The paradox of Australia: a wealthy country whose complacent, U.S.-indoctrinated political elites are betraying its promise in so many important ways, writes Tony Kevin.
By Tony Kevin
in Canberra, Australia
Special to Consortium News
It is hard to explain Australia to foreigners: a complicated former British colonial society that likes to think of itself as simple and honest, and sometimes persuades others that this may be true. The Australia of the “Dustyesky Russian Choir” that recently became a brief sensation on Russia’s mainstream Channel One is a reassuring image: one in which some Russians might still sentimentally like to believe.
Yet there is a darker side. An Australian Rip Van Winkle who had gone to sleep in, say, 1990 and woke up today would not recognize his country, whose elites have become more greedy, more corrupt, more indifferent to old-fashioned notions of a shared national interest.
The dominant influence has been the American ideological and military colonization of Australia, which can be traced back to the CIA-engineered regime change operation in 1975 that removed the nationally independent, socially progressive government of Gough Whitlam. [Read John Pilger’s trenchant obituary of Whitlam.]
Since then, the Australian military has surrendered to a stealthy increasing integration with and indoctrination by the U.S., to the point where it could no longer function in the defense of Australia without U.S. approval: inter-operability has gone so far. There is a permanently rotating major U.S. Marine base in Darwin, Australia’s northernmost city. A top-secret U.S. defense facility at Pine Gap in Central Australia plays a vital role in U.S. global strategic nuclear targeting and intelligence gathering against Russia or China.
It would be a first-order nuclear target in any major war. But by then it would have done its work.
Australian political and mainstream media elites on both sides of politics have been systematically over many decades indoctrinated into American elites’ way of seeing the world. Like loyal Britons in the Roman Empire, they have accepted U.S. imperial elites’ benign view of themselves and their global mission, and have fondly imagined Australia as a valued and loved junior partner in this shared endeavor.
The federal government in Canberra, the national capital, learned over the past 45 years to live with the sometimes humiliating contradictions of the hidden American imperial hand in Australia. Most of the time, before President Donald Trump, U.S. power was exercised discreetly and tactfully. But no longer.
Riding China’s Dynamism
Australia meanwhile grew very rich, riding on the back of China’s dynamism and growth. Australia became a reliable low-cost supplier to China of immense quantities of minerals, food and fiber. For decades, Australia rode the two horses of near-total economic reliance on China and total strategic dependency on the U.S.
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Australia gradually de-industrialized, becoming an affluent society based on skillful financial manipulation, higher education and tourism. Agriculture became agribusiness, increasingly foreign-owned. Water and arable land became the currency of big money, as Australia’s inland river systems dried up.
In Australia’s robust federal system, American influence penetrated furthest at the federal national level. The present prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, is a deeply unimpressive mini- Trump; a shallow mouthpiece for big money and the U.S. alliance, lacking in empathy with traditional Australian community values and aspirations. In the recent national bushfire crisis, Morrison was found wanting as a leader. At the height of the emergency, he was holidaying in Hawaii — on an American-paid free holiday jaunt.
Hard on the heels of the bushfire crisis came Covid-19. Blessed by its isolated continental geography and an ethical state-based public health system that has not been corrupted as in the U.S., Australia weathered the pandemic amazingly well. Deaths have only just passed 100, four months into the crisis. The disease is on the wane.
For this success, much is owed to Australia’s state premiers, and in particular the quiet unassuming leadership of Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews.
Morrison to his credit set up a Covid-19 National Cabinet, unprecedentedly bringing in as co-decision-makers the state premiers. They — Andrews leading the way — insisted on much stricter social lockdown rules than Morrison — the mouthpiece of big business — initially wanted to consider. The state governments were prepared for more economic disruption, because they put a higher value on protecting their citizens’ lives.
As Australia now begins to move out of the pandemic, Andrews has been a strong restraining force, insisting on slow careful steps to economic rebuilding. His wisdom has exposed Morrison’s shortcomings.
