenchant critics of Hayden’s initiative towards Hanoi also existed in Canberra, particularly in the Office of National Assessments and parts of Foreign Affairs.

Despite the static, I was getting on with my job. We began an aid program and hosted a trade mission from Australia. I handed back our embassy properties in Saigon. With Vietnamese cooperation, we conducted the first MIA mission by any participating country in the Vietnam War and gathered evidence for the Royal Commission into Agent Orange.

And I was also getting somewhere with Vietnamese officials on Cambodia. During meetings over several months, Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach became increasingly frank with me. Since reunifying the country in 1975, Hanoi had been doggedly trying to pull the place together. By 1978, China, which had been unhappy with unification, was making threatening noises from the north. And that ‘madman’ Pol Pot persisted in attacking Vietnamese villages across the border from the south west. Vietnam had insufficient military strength to challenge China, but could certainly put a spoke in Pol Pot’s wheel. So on Christmas Day 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia and drove Pol Pot out of Phnom Penh. Vietnamese forces would leave when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had been neutralised. Thach ridiculed the suggestion that Vietnam would stay in Cambodia or had territorial designs on Thailand.

I reported our conversations to Canberra, along with my view that Thach and his colleagues were telling the truth.

Meanwhile, if Nicholson and The Australian are to be believed, Orion was busy in Cam Ranh Bay. At the least, its activities were contrary to customary international law and the newly promulgated 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention. If detected in Vietnam’s internal waters, the consequences would have been horrific. Orion could have been depth-charged or captured, its complement of 63 crew interned, its armaments including its Mark 48 US torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles stripped. Bilateral relations could have come to a grinding halt. I could have been recalled or expelled from Hanoi. The increasing goodwill and understanding created through Hayden’s initiative and my activities would have been lost, and our sceptical western and ASEAN allies would have glowed with schadenfreude.

In spite of its appalling baggage, this spying hubris appears not to have given either the Australian government or opposition cause to reflect. Indeed, it resonates in at least two respects with Australia’s recent decision to build at enormous expense a dozen French Barracuda submarines. First is range. The government says it wants long-range subs, a capacity the German and Japanese boats lack. This is presumably to enable us to spy on Chinese assets in the South China Sea. But 1960 British-designed Oberon-class boats costing a mere $10 million a copy (triple that in 2016 terms) had the capacity to reach the same neighbourhood in Vietnam. What is so special about the range of the vastly more expensive French Barracudas?

Second, why is the Australian government so fixated on submarine espionage outside our immediate maritime neighbourhood? The consequences of discovery by China are more appalling than by Vietnam or the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It’s one thing to sail on the surface through waters claimed by China in the interests of reinforcing ‘rules-based’ freedom of navigation, but quite another to penetrate coastal waters by submarine and conduct maritime espionage. If that’s not the purpose, why spend such colossal amounts on new submarines? To sustain the South Australian economy, keep Christopher Pyne in parliament, catch up with our neighbours? All of the above? I will explore motives and consequences in a following article.

Richard Broinowski is a former diplomat and Ambassador to Vietnam, Korea and Mexico.He is currently President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs in NSW.

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