Former PM Paul Keating has accused institutions of failing to grasp the magnitude of shifting power in the Asia Pacific and has warned Australia’s approach to China has been supplanted by the phobias of security agencies and the hysteria of “pious” and “do-gooder” journalists.
In a typically excoriating speech, the former prime minister lambasted Australian security agencies and the media for their anti-China rhetoric, saying they failed to grasp the magnitude of shifting power in the Asia Pacific.
Keating accused the Australian media of “hysteria” and security agencies of undermining the nuance and flexibility of Australian diplomacy.
“My concern is that what passes for the foreign policy of Australia lacks any sense of strategic purpose,” he said in a speech to the Australian’s Strategic Forum event in Sydney.
“The whispered word of ‘communism’ of old is now being replaced by the word ‘China’.
“The reason that we have ministries and cabinets is that a greater and eclectic wisdom can be brought to bear on complex topics… this process is not working in Australia. The subtleties of foreign policy and the elasticity of diplomacy are being supplanted by the phobias of a group of security agencies which are now effectively running the foreign policy of the country.”
Keating said the Australian media had been “up to its ears” in drumming up anti-China hysteria. He singled out the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, but also criticised the Australian, which was hosting the event Keating spoke at on Monday. He said the media wrongly equated the actions of individual businessmen or universities with the acts of the entire Chinese state. The long-term national interest should guide Australia’s approach to China, Keating said, not “pious”, “do-gooder” journalists who were “fed on leaks” from security agencies and failed to appreciate the magnitude of the shifting dynamics in the region.
“The Australian media has been recreant in its duty to the public in failing to present a balanced picture of the rise and legitimacy and importance of China, preferring instead to traffic in side plays dressed up with the cosmetics of sedition and risk.”
Keating, who championed Australian engagement in the Asia Pacific as prime minister, said the United States had ceded influence and withdrawn from the region as it returned to an “America-first” posture. That was unlikely to change, regardless of who wins the next US presidential election, Keating said. That left Australia in the “deep blue sea” between two great powers.
Keating said Australia must adopt strategic realism in its approach to China and not force upon itself a choice of one great power over the other.
Keating said the prevailing attitude in Australia assumed China’s growth was somehow illegitimate. He countered that China had lifted 20% of humanity out of poverty through its vast economic growth, a feat unprecedented in human history. He argued Australia frequently dealt with states that were not democracies to advance its own national interest, pointing to the west’s alliance with the Soviet Union in the second world war which prevented a German victory.
Keating said no other state, including India, would catch up to China in terms of economic growth, while Donald Trump’s America was retreating within itself, with no appetite for military conflict with China.
( Comment.. But why did Paul Keating let the ABC off the hook? It is a leader in the anti China panic. John Menadue)
Extract from The Guardian, 18 November 2019 and written by Christopher Knaus