Andrews Targeted for Denigration
In recent days, Andrews became the target of a bizarre Australian and American campaign of personal denigration. He has been accused by the Murdoch-dominated Australian media of being a gullible agent of Chinese Communist Party influence, because he has over the past two years publicly expressed Victoria’s interest in taking part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
For this view — shared by the New Zealand government and the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — Andrews is now being mockingly accused of naïveté , of not seeing the threat of Chinese economic takeover of Australia.
Even U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo joined in, warning darkly that Andrews‘ s support for BRI could close down the Australia-U.S. strategic alliance. Pompeo’s words were way over the top, but they brought back to the Australian Labor Party bitter memories of the 1975 CIA-engineered coup which destroyed Whitlam.
It is hard to see who instigated this vicious attack on a popular and politically rising state leader: Morrison out of jealousy, or Pompeo for larger strategic reasons. Both had obvious motives, and maybe both agreed to target Andrews as a salutary lesson to others.
There is a larger context. Australia is currently wrestling with its now-chronic dilemma: how to balance its relations with Trump’s willful and unreliable America, and an increasingly angry No. 1 trade partner China.
Australia foolishly led the way in trying to build international support for Trump’s recent attacks on Chinese and WHO initial handling of the pandemic. Australia continues falsely to claim credit for the eventual, very different, international consensus resolution that emerged in WHO and that China co-sponsored.
As China’s diplomatic signaling towards Australia has hardened in recent weeks , Australia’s U.S.-driven Sinophobe lobby has become more recklessly outspoken in Canberra government and mainstream media circles. China has imposed well-targeted unacknowledged sanctions on Australian barley, meat and coal exports, which have shaken the confidence of Australian business leaders that they can continue to keep politics and trade separate.
At the political level, Morrison and his ministers are daily digging deeper the hole they are in, too proud to apologize to China for their aggressive clumsiness. It is a dangerous moment in a hitherto tranquil enough Australia -China relationship based on mutual economic interest.
Pompeo’s personal attack on an Australian state premier — however excessive and misplaced it was — might have been seen by him and Morrison as a useful distraction from this larger crisis. The U.S. ambassador in Canberra — a Trump appointee — hastily backtracked, trying to cover for Pompeo’s crude bullying language, which was evoking resentful Australian public responses.
But the warning has been duly delivered. Obedient to its imperial master, Australia will, despite all logic to the contrary, go on resisting any strengthening of its relations with China. The U.S.-indoctrinated Australian political-strategic elite will continue to act contrary to Australia’s own best interests.
And China will continue, regretfully, to go on slowly turning off the Australian trade tap, seeking alternative suppliers like Russia for more of its import needs. Harder times lie ahead for Australia: it will not be able to replace the Chinese market it is so wantonly taunting.
Tony Kevin is a former Australian senior diplomat and the author of six published books on public policy and international relations.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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I think it is without a doubt obvious. Australia’s allegiance ought be with China. They are closer by and they are the main trading partner. It just makes more sense in so many ways, but for this to work out Julian Assange ought be free, and so if this happens that will be a message to those of us who are interested in JUSTICE. It will tell us that Australia has some courage to break free from a bully. A bully from the left ain’t no different than one from the right, so if you are surrounded by two bullies, them push them both OFF, but seems to me there has been one main bully lately and we all know.
We are all in the thick of it today and we all need courage as well as faith. I wish both of those upon all of you for the days that are coming. For the days that we will face together in the future.
Thanks for your courage and integrity.
A wonderful contribution as usual; straight forward, open, clear and factual exposure of the modern moribund imperialist axis of alliance – in which Australia is willingly complicity – and an important part of the whole political, economic and ideological web they weave through the media’s collaboration in “manufacturing public consent.”
I often wonder how many Australians have actually read Malcolm Fraser’s [Cain Roberts] book “Dangerous Allies.” ?
As one time conservative and controversial premier, how much publicity was given Fraser’s challenging book on Australia’s foreign policy and world view in the media, book reviews etc did he get?
And what was the public’s response? And what did you think of it yourself?
Sorry if this has already been asked, but isn’t Julian Assange from Australia?
Why the hell is there nobody from that country with the courage to save one of their own? Get the man out of prison for Christ’s sake.
