Labor’s cowardice on the world stage

Jun 22, 2024
Australia and United States flags together relations textile cloth fabric texture

Labor’s cowardice on the world stage stems from a deep-rooted fear that to do anything other than slavishly follow American policy would be to hand government over to a Coalition which has always done exactly that.

The trouble being that, as the cringe of Labor perceives it, many if not most Australians are comfortable with American leadership and the posturing of the likes of Dutton and Morrison in supporting it – especially when it comes, currently, to China, Israel/Palestine, India and Ukraine. A level of comfort which, in fact, seems to see little fault in the habit of Australian governments being sure not to upset the Murdoch media – even through its support of the mounting excesses of Trump and the party of Trump.

Labor’s unwillingness to risk any level of discord with Trump completely overlooks all the signs that, should Trump win back the presidency, he will go the way he wants to go with anyone regardless, or even because, of any level of cravenness they have pursued up to the time of his re-ascendance. So then … what’s the harm in showing a little guts? Where is Labor’s self- respect? Were Whitlam and Keating really that long ago? Labor’s nervous pretence of smug indifference to Keating’s occasional attempts to infuse some spine earns them little credit.

So Labor, in effect, concedes foreign policy to the Coalition, hoping that it can hang on to government on the strength alone of its domestic policies and achievements. This may, at other times, have been a reasonable enough hand, but in a time of serious cost-of-living challenges at home and the attraction for many Australians of the persistently resonant American drumbeats abroad, this could be on shaky ground.

Thus, while Labor may likely know better about where, in terms of truth and decency, it should be going on foreign policy, it neither has the guts to do so nor, even, the nerve to risk putting some conscious effort into better informing Australians on what’s really going on in the world. It doesn’t want to risk giving Dutton anything at all at which it can poke his angry, ignorant, stick.

The power and the vehemence of American political influence over its allies first edged into view for Australians back in the early 1970’s when Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party out of twenty seven years of political wilderness into a time of unprecedented assertiveness in international affairs. Though he had closely preceded Nixon (of all people!) in formally recognising China, Whitlam’s positions on foreign policy, combined with his boldness in implementing rapid change across a range of domestic policy and programs made the Americans – accustomed as they had long been to having the Australians just fall in behind them – very uneasy. To them, Whitlam’s behavior embodied principles which they regarded as being deeply socialist, which of course they were, but which, for the Americans, was then and still is, code for godless çommunism.

Remaining under Labor’s skin right from that time until now is a strong belief that omnipresent clandestine American intelligence services worked to help undermine Whitlam’s Labor. And that it remains disposed to do so to any allied government – such as Albanese’s Labor – which looks, too much, like behaving the same way. In this regard, the apprehension of today’s Labor Party is cravenly rooted in its nervousness that the Americans might not hesitate to do more of the same should Labor stray too far from the American ideal of a true ally. Combined as this would be, Labor worries, with the extent to which Australia’s own secretive intelligence services have for so long been so courted by and so connected to American led intelligence services. Yes, Australian governments, including Albanese’s, have long been well aware that the Americans invest immense resources into cosying up to the intelligence services of their allies for outcomes in which their influence is carefully, insidiously, kept out of public view.

No one, anywhere, benefits from this kind of behaviour. Other than, of course, political parties and governments who use it to keep themselves in power.

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