Has the USA captured Australia’s fourth estate?

Mar 29, 2023
We are being manipulated concept. Large scary hands with puppet string tied around fingers

The uniformly negative reaction of the national press gallery to former PM Paul Keating’s views on Australia’s security raises questions not just of its intellectual adequacy but of whether the media has been captured by and is knowingly serving the United States at Australia’s expense.

How might one distinguish commentary which knowingly favours US objectives which increase risk and cost for Australia from incompetence having the same result? Perhaps case studies of commentators’ past writings could reveal patterns to help readers judge.

Let’s take a prominent journalist. Peter Hartcher, political and international editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, is richly experienced. A long-standing opinion writer at the national level who has spent years in the US. One assumes such a figure would inform Australians authentically and perceptively of developments in the United States which affect Australia as a major security partner, from an Australian perspective. Not only should we expect insightful knowledge to reside in such a figure but that this be evident in published work.

Undoubtedly, since the signing of the ANZUS treaty in 1951 the decisive shift affecting our security relationship has been the influence on US foreign policy of “neo-conservativism”. Spawned in Chicago academia and arriving in Washington following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, “neocons” contrived the unfounded invasion of Iraq in 2003. Their ethos prevails to this day. In a nutshell, the neocon ethos espouses pre-emptive action to prevent any nation becoming a challenge to US hegemony, by identifying potential rivals early and countering with force as necessary. Anything goes, including truth. That allies should bear the burden for US dominance is axiomatic.

It is in this context that China has been declared by the US to be the principal threat to its global domination. Based on the neocon algorithm, China is deemed to be the priority political and economic competitor, to be diminished to insignificance, employing military force as necessary.

The neocon policy mindset in America is profoundly different from that which Australia experienced in San Francisco seventy years ago when negotiating ANZUS. One would expect a half-competent Australian international editor to pick up on that shift. And embed this new reality in writing on US/China security matters. To thus shape the tone of the issues and conclusions. Assessing Hartcher’s writing for even a hint of this quality goes to the competence of the correspondent. Readers can judge whether such an attribute resides in Hartcher’s commentary. Which says nothing necessarily of motive, however.

Closer to home and more recently, Australia’s security architecture has been destroyed by America pursuing domination of China. The destruction has passed unnoticed, without debate. Here media incompetence generally is so sustained and glaring that questions of motive automatically arise.

Who would know that the ANZUS treaty has been buried in practice? Whilst it failed to offer Australia a binding security guarantee it did support us in valuable ways to build our own self- reliant defence, using our own money for our own priorities. Now that self-reliance is done. America has insinuated its forces onto Australian territory and into our defence resources and our foreign and defence policy – for its own objectives against China.

How? The takeover was formalised through a document known as the Force Posture Agreement, compliments of former US Secretary of State John Kerry visiting us in 2014. Embraced by the Abbot government and fertilised by every government since. Therein, Australia agrees to provide the real estate and support for American military operations against China, under American control and command, at America’s pleasure. It is expandable, again at America’s pleasure, without limits.

Hereby, Australia has taken on acutely elevated geostrategic risk – with no end in sight, willingly. Australia is now on a strategic risk escalator controlled by Washington. Yet our media presents Beijing as the protagonist.

Worse, as with ANZUS, America has not provided any guarantee of armed response when Australia is attacked. The Australian government is now subsidising the US to attack China from our sovereign territory whenever the US chooses, with no insurance.

Overturning of Australia’s security superstructure should have been serious grist to a foreign correspondent’s mill. Yet Hartcher has not even scratched that surface in commentary. Really, could mere incompetence explain this void, not just in Hartcher’s coverage but across the entire fourth estate? Ignorance is an unlikely explanator given Hatcher’s deep, relevant background. Clearly it is to America’s benefit that Australians remain uninformed of the hazards being imposed, and our extra costs, with our governments’ encouragement.

Australians are forced to entertain purposeful manipulation of their right to know, to America’s advantage.

All the while, some earnest Australians have been working for change so that Parliament has the say on Australia going to war. What good is that when America has free rein to wage war from Australia whenever it suits Washington? American operations mounted from here against China will automatically render us at war in China’s eyes. What any Australian parliament or government might say would be of no practical consequence to a China under attack from B52 bombers based at Tindal.

Then there was Hartcher’s “red alert” series on war with China, recently run by the Herald. That paper’s editorial advised readers that “fighting with China could come as early as 2026”. A professional editor would have demanded authoritative evidence. It’s easy enough to come by, publicly. The US Secretary of Defence intelligence report to Congress for 2022 advises that China’s military plan is to be able to restrain US forces on its periphery by 2027. That is, China is focussed on dealing with American military pressure on its sea and air surrounds. And Australian forces are involved now in that pressure on China. So the fact is that China is trying to deal with attack on its territory by forces which include Australia’s. That destroys the foundation of Hartcher’s “red alert” construct.

In short, Hartcher has a habit of misleading Australians on their security, and the enormous risk being dumped on Australia by our friend America. Not by China. Both by commission and omission this commentator’s work exhibits a pattern of serving US interests while denying Australian readers. Whether this is purposeful servitude to American interests at Australian’s expense is for readers to decide.

More surely, from one who surely knows, Henry Kissinger once said: “To be an enemy of the United States is dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal”. No Australian government has had the ticker to look for other ground.

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