Australia is a big huge letdown to me from what I used to think about that place……
Oh well. Join the club of letdown……
But, I’d advise you not to stay in that club for long. What is the point?
What the USA Needs is a Regime Change. Nowadays they are not even capeable to
rule their own Country but go through the world sanctioning countries who like
to rule themselvs.
In my eyes it is time that the USregime goes and let the world in Peace
They are exceptional in bringing the world problems
Hey ernest ewing from 53120 04:00 . You will get no argument from me. Still, after being letdown for awhile, then what do you do? You either get back up – “lesson learned” – and then behave accordingly, or alternatively, you remain letdown for the rest of your life, and tell me this, what do you think that will lead to?
So lets all get over it and learn is what I think. It is time for some serious business and just like many others who make the effort to share their views here at “CN”: “I’m not playing around”. I appreciate this site and also am very to see the progress being made on raising the necessary funds. I offer my support going forward.
Regarding the author’s reference to the 1975 coup in Australia, there is a very interesting article here:
Australian verbally attacks China at every opportunity yet lets stuff like Israel’s atrocious treatment of the Palestinians go without a word. That seems like racism to me.
Given how well Australia has reacted to the corona virus it has the human resources to become the kind of country it wants to be. If I was a betting man I would bet on Australia.
To someone who has lived in Australia all my life, it is not surprising at all that our Propaganda is supporting US propaganda. It’s been that way for a long time, for imperialism has never ended. We don’t live in countries anymore; we live in Propaganda centres. The moral decline of our country has also brought with it incredible wealth. According to the ABC, Australia is the richest country per person/median wealth. Based on these figures, I’m not religous, although, It’s clear to me which diety we has been worshipped the most over the last 40 years. www (dot) abc (dot) net (dot) au/news/2018-11-23/australia-tops-median-wealth-per-adult-list/10518082?nw=0
I think we in Australia are going to have to carefully consider who our masters truly are, because it’s clearly not us! it’s them.!
This is my simplified version of what I think happened. Scotty Morrison(ScoMo) just said to butt buddy Trump, I will do for you what John Sell our soul Howard did. (Whatever you want Sire). Trump n POmpus said yeh, ok, push for a Covid-19 inquiry so we can blame China. ScoMo says ok Sir.
Why are we apparently so Piss-weak now? Because a lot of our country and people have become as piss -weak as their leaders. Yep. Lead via example. Fattened by the policies and regulation changes that Thatcher and Reagan introduced which lead to the massive explosion of Globalization privatization, and just plain frustration for all of our patriotic debt slaves whom are the backbone of society. Still, they somehow manage to vote for our Muppet /Puppets who only partially govern us. The Hawke /Keating began selling off Australia in 1980’s. Which exploded in the 90’s during our Holy Howard rein.
In regards to Mr Andrews “quiet unassuming leadership” I ask, is it right to be quiet an unassuming whilst the state you live has approximately 30 percent of the real-estate in Melbourne owned by the Chinese? I think these facts should be openly discussed rather” LOUDLY” in relation to this deal. There is obviously a lot more to this story which is laced in partisan politics. To me Labour n Liberal there is no difference. But I am one of a few in this country. Just as there is only one party in USA as well, yet still people vote hehe. The illusion of democracy must mean a lot to most of us I assume.
I think it’s time the GOOD people of the world begin to realise that nothing either good or bad happens without the CIA and other covert government agencies say so. Me? I ask myself this question. Are we in Australia going to continue to be the 52 second State of the New Roman empire (obviously Israel is 51), or part of the Chinese regime? Are we that Piss -weak?? Time to get honest ScoMo. You can only pull the wool over the Chinese for so long. They are pissed. Not piss -weak like we’ve become in Australia.
I think Australia’s currency, the “dollar”, is one aspect of their subservience to the USA.
When Australia was in the process of decimalizing its currency in 1966, the name ‘dollar’* was chosen to be worth 10 shillings (or half a pound) of the older currency so that it could be higher in value than the US dollar.
