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The article appeared in Pearls and Irritations on 9.6.21

Australian Democracy is fading fast, with little care on the part of the LNP and MSM or realisation on the part of Labor.

It was John Howard who locked refugees in concentration camps in the desert. It was John Howard who curled his lip and sneered we, meaning himself, will decide who comes to Australia. It was John Howard who incorrectly demonised Indian doctor Haneef, with the aid of the AFP, only to see him forced into a humiliating back down and apology.

It was Howard who refused to recognise the Wik, High Court decision relating to Native Title and rammed legislation through parliament to water down the decision. It was Howard who refused to say sorry to Indigenous people for generational suffering and it was Howard who unleashed the ADF on Indigenous people in the Northern Territory in an act of social cleansing known as the Intervention. He went to war with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan in what appeared to be a crusade against Islam.

Howard set the framework for an intolerant and racist Australia which endures to this day. He put in place what might be termed the Howard Regime with the specific aim of making the wealthy wealthier and fostering European supremacy. He inaugurated a raft of terrorism and security laws designed to intimidate and control his fellow Australians as much as to ensure security.

Using the overblown threat of terrorism Howard corralled and controlled the Main Stream Media (MSM) with leaks and releases to tame journalists. Media laws were watered down allowing all but a seat to Murdoch at the Cabinet Table. Labor Prime Ministers, Rudd and Gillard, did not break the mould. They proved to be LNP Light, particularly with respect to the human rights issues of Indigenous Australians, refugees, single mothers, the unemployed and the environment.

Subsequent LNP Prime Ministers have all sought, with success, to advance the Howard doctrine. Murdoch has been feted and favoured, through installation of a second rate NBN and grants to his media organisations. Sport has been used to deflect attention away from politics and Murdoch has assisted. Indigenous Australian’s and refugees continue to be treated badly and the fossil fuel industry has been the recipient of grants.

There are few who believe Morrison to be a successful Prime Minister, he is seen as motivated by self. The vaccine rollout and provision of stand-alone quarantine facilities attest to a lack of leadership.

Morrison’s inclination is to govern by decree, unfettered by parliamentary process. In this he has been aided by Covid dictated limited sittings of Parliament, a weak opposition and a Murdoch dominated press which has pushed the ABC to the right.

As a young Diplomat I was posted to South Africa from July 1976 – October 1979. From 1990 – 1993 I ran a program bringing black South Africans to Australia for training and from 2004 I travelled to South Africa in conjunction with the Ifa Lethu Art Foundation which I established with a former colleague.

South Africa, under Apartheid, was governed by a white cabal of men elected on a restricted whites only franchise. They were cruel, weak, corrupt, entitled bullies, fostering white elitism and wealth. There was a small parliamentary white opposition headed by an ineffectual blow hard who condemned Apartheid but did not favour universal suffrage. Consequently, blacks treated him with contempt, but that was nothing compared to the loathing they felt and expressed for the white Afrikaners in power.

The ruling LNP increasingly resembles the white supremacist Apartheid regime. They have destroyed the relationship with Australia’s largest trading partner, China, to preserve what they call Australian values. It is a call based on incipient racism and one bound to fail, but like Apartheid it is centered on a perverse ideology. Australian white supremacy aims to further enrich business leaders, the majority of whom are white men and male dominated sporting clubs. Abbott and Morrison push the ‘Anzac and the tradition of Gallipoli’ which has the same emotional and ideological hold for right wing Australians as the ‘Battle of Blood River’ does for Afrikaner xenophobes.

The white opposition in South Africa was weak in numbers and will, they were time servers, energy and sacrifice did not enter their lexicon. Sacrifice was the preserve of black South Africans, just as it is of bush fire and flood victims and welfare recipients, Indigenous people and refugees in Australia.

The white South African regime gutted the State broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), squeezing it of funds to the point it became compliant and did not report black student protest in Soweto against Apartheid in June 1976. The South African Police (SAP) were subjected to political control and direction. They were willing participants; they supported the ruling white National Party and Apartheid.

Whatever it takes, mixed with retribution, appears to motivate the LNP. An indicator is the secret trial of Bernard Collaery and Witness K. If Morrison gets re-elected expect him to pursue ‘disruptive elements’ that he will claim are harming Australia’s interests and are backed by Chinese money and agents. He will move to consolidate himself in power and render Labor weak and unelectable. Australia could become a one-party state with a token opposition.

You may believe this far-fetched, ‘couldn’t happen here mate’, but it can. I have seen it unfold in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It will all be done under the umbrella of a security threat from China and enable the deployment of the considerable arsenal of security legislation already in existence. Australia, like South Africa, will become a pariah state with US backing.

In assessing the capacity of governments to undertake actions inimical to the interests of some if not many of it’s citizens the character of the main political players need to be assessed; in that regard the Morrison government does not come off very well, Porter, Hunt and Colbeck being examples.

The leader of the federal Australian Labor Party, Antony Albanese, looks, sounds and behaves as his South African counterpart, Colin Eglin. He displays no sense of urgency but more importantly he evinces no understanding of the dangers posed by the ruling LNP regime. He appears not to understand the mentality he is dealing with. He shows little ability to match them blow by blow.

