GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the Korean crisis has been contemptible. 

In his grovelling ‘hip to hip’ statement on 10 August, he served up to the Australian people an utterly false and misleading version of the ANZUS Treaty and its meaning. 

Because of the grotesque character of the two principal figures, Kim III and Trump, this crisis is infinitely more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Not to mention the exponential increase in the power of even a single bomb since 1945.

To put Australia’s role in the context of ANZUS is the flea on the back of the elephant.

If we are bound to America ‘hip to hip’, it is certainly nothing to do with ANZUS, one of the sixty such treaties the US has with its allies. All that ANZUS says is that the parties will consult according to their constitutional processes. With Trump as President, America’s constitutional processes are in chaos.

If the crisis comes to the use of nuclear weapons, Australia’s involvement will not be through ANZUS, but the use of Pine Gap and other American installations in Australia; and this will raise not only the question of Australian sovereignty, but our involvement in the worst crime against humanity in history.

An Australian Prime Minister who understood his duty to his country and the world would, at this stage of the crisis, be emphasizing the historic importance of China’s vote in the United Nations Security Council.

So would a sane and responsible President of the US.

There is a kind of Plutarchian symmetry in the political lives of these clowns – between Turnbull and Abbott, and between Trump and Kim – fundamentally weak ignoramuses clawing away at each other to prove their manhood.

By what right do these pygmies – all of them mere accidents of a perverted history – toy in this way with the lives of millions and the future of civilization?


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

This entry was posted in Defence/Security, World Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the Korean crisis has been contemptible. 

  1. Regarding my last sentence … except of course, for Whitlam. Neither sycophant nor empty-headed.

  2. Avatar Tony Kevin says:

    The Opposition silence on this one is worrying, for all the good reasons others have given. There are also Richard Butler’s and Dennis Argall’s excellent essays on this same subject which I fully endorse as I do Graham Freudenberg’s here.

    The opposition foreign affairs advice must be that Turnbull’s public stance is so desperately stupid and self-demeaning it has to be not worthy of comment by the Opposition, and it can be safely left to ‘go through to the keeper’ ( sorry for the cricket metaphor – I know very little about cricket but I think this is apt) , and – crucially – that this international crisis will all blow over so meanwhile Shorten or Wong do not need to say anything to distance Labor from Turnbull’s dangerous fatuity. To his credit, Rudd said something .

    It is still a very dangerous crisis in my view. The danger of a US unilateral strike on North Korea is still very real and present., Australia should be pulling its weight internationally to advocate against this. This responsibility falls on both our government and opposition parties especially in view of what Turnbull said last week.

    • Tony I think that tragically everything is hostage to the absurd and indecent deal (or retreating fantasy) to remove illegally detained offshore persons to the US: fear that saying boo will bring down the Trump flyswat, fear of being held responsible for the big fat no from Trump.

      I don’t think there will be a US attack, but I do think it’s a moral gutter deeper than usual when talking sense on a giant issue is so inhibited by perversity.

      Malcolm Fraser sent a letter with a gentle shot across the bows when Reagan took office having said he wanted to restore relations with the “true free Republic of China on Taiwan”. In 1961, McEwen’s determination to sell wheat to China saw the Menzies government stand firm against determined hostile letters from Dean Rusk.

      For the rest, mainly eager sycophancy reinforced by empty-headedness.

  3. Greg Bailey Greg Bailey says:

    Will any decision to engage with the USA in this foolhardy enterprise be debated in the Australian parliament? Surely in this kind of situation there must be some degree of accountability to the elected representatives in the parliament. But “surely” is likely wishful thinking when dealing with a government and an opposition seemingly entirely concerned about their own survival. Because, even with the erratic response of Turnbull to this portentous situation, the opposition has been very quiet indeed. Surely it is time for them to demonstrate some accountability.

    An excellent statement by Graham Freudenberg.

