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Bruce was born on 6 August, 1945. He attended Christ Church Grammar School from 1956/62. He rowed in the First Four, played rugby for two years with the First Fifteen and was a warrant officer in the cadets. He left school without matriculating and went Jackarooing in the Kimberley. He also worked on an oil rig on the edge of The Great Sandy Desert and drove a taxi in Port Hedland.

He was conscripted for service in Vietnam in January 1966. He was a tank gunner, radio operator and M113 crew commander. He volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967 but his unit was not sent until the following year.

While in the army he studied for his mature age matriculation and attended UWA from 1968/71. He obtained an honours degree in politics and history. He played rugby for UWA and was Arts Union President, a Member of Guild Council and Senior Student of St Georges College.

He was recruited as a Diplomat and commenced with the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1972. He was posted to Pakistan as Third Secretary.

In 1976 he was posted to South Africa as Second Secretary. The racially based system of government known as Apartheid was at its height. Bruce was appalled at what he witnessed. He decided to do what he could to help those who’s well-being or lives were at risk.

He gave black activists protection in his home from the security police. He helped students from Soweto to sanctuary across the border and he assisted prominent newspaper editor, Donald Woods, to flee the country from injury and possible death. His role was portrayed by John Hargreaves in the Sir Richard Attenborough film, ‘Cry Freedom’.

He is the only Australian Diplomat to have been portrayed in a feature length film. He also took prominent attorney, Shun Chetty, across the border. Shun feared for his life. He had defended the interests of the Biko family at the inquest into the death of black activist Steve Biko in prison. Bruce knew Steve.

Bruce maintained an extensive range of contacts with activists and artists. In 1997 he was invited as an official guest to the unveiling of a statue of Steve Biko by Nelson Mandela. Bruce met Mandela on several occasions, as well as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and a Director of the World Bank. He remains friends with her.

Bruce took support money from the World Council of Churches to the dependents of political prisoners on Robben Island. The WCC was banned in South Africa and the money had to be smuggled across the border.

It was only after the release and screening of ‘Cry Freedom’ that the Department and the Minister became aware of the activities of Bruce in South Africa, which they approved and embraced.

In 1990 he founded and ran The South African Training Trust until 1993 bringing sixty black South Africans to Australia training.

In 2003 he established ‘Ifa Lethu’, an organisation based in Pretoria, to repatriate and curate black works of art taken out of the country during Apartheid. He began the collection with works he purchased from 1976/79. It now has over 700 pieces of work repatriated from around the world. A major exhibition was held in London at the time of the Olympics. He appointed Dr Ramphele to chair the Board which included musician Hugh Masekela.

In 1982 he was posted to Saudi Arabia as First Secretary and in 1983 was Charge’ at the Australian Embassy in Tehran for several months at the time of the Iran/Iraq war.

In 1986 he was posted to Pakistan as Counsellor. Shortly after arrival he met Benazir Bhutto who had just returned from exile in Britain. He was the first Diplomat in Islamabad to do so. The diplomatic community were wary of meeting her, fearing the wrath of President Zia who had murdered her father. Bruce and Benazir became good friends. He introduced her to other diplomats including the Indian, Russian and British Ambassadors. He attended her wedding in 1987. After she became Prime Minister in 1988, she bought wheat, second hand Mirage aircraft from Australia. Trade improved as a result of the relationship between Bruce and Benazir.

The Embassy in Islamabad was accredited to Afghanistan, which was under occupation by the USSR. Bruce offered to take photos of Russian soldiers and materiel when he was in Kabul. He was provided with specialist cameras by agencies in Canberra.

In 1994 he was posted to Sri Lanka as Counsellor where he came to understand the suffering of the Tamil people.

In 1995 he was appointed a Member of the Refugee Review Tribunal with the powers of a Magistrate. It was an independent body and appointments were made by the Governor General. Bruce was a productive Member of the Tribunal. He refused to undertake the directions of the Minister for Immigration who had no authority over the Tribunal. Minister Ruddock sought to limit the number of positive decisions made by Members to 20% of cases heard. It was illegal for him to do so. Nonetheless some Members complied and got reappointed.

Bruce served until 2000. Since that time, he has advocated on behalf of Refugees, East Timorese and Tamils. Refugees have been illegally held offshore for domestic political advantage. The Australian Government pays (bribes) officials in Indonesia and Sri Lanka to keep people off boats.

Bruce has written articles and opinion pieces on international relations, human rights, Refugees, domestic politics, water and climate change. He has appeared on radio and TV and was a regular guest on The Drum until a change of management at the ABC.

He has appeared before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in relation to Human Rights in 1993 and Peacekeeping also in 1993, East Timor in 1999, Migration in 2003 and a parliamentary meeting in relation to the massacre of Tamils in 2009. In 2015 he was flown to Bremen to advocate on behalf of Tamil refugees before Judges, specialist lawyers and academics sitting in judgement on the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. They found that the government of Sri Lanka had committed genocide against the Tamil minority.

Bruce has written two books, ‘The Great Australian Blight’, a study of Australian foreign policy and ‘Pillars of Fear’, a critical examination of Australian regional defence planning. Both published by Otford Press in 2001.

