What caused the Anthony Albanese China change? Better advisors?

Nov 23, 2022
China and Australia puzzle.

To say that the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has been poorly advised would be an understatement. For reasons best known to himself he picked up and ran with a posse of advisers from the corrupt and inept Morrison regime. A big mistake.

They ran with a strong anti-China pro-AUKUS line. They briefed and backgrounded the press accordingly. It was frustrating and disappointing to watch. They were in thrall to and in some instances being paid by the US Industrial/Military complex. ASPI being a case in point. Through the Washington Post we learnt that Morrison had installed senior US defence officers and officials in the Australian department of defence. Their influence still pervades. They are credited with having wrecked the French submarine deal.

These influencers and the many other players combining to bring us the sum total of the US alliance have brought considerable pressure on the Australian government to adopt a hostile stance against China and to go all the way with AUKUS. As I write Australian taxpayer money is being poured into defence facilities in Australia to make them ready for US use, from nuclear submarines to B52’s and marines.

None of these preparations have been put to the Australian people. All are, for whatever reason, secret. No thought has been given to tabling details relating to AUKUS in the Australian Parliament.

Albanese has been swept along and until now has been prepared to go with these arrangements which fundamentally challenge Australian sovereignty and were designed to wreck our trading and diplomatic relations with China. All to advantage the United States. This orgy of self-destructiveness was overseen and orchestrated by so called think tanks, some university based, sympathetic public servants and defence officers whose careers have come to depend on following ‘the line’, even down to believing that the acquisition of nuclear submarines and the basing of B52’s is somehow beneficial to Australia. The media, particularly the Murdoch media, has been captive to this narrative. Some such as Sheridan, Hartcher and Grant have sought to lead it.

Albanese rattled the sabre, sometimes bizarrely. He refused to meet with the new Chinese Ambassador, Xiao Qian, after his arrival in Australia which rightly is regarded as a major diplomatic snub, it has caused offence. This unusual action was no doubt the result of briefing from his inherited advisers and pressure from the likes of ASPI. Put simply it was a crude gesture and seen as such in other capitals. It should be rectified as soon as possible, perhaps at a state dinner.

Albanese went out of his way to court anti-China statements and undertakings such as the US contrived QUAD. On occasions when he might have done otherwise Albanese rattled the sabre.

In contrast, mostly behind the scenes, the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, worked assiduously and with great intellectual rigour to build bridges to the Chinese. She carefully selected her advisers and brought her department and her departmental head, Jan Adams, with her. Wong has been resolute in quietly but determinedly working to re-calibrate Australia’s relations with China. It has meant running with a different narrative than that pursued by Andrew Shearer, head of the Office of National Intelligence, and others within the defence and intelligence communities.

I did not believe Albanese would get an audience with Xi Jinping at the G20 and said as much. The history of Albanese’s negative statements toward China taken with his enthusiastic embrace of AUKUS I thought were sufficient to see him frozen out of any meeting with Xi. To cap it off I believed the announcement that B52’s were to be based in Tindal plus a most unfortunate jingoistic interview with Sheridan in The Australian on 4 November would put paid to an audience. Earlier Albanese had, unwisely in my opinion, rejected Paul Keating’s call for a rapprochement with China. He dismissed all argument for dialogue with China with the old LNP, Morrison line, that ‘China has changed.’

Unwisely Albanese elected not to attend COP27, no doubt on the advice of the people who were advising him on China, and was criticised for it. Statements about a possible Xi/Albanese meeting softened in tone, but with nothing confirmed an element of concern could be detected. Albanese and his advisers could not afford a rejection in the face of Xi meetings with other world leaders attending the G20.

Rather foolishly Albanese set the lifting of the trade embargo as a precondition for a possible meeting with Xi. He was criticised for doing so but he stuck to his hard line, the last time being on 11 November. In a statement on 12 November, three days before the G20 meeting and still with no indication that a meeting would take place, Albanese dropped all reference to the trade embargo as a necessary precondition for a meeting. In fact, he quite clearly stated that he would go into a meeting with no preconditions. The message was getting through.

On 13 November, Wong made a very conciliatory statement where she said Australia was looking to stabilise the relationship and flagged working closely with China on climate change. On 14 November Marles made a statement which went against all that he had been saying for past months. He said, ‘Australia can no longer rely on the US as our security guarantor’ and ‘Australia had to be willing to act alone.’

Albanese secured his meeting with Xi, I would say largely on the efforts of Wong whose advice was finally listened to. Faced with Prime Ministerial loss of face the hawks in Canberra buckled to the very sensible approach Wong and her advisers had taken toward China.

Has Albanese learnt anything from this? The lesson should be that he ceases to listen to adviser’s once close to Morrison. If the Labor party wishes to implement their ambitious and long overdue reforms, they can no longer afford to keep these people on board.

Home Affairs, Immigration, Defence all need a strong broom through them. Twenty five years of LNP immaturity, selfishness, greed, corruption and absence of an agenda that included the public good has wreaked havoc and urgently needs to be addressed.

Wong has a formidable mind, she is strong character, more people in the Labor Party should be heading her advice and accepting her judgement.

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