Despite the best endeavours of Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, to put the relationship with China on a more even keel, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, seems determined to destabilise it.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Weekend Australian on 4 November, Albanese framed China as a threat, citing aggressive intent toward Taiwan and hostile activities in the South China Sea, he advocated strongly for increased defence spending, at a time of budget cuts.
Has he taken this position to avoid being wedged by the Opposition, LNP, or because he has been captured by the US military/industrial lobbyists?
It would seem the latter. Albanese inherited AUKUS and what seems to be a number of secret US/Australia defence undertakings from Morrison including embedded US advisers in the Australian defence establishment, cancellation of the French submarine deal and purchase of US/UK nuclear submarines and expansion of Stirling, Tindal and Darwin defence facilities to accommodate US demands.
Quite out of the blue was the recent announcement that B52 bombers, capable of delivering nuclear weapons, were to be based at Tindal. These are offensive weapons of war and do not relate to the defence of Australia. It is unlikely that Australia would have any say in how they are deployed. Their offensive capabilities are directed entirely against China. Upgrades at Pine Gap are directed against China. Very quickly, indeed within months, it seems to have been accepted by all sections of the MSM and more broadly within Australia that China is the enemy and that war is inevitable.
Albanese seems determined to re-enforce this narrative. The B52 deployment without prior announcement coupled with his rambling and jingoistic interview with The Australian almost ensures that he will not be given a one on one with Xi Jinping at the G20. China is probably getting close to the point of giving up on Australia. It would be fair to say that Albanese has dashed whatever hope Penny Wong had of getting some momentum into the relationship.
Who is in his ear? It would seem many of the people Morrison employed, such as Shearer of ONI, ASPI, so beloved of Marles, and Kennedy, Sinodinos, and a raft of faceless people representing the US Industrial/Military complex.
Why hasn’t Albanese looked to a new advisers? Why run with Morrison’s discredited team? Why hasn’t Albanese pushed back against this right-wing pressure? After all he is ostensibly a member of the Labor left. He is aware of the Vietnam narrative, a narrative that is being replayed with his consent. Did his left-wing ideals die when he went to ground over East Timor at the time of the Beazley/Brereton dust up?
Albanese came to power after one of the most awful governments in Australian history. Corruption was writ large. To a greater or lesser extent all of Morrison’s front bench were rotten apples. The bar had been discarded. Labor has put the bar back but it is still very low. Albanese is excused by his supporters as being far better than his predecessor, which is true and not hard. They will not hear criticism of his capture or reluctant decision making. They argue it is early days and he should be given time. How much time is unstated. They argue criticism will undermine him, which is a strange argument directed toward a Prime Minister and that he is far superior to his predecessor, which is true.
His supporters plead for more time, indicating little knowledge of history. Labor politician, John Curtin, became Prime Minister on 7 October, 1941. Australia was at war, with troops deployed in the middle east. On 7 December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. The defence of Australia, requiring considerable planning, was overseen by a Prime Minister who had been in office for two months with no prior experience in such a significant undertaking. On 19 February Darwin was bombed and on the 23 February Curtin over-ruled Churchill and brought the 6th and 7th Divisions back to Australia. Momentous decisions made with a great deal of courage.
On the 5 December, 1972, Labor politician, Gough Whitlam, was elected Prime Minister, following 23 years of LNP government which included the illegal conscription of young men to fight in Vietnam. After being sworn in Whitlam moved quickly, with his deputy, Lance Barnard, to end conscription, recognise China, bring equal pay before the tribunal, ban racially composed sporting teams and make Australia’s position against apartheid clear at the UN. His Cabinet was sworn in on 18 December.
One of the failures of the Albanese government has been not to make public the details of the AUKUS arrangements. He has not briefed on them but more importantly has not moved to have then tabled in parliament. Albanese has not expressed himself in favour of the Parliament considering and passing a proposal to go to war, which as just as well, as aggressive patrolling of the South China Sea might see Australia sucked into war before politicians were even aware.
Basing nuclear capable B52’s in the Northern Territory with the express aim of targeting China puts Australia on a war footing. In fact, it amounts to an act of war. The main stream media in Australia regard China as the enemy and seem prepared for the prospect of active warfare to take place. Shortly after his election it was possible for Albanese to push back on AUKUS, claiming a failure of the previous government to provide briefings. He might have called time out while all aspects of the Australia/China relationship were considered. He did not. He allowed himself to be railroaded and now it is too late. The pressure from the US has been relentless and extensive and the pace breathless.
The US claims to be the protector of Taiwan which the international community recognises to be part of China. The US, in its rivalry with China, has made Taiwan the hostage of fortune. It is a contrivance. The audacity and arrogance of the US is mind blowing. And Albanese has shown he is not the man to take this on. Once again, we are being or rather have been sucked into an American war. This time of likely horrendous outcomes. It will be Australia that pays the price. America will slink away whilst we will be hostage to war reparations and possible occupation.
The calibre of the advice Albanese is receiving is most recently illustrated by the decision not to attend COP27, particularly as Australia has said it wants to host the 2026 conference with Pacific Island States. Albanese should be there networking.
Some say his attendance would be just optics. That may be, but it is a very important optic for a head of government to attend a conference on the most critical issue facing mankind. Nothing else is as important. Can’t Albanese see that? And if he can, why doesn’t he over-ride his over paid and under endowed team of advisers.
As a nation where do we go from here? We have thrown in our lot with the US, we have turned our back on our biggest trading partner. Embedded as he is, how will Albanese handle another Trump Presidency? Despite the thinking within ASPI, China is here to stay. Diplomacy should have been the key, instead B52’s were offered, as they were to Hanoi in 1972, as talking points. The US hasn’t changed and neither have we. Sycophantic until jilted. A vassal state which neither China nor the US respects.