Australia’s leadership is destroying the very fabric of this country

Apr 17, 2024
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Some days I wake up and don’t recognise the country we have become. It is not the country I grew up in. It is not a country I can be proud of. It is not a country that has a bright future under current leadership.

Today was such a day. Iran launched its much-anticipated strikes against Israel, a clearly articulated response to Israeli airstrikes on the Iranian Consulate facilities in Damascus Syria on 1 April 2024 which reportedly killed 16 people.

Diplomatic facilities, to this point, have largely been sacrosanct. As Guyana’s representative to the United Nations Security Council rightly explained, ‘any attack against a diplomatic facility is unacceptable and contravenes the fundamental safeguards established in international law.’ Specifically, the United Nations Charter and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Israel’s airstrikes were an incredibly reckless and provocative act, undermining a vital component of international diplomacy, the protection of diplomatic premises. Given the violations of one of the well-established ‘norms’ of the international system, you may expect the Australian Government to have a view on Israel’s actions. You would be wrong. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Minister condemned or criticised Israel’s action. Yet the Foreign Minister on 12 April 2024 had the gall to raise Australia’s concerns about preparations by Iran for military action against Israel.

Then after Iran’s retaliation Prime Minister Albanese released a statement condemning Iran without even mentioning Israel’s actions. A statement that appears to have been coordinated with the ‘international community’, also known as the collective West.

This vignette is an example of everything that is wrong with Australian foreign policy. It demonstrates how, as Paul Grenier describes it, conformance to the policy objectives of the United States [and increasingly Israel] has become the measure of truth.

The frequency of examples of this nature is frankly disturbing. In recent months we have had:

  • The Australian Government suspending funding to the UNRWA just one day after the International Court of Justice’s ruling against Israel with regards to genocide in Gaza (funding which was restored just 10 days after the Prime Minister and other senior politicians were referred to the International Criminal Court for complicity to genocide).
  • The Australian Defence Force supporting illegal US and UK military strikes against the Houthi’s in Yemen commencing just one day after a United Nations Security Council Resolution ‘urged caution and restraint to avoid further escalation in the Red Sea and the broader region’ (see Australia: A ‘rogue state’? for more on this example).
  • The Australian Government’s silence on the United States providing cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite the extensive and pivotal efforts Australia made in the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

In late 2022 we had the Foreign Minister explaining how she is motivated by principle and that she will bring all aspects of Australian power, and employ every strategy at the Government’s disposal to uphold human rights. And the Government does take action when the alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses are from countries such as China, Russia or Iran.

Yet just two years later, in the face of an active genocide in Gaza, the Government’s response has been slow, pathetically weak and obfuscatory. A response that appears motivated not so much by stopping the death and destruction, but rather to appease mounting public anger. Whilst in 2022 the Foreign Minister celebrated the legacy of Australia’s role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are now left with a shameful legacy of complicity to genocide.

Through its actions the Australian Government continually highlights that its concerns over human rights are not universal, but rather only as deep as its geopolitical priorities. I guess that is what the Foreign Minister means when she states that we will take actions to uphold human rights consistent with our ‘interests.’

This cynical, hypocritical and, over the long term, untenable approach to international relations has insidious side effects, none of which are to the benefit of Australia.

Australia has lost the ability to think and act independently. This is a direct result of alliance entrapment, where Australia is being used by the United States in its interests, not ours.

Our political leadership is destroying the trust and legitimacy in our democratic institutions through the hypocrisy of its actions and deceptions, half-truths and omissions in its messaging. There appears to be a growing sense that our political leadership has betrayed the Australian population in the interests of foreign powers.

Outside a collective West that’s power, in all its forms, is rapidly contracting the rest of the world must view Australia as a weak, toadying accoutrement to an increasingly belligerent, yet visibly collapsing hegemon. A country that behaves in this manner neither deserves respect, nor will be respected, by allies, other countries, or potential adversaries alike.

Finally, Australia is consistently on the losing side of the conflicts we unnecessarily involve ourselves in. The list of defeats or strategic failures such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan which Australia has involved itself in continues to grow. Australia, enthusiastically supported the proxy war against Russia being fought in Ukraine, with Ukraine now appearing to be on the cusp of military collapse. Operation Prosperity Guardian against the Houthis in the Red Sea, which Australia supported, has been a dismal and embarrassing failure and demonstrated significant weaknesses in the military strength of the United States and its vassals.

As the collapse of the United States imperial system (the keystone of the collective West) accelerates, it is increasingly likely that not only will Australia be on the losing side of future conflicts, but we will also be on the wrong side of history. Desperately clinging to a Western dominated world, which no longer exists (AUKUS is an expression of this anachronistic world view).

Despite the mounting evidence of a colossal failure in Australian foreign policy (which would be topped off by being dragged into an unnecessary and likely unwinnable war with China at the behest of the United States) there appears to be little in the way of reflection, or re-assessment of how we may engage with a rapidly evolving world amongst our political leadership.

This is in stark comparison to the manifesto for a reinvigorated Australia that Yanis Varoufakis offered at his recent National Press Club address, where he stated:

“Imagine an Australia that helps bring a just Peace in Ukraine, as opposed to a mindless forever war. A non-aligned Australia that is never neutral in the face of injustice but, also, not automatically aligned with every warmongering adventure decided in Washington.”

That is an Australia that we could all be proud of. That is an Australia that would be respected in the world. That is an Australia where the trust in our political institutions and leadership could be restored. That is an Australia with a sense of purpose and whose actions align with its purported values. That is an Australia, freed from the odious entanglements of an unnecessary alliance, that could also focus on addressing the myriad of domestic challenges that we face.

This is the Australia that we must demand from our political leadership!

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