Foreign agents have infiltrated our most secret government establishments

Mar 2, 2024
Australia digital cyber technology map background.

The mass media got itself into a flap this week (28, 29 Feb & 1 March) over ASIO Director, Mike Burgess’ claim that a former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by spies of a foreign regime.

“Name the traitor,” former Treasurer and former Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, thundered. And discussion over this call became the major media talking point over the following days. The Herald Sun, The Australian and The Age all carried denials from former Labor senator Sam Dastyari and former NSW Labor politician Ernest Wong, who both said Burgess was not referring to them.

Crikey political editor, Bernard Keane tried to recall relevant cases and also came up with the usual fare:

“Who can forget Labor’s Sam Dastyari and his relations with billionaire Huang Xiangmo and other China-linked donors? he asked.

But he then added NSW Upper House Labor member, Shaoquett Moselmane, who has never been convicted of any crime, but is regularly pilloried for openly expressing his opinions on China and the Middle East.

If Moselmane’s case is to be mentioned, it must surely be raised as a prime example of a monumental, public, ASIO blunder. In 2020, with the media alerted, ASIO and the Australian Federal Police raided Moselmane’s home, generating a blaze of publicity and resulting in his suspension from the Labor Party. No charges were ever laid and Moselmane was later reinstated by Labor.

Keane also mentioned former Liberal trade minister, Andrew Robb, for taking a consulting job with Chinese-owned Landbridge straight after leaving Parliament. Keane has a point here. There should be restrictions banning former ministers from cashing in on their government inside knowledge and connections.

But Keane also believes that Robb has no right to challenge claims that China is a threat to Australia, or criticise his former colleagues for damaging Australia’s relations with China. China, according to Keane, must always be presented as the enemy.

Politicians who have links with Israel also cop a serve from Keane.

But in discussing foreign agents of influence, he and other media commentators leave out the elephant in the room: the ubiquitous presence in Australia of American agents of every type and shade.

There were times – you have to go back to the Whitlam and Gorton governments – when those in power thought of themselves firstly as Australian leaders.

But sadly, over the years our governments have taken foreign affairs directions from poorly informed American administrations. Think Vietnam, when Prime Minister Menzies, supported the US invasion and, in his speech committing Australian troops, foolishly argued that the war was part of a downward thrust by Communist China. No mention then of the historic enmity between the two countries.

Or take Prime Minister, John Howard’s willingness to join the “weapons of mass destruction” war on Iraq. What foreign agents misled and manipulated our ministers then?

And it’s not just coalition prime ministers. In 2010 Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed Australian troops to Afghanistan for the rest of the decade telling us that this costly continued engagement would “ensure that the country would not become a safe haven for terrorists.”

Which foreign agents fed Gillard and her advisers those lines? With the Taliban now back in power, the country is as safe for terrorists as it ever was.

And now of course we have AUKUS. This manipulation of Australian politicians – government ministers and back-benchers of both Labor and the coalition – is both costly and misguided. The program is forecast to cost $268bn to $368bn between now and the mid- 2050s. But as the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) points out, rather than make us safer, it is a dangerous development further enmeshing Australia in the US war fighting machine.

The agents who peddle these costly and misguided policies are not targeted by ASIO.

They’re not seen as foreigners. They’re not seen as damaging Australia’s interests, even though the repeated following of their directions costs Australia far more than the damage done by the odd Australian politician talking to Chinese agents.

Australia is now so Americanised that these agents are invisible. American weapons manufacturers fund “Australian” think tanks who spout their propaganda; American government and private institutions sponsor student overseas trips; powerful energy companies promote their self-interest. And then there’s News Corp with its propaganda tentacles sprawling across Australia.

We even invite these foreigners into our most secret government establishments. American military officers have landed high-paying advisory contracts with Australia’s Department of Defence. On top of that, Defence Minister, Richard Marles announced last year that American military analysts would soon be sent to work at the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) in Canberra. “You’ll get an American perspective into the American system seen from Australia. And that is not insignificant,” he said.

That’s what we need!

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