Anthony Albanese: Australia’s lobbyist for the US ImperiumOct 26, 2023
Australian sovereignty should have been something of a pub joke prior to AUKUS. After it, it has become a dead letter. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s sole purpose during his visit to Washington is to be the country’s uncritical undertaker, ensuring that remains of independence are buried, even as the minerals are extracted.
Visiting a host you presume to be your equal can be an embarrassing spectacle. He has the better wine supply (enormous, luscious in fact), the monstrous backyard with verdant orchards, some territory stolen from unsuspecting natives, and a friendship circle irritatingly large. Such friendship, however, is bought, subsidised and run on the escort-model service, the pay as you go understanding of human relations.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese finds himself in this position as he visits Washington. He has mortgaged Australia’s future to the US military-industrial complex without demur or reflection. The AUKUS bill, calculated at a conservative $368 billion over a few decades, will only grow.
But there are problems. Domestic politics exerts a near mesmeric pull upon Congress, notably the US Senate. Concerns remain that the US should be cautious parting with its nuclear-powered boats, even to an ally, given lethargic production schedules. Effectively, that makes the Australian PM a lobbyist for US interests, including the US military-industrial complex, convincing members of Congress that Australia is worthy of receiving overpriced boats with nuclear power to act as the imperium’s Indo-Pacific constabulary.
He is also further permitting the roping of Australian commodities in the energy transition by US mining corporations, deceptively telling his audience back home that this will make his country sovereign. In an October 25 joint media release from the PM and the Minister for Resources, the government revealed that “a $2 billion expansion in critical minerals financing, which will solidify Australia’s position as a world leading provider, help the transition to net zero, boost the economy and support more jobs and opportunities for Australians.”
It will achieve nothing of the sort. The moment you bring in the large US corporate concerns (this part is left obscured in the media guff), the cord between Washington and its auxiliary arm of foreign policy comes into play. But Albanese prefers to see it differently: “We want to move Australia up the international value chain in critical minerals, energy and manufacturing.”
This makes little sense when considering the desire of the Biden administration to convince Congress to add Australia as a “domestic source” within the meaning of the Defense Production Act (DPA), specifically under the provisions of Title III.
Title III of the DPA “provides various financial measures, such as loans, loan guarantees, purchases, and purchase commitments, to improve, expand, and maintain domestic production capabilities needed to support national defense and homeland security procurement requirements.” Unsurprisingly, the emphasis here is on US national defence priorities, not the selected territory that falls within the application of the act.
As is typical in the conduct of imperial politics, the satellite state must be convinced it has some partnership role, a faux parity that spares embarrassment. The same goes for the militarisation of vast swathes of Australian territory under the auspices of “joint military corporation” between the US Armed Forces and Australian defence personnel. How refreshing it would be for the Australian Defence Minister, Richard Marles, to simply admit, without obfuscation, that Canberra has been annexed to the military and policy apparatus of another country.
The mission to spearhead the cornering of the Australian minerals market for Washington’s purposes is headed by the Australia-United States Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transformation Compact. The mandarins evidently feel that giving such an enterprise a contorted, longwinded name is bound to put critics to sleep and sidestep peering eyes back in Australia. Announced on May 20, the Compact is ostensibly intended to “enhance bilateral cooperation” and establish “climate and clean energy as a central pillar to the Australia-United States Alliance.”
Australian parliamentarians should be shrieking at this prospect. Not only will they have to contend with the continuing, obscenely influential power of the Australian mining lobby in the country’s affairs, they will have the monstrous headache of US mining corporations hungering for nickel, lithium and other rare minerals. And as we know from the wisdom of Charles Wilson, the President of General Motors who was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be his Secretary of Defense in 1953, “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”
One area where some stirring of independence from the US imperium might have evinced itself is that of dropping charges against the Australian national and WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange. Were Assange to be extradited from the UK to the United States, he would face 18 crushing charges, 17 of which are vindictively inspired by the US Espionage Act of 1917.
Some of the legwork for Albanese was already done by a cross-party delegation of Australian parliamentarians in September. Almost charmingly well-intentioned, they came armed with a letter published on page 9 of the Washington Post, expressing the concerns of over 60 Australian parliamentarians for Assange’s fate. “As Australian Parliamentarians, we are resolutely of the view that the prosecution and incarceration of the Australian citizen Julian Assange must end.”
One of the members of the delegation, independent MP for Kooyong Monique Ryan, drew special attention to the AUKUS relationship. “This side of the AUKUS partnership feels really strongly about this and so what we expect the prime minister [Anthony Albanese] to do is that he will carry the same message to President Biden when he comes to Washington.”
While we already knew that the Albanese government, for all its public utterances that the vicious Assange prosecution should cease, was tepid and restrained in pursuing that goal, information obtained via Freedom of Information by Rex Patrick and Philip Dorling has made things darkly clear. “The Assange case has been carefully corralled off from the bilateral diplomatic agenda.” The policy is to let things run their course: “not to engage on the Assange case until after he has been extradited to the United States, put on trial, convicted, sentenced and exhausted all appeal rights.”
Australian sovereignty should have been something of a pub joke prior to AUKUS. After it, it has become a dead letter. Albanese’s sole purpose is to be the country’s uncritical undertaker, ensuring that remains of independence are buried, even as the minerals are extracted.