The problem is, this was based on the fiat exchange rate** between the US dollar and the pound as opposed to the original Spanish silver dollar unit that served as the basis for the Hong Kong and Singapore dollars. As a result, the silver-colored coins ended up being larger and heavier than their US and Canadian counterparts, such as the 10-cent piece (23.6 mm, 5.65 g) being slightly lighter than the US quarter (24.26 mm, 5.67 g). This was also the case in New Zealand until 2006, but that’s another story.
* The name ‘royal’ was chosen at one point, but it proved to be so unpopular among the general public.
** At the time Australia went decimal in 1966, the Australian pound was worth US$2.24. Until WWII the British pound sterling used to be worth US$4, but eventually became devalued to the point where a quid fetched US$2.40.
Long story short, the Australian ‘dollar’ is a pound sterling LARPing as a dollar, a decision based on the US dollar being the world reserve currency, and therefore the decision to ape the USA. A more ‘independent’ Australia would have found some better way to decimalize its currency (e.g. subdivide the ‘florin’ into 100 cents) than it did in 1966.
What’s just as stupid is the fact that the Australian $2 coin is smaller and lighter than the $1 coin despite being minted in the same material.
My two cents worth.
Why is it that US politicians and mainstream media treat their citizens as if they have IQ levels of 50 when the average is 100? Could it be because the general population is more worried about income, jobs, health security and family and have only have time to look at headlines. Is this why two clowns are running for office? The destruction of the empire will happen from within while China and Russia need do zilch, while Australia need to look elsewhere if they indeed really need another military tit to suck.
Our nature abroad is the same as it is at home. Manipulate people “for their own good”, which somehow is always directly parallel to those doing the manipulation. Anything actually done in self interest would be ironically condemned as aggression towards the actual aggressors.
There has to be another side to this, however: Australia’s “independence” is only as real as its own culture allows it to be. I’m no proponent of running around mooning people, but that (admittantly antisocial) ritual may have been the last shred of rebellion left in them. Maybe it was something else – but there has to have been some straw on the camel’s back, after all…
It would be helpful to have more of Mr. Kevin’s views:
1. Is the Australia “elite” more afraid of China or the US, or is it controlled by the Australia/US military?
2. Are the political institutions and mass media of Australia as corrupted by economic power as those of the US?
3. Are they subject to a party duopoly controlled by gold, fooling the left to vote for the right?
4. Is Australia bound toward the same degree of corruption as the US, or does it have potential for reform?
5. Could Australia turn to serve as a mediator between the US and China, showing no fear of its proximity?
Australia has got itself into a pickle, trying to punch above it’s weight, by publicly trashing it’s major Trading partner, which is China, just to appease a spiteful Gorilla called the US Empire & what a thankless, ungrateful animal it is? But Australia, you can’t have it both ways, something has to give, either you can choose to be neutral & play both sides, China & the US, preferably against each other for the betterment of your own people, or you just remain a loyal lapdog poodle to America?And Morrison is a complete joke, during the Bushfire crisis the Aussies wanted to adopt our PM, Jacinda Ardern due to her Leadership ability rather than their own PM? But as a New Zealander, I understand the pressures that the Aussies face, because NZ faces the same dilemma, as China is our major trading partner as well but we are more cautious & don’t run our mouths off, like the Aussies have a bad habit of doing & try to stay neutral? NZ tries to be the Switzerland of the South Pacific & although our Govt is part of the 5 eyes, which I detest, this is seen here as a necessary evil & a way to appease the US Gorilla, trying to maintain WW2 allegiances with the US without offending China? NZ supports the West but doesn’t slavishly follow the American model or view of the World in its simplistic Black & white view that Americans have of pitting supposed “Bad guys against Good guys” & don’t adhere to the roles that America expects us to go along with? Unfortunately, what is becoming abundantly clear is that the Unipolar World under the American model is ending & a multipolar World is emerging with the US becoming a dying, waning Empire, on the way out & Australia needs to think for itself & adopt a similar strategy of looking out for its own needs & not the militaristic ambitions of a declining Empire? Australia needs to realise that it needs China more than it needs America & that it’s future lies with Asia?
I might point out that the contempt which Trump obviously displays for Australia, is justified.
Thank you Tony for an excellent piece, and I sadly agree that we here in Australia are in for some devastating consequences for this slavish subservience to declining world powers.
