A nation for a continent – no thanks

Dec 30, 2023
Chess pieces painted in US, UK, AUS flags

Events of the last three months or so will shape the way large cohorts of the Australian population assess the character, integrity and fitness for office of federal politicians and parties on issues of fundamental importance to them, much as happened during the years of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. But whereas the Vietnam War convinced a cohort to vote Labor for a generation, the current combination of events is likely to convince some cohorts that neither major party is worthy of trust or respect to govern.

In another sense, the last three months or so have confirmed to the world that Australia does not see itself as an independent nation state, but as a tribute-paying vassal of the United States, serving US interests globally. It has confirmed exactly where it stands on the most fundamental of human rights for people in the most vulnerable of circumstances, both at home and elsewhere.

It has confirmed its rejection of the United Nations mandate, principles, objectives and conventions, established after the Second World War – including all those to which it is a signatory – more explicitly and transparently in the last few months than at any other time since the formation of the United Nations.

It is not difficult to connect the dots between Australia’s rejection of the Voice referendum, its disgraceful response to the ongoing mass murder in Gaza and the West Bank, its determination to undermine the High Court decision that indefinite detention of asylum seekers is illegal, its pursuit of David McBride rather than alleged war criminals, and its desire to transfer control of foreign policy, defence policy and major elements of trade policy to the United States.

Just one of these issues, let alone their combination, represent not only a shocking nadir in Australia’s claims for any moral authority or a voice worthy of respect in the international arena, but any claims to be seriously regarded as an independent nation.

Since the Howard years all Australian governments have been acolytes and promoters of US policy interests, messengers and voices “down under” for successive US governments, a reliable procession of “deputy sheriffs” in the south west Pacific and east Asian region, irrespective of which political party has been in office.

The extent to which the United States controls Australian foreign, defence and trade policies, how much tribute Australia pays to integrate with US forces in their wars – and will continue to pay for many years into the future – and how Australian territory, including land bases for American troops and aircraft, as well as port and other facilities in major cities, are now being made available, or extended, for the unconditional use of the United States under the AUKUS agreements and its associated “Defence Force Posture” arrangements, is only sketchily known by the Australian public.

At best, these arrangements transform Australia back into the “dominion state” role it had in the British Empire until the end of 1941, when its defence, foreign affairs and trade policies were determined largely by London. There is a supreme irony that this scandalous transfer of Australian sovereign authority to the US has been set in concrete by Albanese, a man who likes to model his style on John Curtin, the Labor prime minister who effectively dismantled Australia’s “dominion” status in December 1941 by refusing to follow Churchill’s orders about the use of Australian military forces in the Second World War.

But being a dominion of the US on the British Empire model is probably an understatement, because the huge financial costs Australia has committed to AUKUS and other “privileges” to be integrated within the US military-industrial machine – the idiotic submarine deal alone being $368 billion – means there is no chance that Labor has any intention of addressing any real issues of social inequality on the home front, except as rhetorical window-dressing and bits and pieces at the edges to create the illusion of difference with the Trumpist Coalition.

Gone are the days of post-Vietnam War hope that Australia could actually become “A Nation For A Continent”, the title of Russel Ward’s history of Australia 1901-1975. Ward wrote the history during those few short years of the Whitlam government, when optimism was afoot, when Australia first attempted to independently engage with its region, initiated by Whitlam’s visit to China in 1973.

Whitlam so frightened the horses in both Washington and London that their comfortably arranged joint establishment control over the levers of power in Canberra could be disturbed or challenged, that he had to go. Jenny Hocking has shown how the “palace” helped get rid of Whitlam and it is clear that British and US intelligence agencies worked cooperatively to persuade the governor-general John Kerr to dismiss Whitlam in a “soft” coup.

The dismissal of Whitlam meant that no senior Labor figure would ever again respond as Bill Hayden did in 1966 to Harold Holt’s statement “all the way with LBJ”, when Hayden said that Holt’s “seeming servility was an embarrassment” which “shocked and insulted many Australians”. Those days of open expression of an independent Australian voice are long gone.

The Hawke-Keating government worked within the limits imposed by Washington, and proactively created a constructive voice in its working relationship with the US, and east Asia, but that all turned to dust in 1996.

From 1996 until now, and continuing, all Australian governments have hastened the process of returning Australia to its past status as a frightened client-state willing to totally subjugate its interests and resources to those of the US, making sure as well that allegiance to the British monarchy remains intact.

Since 2003, when Labor leader Simon Crean opposed John Howard’s decision to send troops to fight in Iraq without UN sanction for war, any voices of Labor dissent have been quickly silenced from within, in stark contrast with Labor’s opposition to the Vietnam War, when senior Labor politicians such as Jim Cairns played leading roles in the anti-war movement.

Labor governments led by Rudd, Gillard and now Albanese have always been eager to compete with Howard and his Coalition successors to see who can most suitably prove their relevance in the support, promotion and service of US corporate and military power.

It is no longer even an issue about the Australian “national interest”. It is about placing “personal and party political interest” above all else. The main focus of the competition between the two factions of the Australian political establishment, Labor and Liberal, is about each convincing Washington that they are best able to increase Australian subservience as a vassal state.

During the 2022 election campaign when Albanese endorsed AUKUS, it was generally thought to be a tactical political ploy, and an issue which would receive more careful consideration after the election, but that view has been proven to be completely inaccurate.

After Albanese became prime minister it became increasingly obvious as well that he was intent on following the main elements of the Howard-Abbott-Morrison agenda, including being an ardent monarchist, a Modi acolyte, a mourner at the funeral of right-wing Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, an advocate of NATO presence in the Indo Pacific regions, and above all, perhaps the most ostentatious and spendthrift minion of servility to the United States that Australia has ever produced.

The AUKUS folly in its various opaque elements entail massive socio-economic costs which will last for decades, especially to essential public services such as health and education and to resources needed to combat the consequences of climate change – think $12 billion already spent for the privilege of being a supplicant.

Apart from that, the failure of Labor to be transparent about these matters during the 2022 election campaign were not just a betrayal of their stated commitment to tackling inequality and poverty, but a more egregious assault on the basic principles of “representative democracy”.

The nature, extent and depth of the Labor-Liberal moral and ethical disintegration into courtier tribute-paying “down under” lackeys, has been stunningly exemplified by Australia’s refusal to acknowledge what is actually happening in Gaza, even in grudgingly supporting the UNGA resolution for a ceasefire on 13 December. The Albanese government, in its statement to the UN fell back on the old canard of Hamas using “human shields” as an explanation for the “humanitarian disaster”, and Israel having “the right to defend itself”, when events on the ground prove those claim are bizarre falsehoods straight from the US-Israeli propaganda book. As for the “humanitarian disaster”, Australia deliberately avoids mention of the mass indiscriminate bombing of civilians, the scorched earth destruction of Gaza, the murder and maiming of more than 70,000 people so far and the the displacement of almost the entire population by force and be denial of the means of survival.

It no longer matters which mendacious, brutal and brutalised cabal rules the roost in Canberra. Labor and Liberal have both rejected the fundamental principles of human rights established after the Second World War in UN conventions – as well as the age-old principle of habeas corpus established 800 years ago in 1215 in Magna Carta – to their own everlasting, unforgettable disgrace.

They both seek a return to the role of colonial outpost, whether as outright Trumpists in purpose and method, or as servile flunkies in rhetoric and action. Neither can be trusted to govern Australia in the interests of its people, nor to care for Australia itself. They are simply not interested in Australia as a nation in its own right and seek instead to use Australia and its resources as a vehicle for their own personal and partisan power and security.

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