Bruce farmed grapes, olives and sheep at Mudgee from 1997 to 2015.

As published in Independent Australia on 28 April 2020 and Pearls and Irritations on 1 May 2020

The Liberal National Party is not strong on foreign policy, preferring the United States to take the lead and provide direction; were it not for trade Australia under the LNP would have a weak relationship with China.

Australia followed the United States into war in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and is prepared to follow them into war against Iran. It has sought confrontation with China over their claim to the South China Sea. The US led confrontation has not deflected China and short of war is not likely to. Confrontation has gained nothing but hostility. I am not arguing appeasement but rather a change in tactic. China will act with stubbornness and aggression if forced into a corner or suffers a loss of face.

The United States has handled the Covid19 crisis badly. The President, Donald Trump, has made an even greater fool of himself with crazy prevention pronouncements all of his own creation. His push to get businesses open is likely to prolong the spread of the virus, further undermining the US economy, thereby prolonging recovery time around the globe. He has behaved badly, more so than Chinese leader Xi Jinping who failed to inform the world of the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan for some weeks and supressed the voice of concerned doctors.

Trump needs to be called out. He is proving to be a dubious ally. That has not prevented the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, from playing to Trumps ego and pledging loyalty. Loyalty to what?

The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, not content with shirking his responsibility for the spread of the virus in Australia, through the unauthorised docking of the cruise ship Ruby Princess in Sydney, has sought deflection by seeking an enquiry into the cause and spread of the virus. His remarks were clearly directed at China and have drawn an angry response from them. Dutton style bullying should not be a tool of diplomacy particularly with regard to China.

China is embarrassed. It is conducting its own investigations in its own way. It clearly wants to prevent anything like this happening again. Dutton has gone off less than half cocked. He has done more than muddy waters. Had he or his department consulted DFAT he might have been cautioned to desist or given a more appropriate course of action.

As it is, he may well have brought an end to Chinese students studying in Australia. China may move to prevent the trade in students. Morrison has been an echo chamber for Dutton’s crude and ill-advised foray into foreign policy against Australia’s largest trading partner. He has been unbelievably foolish. Has consideration been given to China sourcing minerals from elsewhere and restricting terms of trade if she feels attacks are politically motivated, i.e. at the instigation of the US?

Australia’s unwillingness to look after foreign students stranded in Australia will not have gone unnoticed. India might well follow China in banning their students from studying in Australia. We have undermined our international standing with a further display of our mean spiritedness.

In another exercise in deflection Trump waded into the WHO. Morrison followed believing he has some international standing because of the low number of Covid19 cases in Australia. It is typical Morrison spin. It is too early to say if Australia has avoided a bullet. Covid19 could come back to bite and Morrison would be flat on his face.

Trump is trying to blame anyone but himself for his Covid19 stuff up. There are issues with the management of WHO just as there are with other UN agencies. Short comings generally revolve around insufficient funding, which see these organisations dancing to the tune of major donors in order that funds are forthcoming. But there is also corruption and nepotism. By all means call for an enquiry, but money has to be put where the mouth is and not in the middle of a pandemic.

Australia’s neglect of the Pacific has seen China take advantage and push aid on our near neighbours. In case there is any doubt about what is going on, after the recent devastating cyclone in Vanuatu, China managed to fly in assistance to the stricken country before Australia, blocking the runway and forcing an RAAF plane with supplies to turn back to Australia. Hard ball. The US will not stick it’s neck out for us in the South Pacific.

China will come out of Covid19 better than America. It will be China that repatriates regional and African debt. It will be China that steps in to provide medical help should it be required in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and perhaps Indonesia. Australia has dropped the ball in those countries where its aid contribution is half what it was ten years ago and our voice was lost with Downer’s axing of Radio Australia. They can be expected to assist African states should it prove necessary. Australia has a limited presence and profile in Africa.

The outcome of the virus will likely see Chinese power and influence increased and that of America diminish.

The Labor Party should be seeking to contain Dutton and Morrison. They should be putting an alternative narrative to China. They should display the courage and skill of Whitlam when he was amongst the first of the Western countries to recognise China shortly after coming to power in December 1972. It was a relationship enhanced by Hawke and Keating without damaging the relationship with the US.

The LNP set the tone of their relationship with the US with the embarrassing catch cry, “all the way with LBJ”, who was the President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, during the visit of Prime Minister, Harold Holt, to Washington in June 1966. They haven’t changed, but they must. The LNPRW, right wing research institutes and think tanks, sections of the MSM together with the IPA must be marginalised in order that Australia has a respected and influential place in the region.

It must be Diplomacy not Dutton.  In terms of our relationship with China and America the boat must be balanced if Australia is to get through the uncharted and rough waters ahead.

Just as I was about to send this article, China was reported on the ABC, 2pm, 27 April, as threatening to cease buying Australian beef and wine if Australia refuses to withdraw its calls for an enquiry into the causes of the spread of Covid19. What dills we have for political leaders.

 Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired Diplomat.