Unbalanced and unwise: Labor and the politics of warmongering

Mar 10, 2023
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Where does Albanese stand when it comes to the latest attempts by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald to manufacture a new wave of anti-China hysteria in Australia? Is he amenable to the beating of the drums of war? Or does he have the intelligence to resist this dangerous nonsense? The omens are not good.

Australia’s media have long been notorious for their provincialism, populism and their mostly third-rate reporting and commentaries. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have taken this to a new low with their unhinged accounts of five so-called experts predicting war with China in the next three years, urging the Albanese government to increase the country’s security preparedness, no matter what the cost. How will the government react to this latest eruption of confected anti-China press sensationalism?

PM Albanese reputedly belongs to the left faction of the Labor Party which, since World War II, has maintained a commendable record of opposing Australia’s involvement in war, be it Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or whatever. However, since assuming the prime ministership, Albanese seems to be softening in whatever resolve he might have had to resist Australia joining its “great and powerful ally” in the USA’s latest manoeuvrings against China.

Will the Albanese government ape the craven actions of past Coalition governments by committing Australian troops and the country’s military resources to an American war against China?

It’ s important to recall the power of the military-industrial complex in the United States when it comes to assessing American military policy. Private manufacturers of every kind of military equipment in America soak up about 400 billion US taxpayers’ dollars annually. Some rich company executives and shareholders benefit hugely from the largesse provided by the American public – as well as by those countries which purchase their defence and related military products. Australia stands out as one such country.

It is clearly in the interests of the military-industrial conglomerates for America and its compliant allies, either to be actively at war somewhere (anywhere) around the globe, or by feeling threatened by an impending attack from a powerful enemy. They all too readily supply the guns and bullets, the planes, ships, tanks, missiles, drones and associated communications technologies for warmongering. And so they profit.

Their arms dealers are active in military markets everywhere. Their sophisticated propaganda tentacles reach around the world. There are no lengths they will not go to in order to ensure their manipulations of public opinion will help them succeed wherever they are spruiking their terrible wares. Without war, they are nothing. War is their lifeblood. In the evilest sense, they are war profiteers.

In the past the Labor left has been aligned with the consciences of those Australians astute enough to be aware of the very real dangers of the American alliance and its military-industrial connections. These people were effective in opposing the Coalition’s disastrous and ultimately doomed commitment to the war in Vietnam. They helped inspire the large public marches protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war. They included leaders like Malcolm Fraser whose book Dangerous Allies remains one of the most intelligent analyses of the perils of the ANZUS alliance.

So where does Albanese stand when it comes to the latest attempts by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald to manufacture a new wave of anti-China hysteria in Australia? Is he amenable to the beating of the drums of war? Or does he have the intelligence to resist this dangerous nonsense?

The omens are not good. His imminent visit to Washington to meet with Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak to talk about AUKUS should be a matter of the gravest concern. Indeed, his acquiescence with the hyperbole surrounding AUKUS deal, which Scott Morrison was mindlessly roped into by the Pentagon and Whitehall, should ring alarm bells. (Let’s not forget that Biden couldn’t even remember Morrison’s name when the three leaders met virtually to announce the AUKUS deal).

There are two senior Ministers in the Albanese Cabinet who are no doubt advising him on the security issues: Richard Marles and Penny Wong. Both have thrown their support behind the Morrison government’s decision to purchase nuclear submarines at a massive hit to the budget and despite the bizarrely long timeline for receiving the boats. Marles of course belongs to the hard right faction of the Labor Party. His views on the alliance with the United States are more at home with the views of the madder factions in the Liberal and National parties. Wong is from the ALP’s left faction, yet her timidity in the defence debates so far has seen her more aligned with the Marles’ view of the world than with the Labor left’s.

Could it be that Albanese is being duchessed by the spooks and apparatchiks inhabiting the darker reaches of the Pentagon? Is he so pleased with himself for becoming prime minister that he is about to abandon past concerns about the very real dangers of warmongering? Is he evolving into a wishy washy centrist (or even rightest) on defence matters? He shows no signs of standing up for Australia’s independence on these matters, nor for Australia’s interests.

Meanwhile Richard Marles will continue to slavishly laud the US alliance while seeking to overshadow whatever it is that Penny Wong might be thinking about the country’s foreign policies. He seems to be succeeding. His work has been promoted by the unbalanced and unwise anti-China spreads in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. It would be interesting to know if there has been any American in-put into the near-ravings those papers have been publishing.

What is now seriously needed is a detailed rejoinder to the “Red Alert” propaganda imposed on us by the Nine Network papers. Their call for possibly reintroducing a compulsory national service scheme and acquiring nuclear weapons should be countered with cogent reasons why these would be profoundly retrogressive developments. There are scholars far better credentialed than The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s “Famous (or Infamous) Five” who could provide balanced and wise accounts of how the Australian government should be positioning itself in relation to China’s re-emergence as a major power in the Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, it is time for Albanese to recall the principles of the ALP’s left faction in regard to war and its inherent evil. He should seriously think about shifting Marles out of the Defence portfolio, perhaps even sending him off to a diplomatic posting, out of harm’s way. And it is time to reconsider the disadvantages of the AUKUS deal and the central element of that deal, which is to purchase nuclear submarines, probably from the US military-industrial complex.

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