Labor’s serial betrayal of Australia

May 2, 2023
USA and China conflict. Country flags on chess pawns on a chess board. 3D illustration.

Make no mistake, the Albanese government knows that in joining the US fight against China, Australia will be left defenceless on American withdrawal. And only a dodo could not know this risk is high. Maybe the government doesn’t appreciate that war for America is different. It is the war which matters, not the result. “Winning” is incidental.

Originally my editor requested a survey of Australia’s media response to the government’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) – tackily released during the ANZAC devotions. It became clear that this was a trivial exercise. The bulk of our mainstream print, TV and radio accepted the tenet that Australia should treat China as an emerging military threat, and spend heavily against the prospect of war. None challenged it.

A sane assessment would find that China presenting a military threat to Australia is fabrication – to rival that of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Thereby America itself has become a great danger to Australia. Its propensity for conflict and brutal self-interest is amply evidenced, over decades. To Washington’s strategists, Australia exists foremost as another object to be exploited for their world wide web of wars. With some distinguishing attributes. We are an ally which profitably pays it way, eagerly, for which the US is un-obligated. Meaning the US can freely entwine Australia in a war with China, then just go home when things get tough, responsibly in its view. As it does, with practised facility.

Despite our hapless, shameful experiences and ever-mounting evidence of America’s implacable hegemony our governments increasingly have conflated Australia’s interests with America’s.

Once Australians rightly could have expected a Labor government to be discerning of our unique interests. But we have to go back to Hawke and Keating to be confident of it. When America’s interests would not swamp our own. Today, it matters not which major political party holds the reins. Bipartisanly, our leaders are preparing Australia for war against the fresh superpower of China. At America’s instigation. While America complains that it lacks the resources for the job, and must rely critically upon allies. And the massive stakes unique to Australia are subordinated to those US interests.

How could anything else rate higher as an issue for Australia?

The seeds of betrayal

We are told by Defence Minister Marles that the DSR comes at a “watershed moment” and that “Australia has lost ten years of warning time.” That is, Australia should have been preparing for war long ago. In fact, Labor created the watershed moment more than ten years ago, in 2010, with the visit of President Obama for the purpose of saving Labor’s Gillard government politically. In return, our government delivered Australia’s embrace of the US Indo-Pacific pivot. Obama received a standing ovation from the Parliament.

Thus began our road to war with China for America. The seeds of betrayal were sown.

The road since has been defined quietly by a string of LNP governments, most openly with the Force Posture Agreement tabled in Parliament in 2014. Herein lies the first of serial betrayals by Labor. In opposition Labor knew full well of this shift towards America’s priorities. The Turnbull Defence White Paper of 2016 talked of allocating one-third of our spending to America’s needs. Shadow ministers Wong and Marles were complicit through silence, for some seven years, while military structures were created for operations against China. Thereby, Australians were kept unaware of the profound shift away from our own security needs, to America’s. Labor’s determined disinterest was driven by political gain.

Perhaps those years of Labor hand-sitting while our defences were being turned over to US objectives might have been tolerable, if the Albanese government had set about securing Australia’s interests upon gaining power. But the opposite has unfolded. Labor is accelerating spending for war.

Those with long faith in Labor had assumed that the lie of a China military threat to us would be scrutinised once the LNP government fell. Intelligence advice had to be assessed independently. Because on official Pentagon advice to the US Congress China’s forces are stretched just in trying to meet America’s threat to its periphery. But no, Labor didn’t want to know. Instead of getting to the heart of the matter promptly, a defence review was commissioned. And that same conflicted intelligence apparatus provided the foundation for it. Thereby another year has slipped by, in war preparation.

Of the media, it was only Michael Pascoe of the New Daily who nailed the DSR:

“The review’s outcome was set before it started by the politics of Labor signing up in a matter of hours to carry Scott Morrison’s Anglophone burden. Paul Keating’s charge remains unanswered that Labor’s defence policy was set by wanting to provide no target when blindsided by Mr Morrison’s submarine adventure.”

Unsurprisingly, the stench of political duplicity intensified as the review proceeded.

America’s wars are not about winning

The big betrayal is Labor’s doubling down on the path to war once in power. It is clear now that this was always the intent. What is new in the DSR is that finally a government admits that Australia is entirely dependent on the US:

4.7 However, Australia does not have effective defence capabilities relative to higher threat levels which can only be achieved by working with the United States…..

Make no mistake, the Albanese government knows that in joining the US fight against China, Australia will be left defenceless on American withdrawal. And only a dodo could not know this risk is high.

Maybe the government doesn’t appreciate that war for America is different. It is the war which matters, not the result. “Winning” is incidental. There is always Stateside to come home to. What matters is disempowerment of the adversary – degradation of state, polity, economy, infrastructure and population. That is grist-to-the-mill for the US State Department. Constantly played out by lounging analysts on buttoned leather sofas in the palatial “map room” at Foggy Bottom. Australia’s fate is amongst those gamed there, incidentally.

Even if it did, there can be little doubt now that the Albanese government has chosen to look straight ahead. It has Australia comfortably settled on America’s accelerating train to war with China. To meet a vigorous superpower on its home ground. The war is unwinnable. Impossible to imagine the residual mess. Which will endure in many dimensions for us. But that is of no matter to America. Who in the government knows, or would care?

Here is the future which the Albanese government is steering Australia into. Without a whimper within the Labor party. Thinking deeply about Australia’s future is simply beyond the Albanese/ Wong/ Marles triumvirate. Creative dimensions such as our former ambassador in Beijing Dennis Argall has espoused are beyond Labor.

The way out

While our nation is engulfed in a spiral to war, Foreign Minister Wong has demonstrated no capacity to protect it. In opposition Wong claimed to appreciate the effect of conflict with China. But now talks merely of “lowering the heat” while lining up stoically behind Marles’ indulgent militarism. Paralysed by politics.

Australia’s prospects are unthinkable. We have no alternative but to embrace wider geostrategic options. To give self-interest and self- belief a real shot.

That new road will be complex to map. And long. Our nation no longer possesses the administrative machinery critical for an independent State. Intelligence is compromised, foreign policy and defence gutted, politicised and Americanised. Fixing that is the basic first step. No doubt the nation still possesses independent, experienced, cultivated minds up for it. We can grow up. Again.


For more on this topic, we recommend:

China has neither the intent nor the capability to attack us

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