He appears to hold limited sway with so called swinging voters. He is known to his rusted-on supporters but who else? It cuts no ice to blame a hostile MSM, Albanese has to make waves, that’s what leaders do. They say he has a good team, which is true, but as Shorten discovered, election campaigns are won or lost on the leader’s performance. It may surprise Albanese but voters are not interested in the fact that he was brought up in public housing, it sounds like self-pity. He gives the appearance of running a 1980’s election campaign. Somebody should tell him the times have changed, Canberra is 1930’s Chicago. He should shape up or ship out, the stakes are too high for an Arty Calwell or Kim Beazley to be leading the Labor Party at this time.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.

As published in the Global Times – Asia Review, 27.5.21

After the American defeat by the Japanese in the Philippines it needed a base from which to regroup, resupply and take the fight back through the Pacific. Australia was a bread bowl, training camp and aircraft carrier. Its north was intersected with airfields used by American bombers and fighters in attacks against Japanese bases and shipping on and around PNG, the Solomons and other nearby Islands.

Australia was fearful of attack by the Japanese after their rapid advance through south Asia and the Pacific. The Americans arrived as the Japanese were advancing over PNG toward Port Moresby. The Australian Army had been conducting a successful fighting retreat in order to shorten their supply line, extend that of the Japanese and organise a major offensive. McArthur, the arrogant American general in command, sacked a number of Australian generals and ordered the retreat to stop.

Instead of being angry with McArthur the average Australian thought he was a hero. The myth was born that America had saved Australia, whereas America came to Australia purely for self-interest. Australians were impressed with American largesse and technology. Many bought into the American ‘dream’. This was the point at which America could do no wrong. The ANZUS Treaty came into being at the time of the Cold War and hostilities in Korea. America was seen by Australians as the protector against Russian and Chinese expansionism.

Australia was also seduced by American consumerism, Hollywood, Nashville and Detroit. A common language facilitated the absorption of American culture. Military, academic and business exchanges grew. However, it was largely a one-way street, although that went mostly un-noticed in Australia given the sycophantic nature of the relationship. Australians were in awe of American power and wealth.

They undertook no foreign policy initiatives without first checking with the Americans. The exception being the recognition of China by the Whitlam government in 1972, which many of junior Diplomats welcomed with pride and pleasure. Australia bought into the American line on the civil war in Viet Nam, much to its subsequent but unacknowledged regret. That did not stop the ‘provincial’ Prime Minister, John Howard, buying into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a favour to the equally limited George Bush.

Australia bought military hardware from the Americans, under pressure, to increase US force structure in the region. We bought the F-111 which took forever to iron out the cracks, pun intended, the single screw FFG’s, the next to useless Abrams tanks, the F35 flying lemon and to boost the alliance Australia has ordered 12 submarines from the French which it does not need.

America has a highly sophisticated spy base, Pine Gap, in the Northern Territory, but from which Australia is excluded from sharing sensitive information. They have access to Tindal Airbase from which B52’s, in theory, could bomb submarine pens in Sanya and they have established a military base in Darwin for 10,000 American marines. None of this offers any advantage for Australia, although the Americans have convinced the conservative governing establishment that it does. They believe that no matter what, Australian interests are best served by remaining in lock step with America interests. The Australian governing party lacks emotional intelligence and courage. They are ‘provincial’ politicians, who know and understand very little of the wider world. To illustrate the point the governing party does not believe in climate change, at least insofar as believing in the efficacy of fossil fuels.

As products of the Howard era Prime Ministers, Abbott, Turnbull and most recently Morrison have all demonstrated blind faith in the American alliance. They have placed a great deal of trust in the word of Americans. Morrison has possibly been the most naive and gullible. He took Trump at his word, a big mistake. Trump fired up Morrison over China and convinced him that not only did the Covid virus originate in Wuhan, but he should unilaterally make a demand that an international investigation take place. Morrison took Australia way out in front with an unsustainable and undiplomatic demand, the US and Trump stood in the background and grinned.

Australia refused to backdown and apologise, so China imposed sanctions on a range of Australian imports in order to obtain a change of attitude on the part of Australia. The loss of income has not been felt because of unprecedented levels of borrowing by Australia to meet the economic challenges of Covid. And Australia has allowed itself to be lulled into a false sense of security by words of reassurance from US Secretary of State, Blinken, who guaranteed that America had Australia’s back. It does not and it never did. America acts purely in self-interest. Australia because of its long love affair with the US and its inferiority complex is in denial. Australia seems blind to the fact that the US has stepped in to supply China with many of the goods denied through trade sanctions.

China does not seem to understand the extent of the incompetence and naivety of the Australian leadership. Thinking people and intellectuals in Australia are appalled at Morrison and his government. However tough Chinese sanctions and harsh words have only given Morrison the domestic ammunition he needs to bolster his claims that China is aggressively expansionist and seeks to dominate the region.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.