Wong’s Australia — All the Way with USA

Regardless of her reassurances, Asian leaders will get the foreign minister’s message, writes Mary Kostakidis. And she offered little hope to the cause of freeing Julian Assange. 

Foreign Minister Penny Wong in 2017, when she was a senator, at Australian National University. (Katherine Spessa, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Mary Kostakidis
Pearls and Irritations

At the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong responded to her critics by laying out the role Australia must play in the world as she sees it, in order to help shape the future of Australia’s region.

It was an extraordinary feel-good speech that nevertheless sent a very clear message: the vehicle through which Australia will participate in shaping the region, is AUKUS — an Anglosphere alliance to steer the Asia Pacific.

Regardless of reassurances and pledges regarding respect, inclusiveness and sovereignty, Asian leaders will understand well the essence of her message, in spite of the dulcet tones, the dignity and gravitas.

It was a tour de force for the assembled media though and showed what she is able to get away with. In what should have been a jaw-dropper, she managed to morph the U.S. into a champion of “multipolarity.” Even the U.S. doesn’t claim that. In fact, they make it abundantly clear, it’s their way or the highway.

And she coined a useful moniker for Australia’s role as “Partner not Patriarch in the Pacific.” She may be reminded of it one day by a Pacific leader, when the need arises.

In a sentence characteristic of much of her address she said:

“When Australians look out to the world, we see ourselves reflected in it – just as the world can see itself reflected in us.”

It’s tempting to let those words settle gently as they are intended to do, but it’s a very superficial statement of how Australians see the world and how the world sees Australia.

Australians are perceived through their major initiatives — in recent times the disastrous military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The country’s Pacific Island neighbours’ view of Australia will have been influenced by the government’s actions with regard to East Timor.

And Australia is now a country where many Asian Australians feel wary — their views about China and Australian foreign policy have to be tempered lest they arouse accusations of treason. Their situation will become more precarious as war approaches.

Defending a Dying Order

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Surnak at a press event for AUKUS in San Diego on March 13. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

Wong decried the use of “coercion” yet failed to acknowledge the biggest culprit. She made it clear Australia will defend the rules of what many in the world see as a dying world order. She emphasised this must be underwritten by a deterrent military capability. She expressed concern regarding China’s build-up of its military assets because the aim of that build-up isn’t clear to her.

It is a declaration to Asia that Australia will support the U.S. to maintain its role as world policeman and hegemon, to continue to enforce its rules, because those rules suit Australia and are in the best interests of the region. What are Asian leaders to make of this?

(Nothing Ahead, Pexels)

The assumption that Australian interests are one and the same with the U.S. was not challenged. Nor was further clarification sought about how Australia’s $400 billion submarines prowling inside China’s exclusive economic zone, identifying the precise location of Chinese submarines for the U.S. to blow up, is going to work with attempts to smooth out faltering trade relationship with China.

In response to a question about the U.S. retreating from its position of strategic ambiguity, she retreated to Aw Shucks, we are just a Middle Power … and repeated that she didn’t want to “hypothesise about scenarios.” On the pointy issues she trotted out the standard refrain we have heard many times.

So, all in all it was a marshmallow sitting on top of a poorly concealed pineapple for the country’s Asian neighbours. For those who do not want Australia to participate in a war with China the U.S. is determined to have, there was no joy.

Dismissive About Assange 

Pro-Assange protester outside the High Court in London on Jan. 22, 2022. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Similarly, there was little hope for those who are relying on this government to use their influence with the U.S. to get Julian Assange out of jail. Unfortunately she was able to get away with the usual dismissive response when a question was put to her.

She ought to have been asked to account for the difference in her approach to the matters of Australian journalist Chen Lei jailed in China, and U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich charged with espionage in Russia, as opposed to Assange who is charged with espionage by the U.S.

She selectively uses megaphone diplomacy, calling for China and Russia to release the detainees despite “legal proceedings” being underway — the excuse she has repeatedly used to explain why she cannot interfere in the Assange case.

Wong has said she has raised the matter of Assange “at appropriate levels,” as has Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

As freedom-of-information, or FOI, searches since she and Albanese came into office have not come up with a single document that mentions Assange, it may be that he was raised in conversation and a decision taken not to record it.

However, the lack of any documentation at all indicates to his family, legal team and to supporters including journalists, that either the request was dismissed out of hand, or has not been taken seriously, and certainly that there has been no progress, as that would necessitate correspondence to negotiate how, when, the terms etc.

So it’s all the way with the U.S.A, and journalists will be fine as long as they are not revealing any U.S. wrong doing.