As a dual NZ/Aus citizen, I have to agree. Over the last few years, the level of government corruption has become staggering, in both it’s sheer volume and the indifferent arrogance displayed from the PM down. As a New Zealander we’ve always considered Australians as arrogant loudmouths, having lived here on and off for 20 yrs, like the US, it seems a small percentage of decent people railing against the Murdoch brainwashed commons. Under the current regime, Australia is perfectly capable of shooting itself in both feet regarding China, all the while blaming China for it’s own incompetence!
Ditto Canaduh… #SelfieBoy BaconLegs McSpineLess dithers on — awaiting the next script from Foggy Bottom.
Tony Kevin gives you the straight update of the truth from Australia. I don’t think anyone can question the steady level headiness of how he explains what is going on there.
Started more wars, based on bullshit, since WW2.
Killed more innocent people that never threatened them.
Overthrew more democracies.
Exported more killing equipment than anyone.
Supported numerous dictators.
Has hundreds of military bases all over the world.
Controls the IMF and the World Bank to their advantage.
Rejects international agreements that many countries support.
Does that sound like China or the USA? And you want to align with them??
“Does that sound like China or the USA? And you want to align with them??”
The simple fact that is nearly always missed is that it is never “Australia” that chooses to align itself with Washington and do its bidding. It is a very small number of selfish, dishonest traitors who put their own prospects (and personal wealth) far ahead of the their nation and compatriots.
Now if Australia (or any other country) were an actual democracy, the people might have some say in the matter.
But it isn’t and they don’t.
Australian “leaders” bend over forwards to keep the US in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. They expend the nation’s blood and treasure in war after war that has nothing to do with Australia’s interest. I mean, how was Australia in any way threatened by the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq?
Every day sees the craven Aussie PM at it again, for example chiding China about the latter’s internal security laws in Hong Kong and running warships through the South China Sea on FoN exercises. These have absolutely nothing to do with Australian national interests except to the extent that they damage relations with it’s largest trading partner.
Consider a shooting war between the US and China in the Pacific which, based on current estimates, China would probably win. Oz will back the US, lose it’s greatest market and cost the nation its economic prosperity for a generation.
It would be nice to see Australian “leaders” put the best interests of Australians ahead of those of the US.
That’s the key problem with Fascism. When the masses have no power to replace the boys at the top, those at the top soon develop utter contempt for those well below them. The USA is a Fascist state with a thin Democratic veneer.
” The USA is a Fascist state with a thin Democratic veneer”.
As, judging by this article, is Australia.
Strongly agree with your take on the states, Joseph. Wonder if history will, but sadly I doubt that…
“He has been accused by the Murdoch-dominated Australian media”
– And as you know perfectly well, Mr. Kevin, Murdoch is — to the extent that such a transnational business tycoon can be considered a national of any country — an Australian, and his media empire was launched from Australia, even though he moved to where the action was, in London and New York, and is now a naturalized US citizen.
So there is plenty of domestic “shitfuckery” (as my favorite Aussie Web site likes to put it) to go around.
It is surprising how Australia has bowed down to America, given our earlier view of the Aussies as independent in nature. Although not discussed, aiding in this process is the world’s number one propagandist Murdoch who has instrumental in glorifying Australia vassal status. I understand he is an Australian citizen. As Francis Lee points out the vassals in Europe and Asia are trending toward independence from the heavy hand of the US that seems to offer less and demand more. Such movement like Germany and Nordstream are good for all of us, including the United States.
A truly excellent piece. Well written and concisely informative.
The US is working hard all over the globe to shore up support for its openly hostile acts and policies towards China. It is a frightening phenomenon. Attacking its technology. Attacking its laws. Attacking its science. Accusing it of every dark thing they can think of. All done under the principle that if you throw enough crap at a wall, some of it will stick, a very enlightened guiding principle to bring to the world. Pure maliciousness dressed up in fanciful phrases.
The American establishment deeply resents China’s success and very much fears its competitiveness.