  4. Avatar A word in time says:

    It’s a more than queasy feeling hearing our sycophant-spotting PM talk about being joined at the hip to the other one.

  5. Avatar Kluf says:

    Unfortunately, as John Howard demonstrated on his unfortunate decision to invade Iraq in 2003, our so called “constitutional processes” enable the Prime Minister to authorise the use of military force overseas without the approval of parliament. Turnbull is “joined at the hip” to Trump, so Trump now controls the ADF.

  6. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Turnbull (aka Trumble or Tremble-at-the-hip) is merely playing his John Dubya Howard role (as in the days of 9/11 and George Dubya Bush) of prodding the Trump/US forward into even more dangerous territory – rather than urging in the strongest terms our horror and refusal to join in with the idiocy and directions being taken. It is time to take away from any PM of Australia the right of declaring war – along with our subservience to any treaty with another land – and certainly not one with a land so undemocratic (and unequal with our size) as the US. How can we get rid of this current Australian and totally unrepresentative government? Do we not have provision somewhere for deposing those putting the entire nation in danger?

  7. Avatar Tony Kevin says:

    All this is predicated on case of US responding to a N Korean attack – in fact, Turnbull was specific on that point. There is now a dangerous silence on the other, very real, possibility – of a preemptive strike by US on N Korea. Trump has not ruled this out. China has said clearly last Friday ( see AFR page 1 article today 11/12 August by Phillip Coorey) that if it happens, China will respond. In my opinion, Turnbull needs to clarify publicly now that Australia would not/not support a preemptive US attack on North Korea.

  8. Avatar Old Bloke says:

    My dear fellow Australians,

    As you all know my major concern, if not my only concern is being able to stay in the Lodge. You also know that I paid out over one million dollars at the last election so that I could stay in the said residence. Hence I really don’t care what you the electorate think or want, so only my wishes and needs will be addressed by me. We have plenty of precedence where Australian PM’s have made unilateral decisions to send our young men and women to war…Menzies, Howard….both like me, strong leaders.

    What happens to others or to the world for that matter, is of no concern to me.

    Yours sincerely,


  9. Well, there’s also Article 1, but it’s so boring:

    The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

    • Indeed, I looked wistfully at that one but I suspect neither Pence nor Turnbull gave it a second thought. As to planks of the alliance, I still recall Marshall Green’s suggestion in Marian Wilkinson’s film Allies that President Johnson thought of Australia as the next rectangular state west of El Paso. Fifty years on, what’s changed? If nothing else, the temptation for Binskin and Co to get some hands on experience in combat next to the Yanks – none of this Talisman Saber pussy-footing – must be considerable.

  10. Meant to add to my comment: Whatever happens, ‘joined at the hip’ will take its place with ‘All the way with LBJ’, ‘We’ll go Waltzing Matilda with you’, and ‘Deputy Sheriff’ in the lexicon of Australia-US alliance fatuity. Perhaps ‘conga-line of suckholes’ is in there also.

  11. Article III of the ANZUS Treaty imposes the obligation to consult but Articles IV and V about responding to armed attacks are presumably what PM is relying on now. The reference to ‘constitutional processes’ is in Article IV.

    I reckon the consultation was the phone call between Pence and Turnbull the other night and we are already in Article IV-V territory. Article III seems designed to permit perfunctory consultation. The real point is whether the working through of the constitutional processes leads to one party coming to the aid of another: our processes will inevitably lead us to ‘helping’ the US, because we are dependent on the US – or think we are; theirs will not inevitably lead to them helping us. (What about NZ then? Any sign of panic in Wellington?)

    All that said, ANZUS is certainly not what is driving it all, as Graham Freudenberg says: 75 years of kow-towing, sycophancy, abdication of sovereignty, and integrated force structure is more to the point. ANZUS is the fig-leaf, and if another such is needed, someone will doubtless dig out the relevant small print from the Korean War Armistice.