Journalist Mary Kostakidis presented SBS World News for two decades as Australia’s first national primetime news anchorwoman. Previous articles include “Watching the Eyes” for Declassified Australia. She covers Julian Assanges’s extradition court proceedings live on Twitter.

This article is from Pearls and Irritations.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

13 comments for “Wong’s Australia — All the Way with USA

  1. Spine For U
    April 22, 2023 at 15:42

    Do to her what is constantly done to the left–manufacture “evidence” that she’s a pawn of China or Russia or something. I think she’s Malaysian but that doesn’t matter very much for a propaganda/smear blitz. Do you want to remove neocon politicians, stop a half-trillion $ weapons deal, and free Assange, or do you want to play nice and get destroyed as usual?

  2. Messenger
    April 22, 2023 at 02:45

    The people in the Anglo-American world will soon become the biggest losers.
    Their misrule has already lasted too long.

  3. ian fraser
    April 22, 2023 at 02:12

    grovel,grovel,grovel……. nothings changed since 1945….we continue to follow the yanks into one losing war after another….. korea, vietnam, iraq,afghanistan…. Aukus will waste resources eg militery purchase of vehicles cancellede. And Dutton called on ndis money for subs. I spent 2 weeks in RPA at xmas…..really under the pump, 120 to 150 in emergency and no beds upstairs….the maintenance . plumbing, electrical etc….in need. and this gang want to waste resources on Subs. Keating is right…. Worst decision ever.

  4. WillD
    April 21, 2023 at 23:29

    Ignore what she says, and watch what she and her government do. In my view, it is pointless listening to these politicians because they rarely tell the truth and rarely fulfil their promises.

    Lots of people had high hopes for her, but it is now clear that she has sold out and succumbed to the neocon globalist poison.

  5. ian fraser
    April 21, 2023 at 18:35

    grovel,grovel,grovel…. nothings changed since 1945…..we continue to follow the yanks into one losing war after another….korea, vietnam, iraq, afghanistan….The Arse Lickers Party

  6. Lois Gagnon
    April 21, 2023 at 17:32

    All these countries sucking up to Washington for brownie points are in for a hard landing when the empire falls. They’re all afraid of sanctions and regime change if they don’t obey. Karma will not be kind.

  7. lester
    April 21, 2023 at 15:09

    What rules does the US government follow? Have they ever failed to attack another country because of some rules?

  8. April 20, 2023 at 20:08

    The views expressed by Mary Kostakidis are welcome as they are obviously free of the colonial pathogens that seem to pervert most settler’s minds in the West.

    Interestingly; Wong and Albanese keep Assange invisible by taking their cue from ‘his master’s ever more impotent voice’.

  9. Mikael Andersson
    April 20, 2023 at 19:39

    Hello Mary, thanks for getting stuck into Penelope Wong. “All the way with the USA” is indeed the correct title, except to say that Wong wishes that decision to lie under the radar, never mentioned, silenced, unchallenged, de-facto without contest, the natural order of things that warrants no question, rather like gravity or sunlight. Wong is wrong, and sadly Wong is the wrong person for the job. I’ve admired her for years and looked forward to this moment. What a profound disappointment. I imagined nobody could be worse than Julie Bishop, who surrendered the final vestiges of an independent Australian foreign policy. It’s OK to be wrong of course, but how wrong I was. Wrong Wong.

  10. Linda Edwards
    April 20, 2023 at 19:38

    Free Julian Assange..!

  11. Valerie
    April 20, 2023 at 19:27

    She’s got all the right key words: hegemonic China. And what is it about Vanuatu? Something weird there.

  12. shmutzoid
    April 20, 2023 at 19:21

    The whole stinkin’ US led international cabal of so-called ‘ruled based order’ nations needs to come crashing down. Aukus/Five Eyes and a few European countries willing to go down with the sinking ship USA and its “Full Spectrum Dominance” hegemonic agenda MUST be upended. ……. De-dollarization takes a long time, they say. Hopefully, events will see this process accelerated.

    • JonnyJames
      April 22, 2023 at 10:35

      I totally agree of course. The NewSpeak “rules based order” BS means that they don’t even refer to intl. law or the rule of law anymore – they can do whatever they want, the law and constitution be damned.

      De-dollarization will take time. The Russian economist Sergey Glasyev has written about it, as well as others. The percentage of intl. trade and foreign central bank reserves is still majority US dollar, but declining slowly but steadily. We just hope that “events” don’t lead to full blown nuclear war. All the more reason to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now.

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