So, it is working hard one very level to hurt the country. That’s quite a new phenomenon I think in the modern world – instead of focusing on any genuine enemies, you focus intense hostility on a peaceful economic competitor. All while ignoring your own important business. America is a land heavily scattered with rust and decay and despair and inadequate facilities. Repair and replacement would create jobs while increasing the country’s own competitiveness, but it is all ignored in this vicious crusade against “the yellow peril.’
Of course, there are no genuine enemies of any importance for the United States. Its gigantic, resource-consuming military and security service complex serves mainly to manage and expand imperial control and get rid of any nuisance, such as a government which thinks for itself. It just finished waves of that in the Middle East, leaving death and destruction behind.
It’s a really ugly set of behaviors to bring to a world suffering from the fragilities both of disease and economics.
I recognize the situation the author speaks of because Canada too has been acting in foreign affairs in a way entirely different than its historical role, say, under the father of the current Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, a fiercely independent mind who opposed America’s holocaust in Vietnam, threw open the doors to young Americans avoiding the war, and established a strong relationship with Cuba despite America’s resentment.
His son, Justin, has supported virtually every aspect of America’s vicious new foreign policy – towards Venezuela, towards Iran, towards China, towards others, and he sells armored cars to the bloody tyrant running Saudi Arabia, without losing a night’s sleep.
A very distressing situation for anyone who admired the world view of Canada under Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, and Paul Martin. Then, Canada enjoyed a strong reputation in the world, a reputation for principles like the rule of law, supporting international organizations, and just doing many things right.
Canada perhaps has had less room to maneuver than Australia since it has long been an economic dependent of the US. Whereas, the author says, China has been Australia’s economic partner.
Hard to see where all this is going, but it is dangerous and threatening, and it is all about America, serving no one else’s real interests. America’s interests defined in the narrowest and most selfish terms.
The American establishment’s activities do bring to light how little it and its servants – the State Department, the military, the security services – care about anyone else, including its own people. It’s “me first” for “the one percent,” the people whom the empire serves.
In the long term, these activities cannot possibly make America a better place, and they certainly cannot make the world one. They only bring us all a period of darkness and uncertainty, as though a new kind of iron curtain had fallen, an American one.
What a great letter from Canada! We are in almost the same boat except for our geographies . Thank you, Tony Kevin
As a Canadian diplomat from the time of Pierre Trudeau I can say that Chuckman is absolutely right about the elder PM Trudeau and his son, the current PM. Canadian foreign policy (if there is still such a thing) has evolved in distressing ways under Justin Trudeau and yet he seems to think that the world needs Canada as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. No, the world does not need another voice promoting regime change in Venezuela, another arms supplier to the KSA in its war on Yemen, and another Cold War warrior.
“Of course, there are no genuine enemies of any importance for the United States”.
I know that; you know that; and I should think all readers of ConsortiumNews know that.
But Nature abhors a vaccum, and in the absence of any real enemies the Washington creatures have declared any country that competes with the USA, that doesn’t yield up its resources to the USA, or that resists Washington’s orders, as an enemy.
Yes, it’s the same story in Europe. America’s allies are treated with what amounts to little more than open contempt. Strange to say it treats its vassal states and their Petainist/Quisling rulers more harshly then its chosen adversaries, viz., China and Russia. How long this will last is an open question. The business elites want trade with Russia and China but the political-media-security elites want confrontation. This is causing some strains in the relationship. In one sense it has been manifest by the whole issue of Russian gas for Germany, Nordstream-2. It is pretty much a done deal that the project will go through. This could be the first breakthrough, the first chink in the armour in American relations with Europe since 1945. All the vassal states appear to be working against their own interest until the Germans said Nein! The reason for this is that the know that all the BS about a ‘Russian invasion’ is complete BS. But they have to pretend that the Russian hordes are massed to roll forward from the Polish border to occupy Europe. We shall wait and we shall see.
Francis Lee, your point about Russiagate is well taken and if you are right, then we may well be seeing a return to the kind of diplomacy that Tony Kevin has represented in the past.
The addition of Tony Kevin to this forum has been invaluable because he is part of an era that made significant progress toward broad international understanding plus knowledge of Russian History. Thanks to all…