  12. Avatar Jaquix says:

    Exactly so. Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement on just about everything has been found wanting. He is lurching from gaffe to gaffe. If he thinks announcing Australia is joined at the hip with the USA and will join them re North Korea, is truly jumping the gun. A very dangerous gun. Then yesterday, speaking in South Australia, he continued his abuse of Bill Shorten by claiming he was “the most dangerous left wing” politician etc.
    Huw Parkinson did a great skit of Malcolm as a drunken fool, with pink lace jabot, repeating all the nonsense about giving us all a vote on same sex marriage. Seems to me when you are ridiculed like that, you might as well give up and go home. Malcolms famous lack of judgement will cloud even that decision. Off topic a bit, but I think this marriage equality vote is actually as much a vote about Turnbulls government as the issue itself. The Yes votes are in fact a big Thumbs Down for Turnbull.

  13. What puzzles me is who could be advising Turnbull, or has he become simply unhinged and unadvisable.

    I have no doubt that managing government wedged between Murdoch and Abbott is difficult. But the issues on this matter are not really difficult to understand. Even if the issues have been badly scrambled.

    A number of commentators have characterised DPRK strategy as pursued by acting, out of necessity, “ferocious, weak and crazy”. In the 1990s they used, as have others, their nuclear program as an economic bargaining chip. All that changed after 9/11 when G W Bush lumped the DPRK, Iran, Iraq and Libya together as the Axis of Evil.

    Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and his regime destroyed. Ghaddafi undid his nuclear program and was chewed up. Iran has done all asked and is being chewed down still. Blind Freddy, to use a term from the 1980s, can see the only security for the DPRK must therefore be a credible nuclear deterrent.

    North Korea has never threatened first strike. It has however lived with persistent first strike threat for a long time.

    In South Korea since May a reforming president who might make a Whitlam envious has been embarked on domestic reform as well as pursuit of sanity in intra Korean affairs. And has had Trump’s agreement that the ROK is to take the lead and there must be no war. Speaking thus also to Trump for an hour in the past week.

    It is appalling that an Australian leader should be so blind as to fail to see realities plus the entitlement of a country in the region, member of the G20, GDP same as ours, population double ours, to its own self-determination.

    There are major US-ROK exercises, history of practising decapitation of the DPRK, planned for when the DPRK plans its demonstration of missile firing to points outside terrorial waters of Guam. In the past week a nuclear armed US B2 bomber has cruised over the ROK and very close to North Korean airspace. Who is entitled to do what?

    The ROK is trying to speed up transfer of command over its own troops from the US in wartime, legacy of decades of dictatorship and the unfinished war.

    This recent article in a South Korean media outlet shows something of what the ROK president is trying to do, compare Whitlam.

    We should be alert and sensitive to this extraordinary happening in a regional country and not acting like the fifth cockatoo on the branch.

    The world has been led up a stupid path with fear of North Korea. More credibly the US is bent upon undermining every other nuclear power’s second strike capability, ending all balance of power. While on the real front, away from unusable nuclear weapons, the US tears up one country after another.


  14. The words of a thoughtful president on the consequences of nuclear war and the lessons from history of foolhardy leadership. Take note, you idiot Donald Trump.

    John F. Kennedy, excerpt from an address at the University of Maine. October 19, 1963 (1 month before he was assassinated).

    “Historians report that in 1914, with most of the world already plunged in war, Prince Bulow, the former German Chancellor, said to the then Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg: How did it all happen? And Bethmann-Hollweg replied: ‘Ah, if only one knew.’

    If this planet is ever ravaged by nuclear war, if 300 million Americans, Russians, and Europeans are wiped out by a 60-minute nuclear exchange, if the survivors of that devastation can then endure the fire, poison, chaos, and catastrophe, I do not want one of those survivors to ask another, ‘How did it all happen? and to receive the incredible reply, ‘Ah, if only one knew.'”

Comments are closed.