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The following article appeared in Pearls & Irritations on 20 July, 2022


In all of my experience, AUKUS is the worst example of abuse within the so-called American alliance.

It is a prescription for failure and considerable loss of face for Australia amongst its neighbours, friends in the region and more widely spread friends and trading partners. In fact, the region has shown no support for the proposal and indicated disquiet.

Involvement with the US in the disastrous Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars should have given cause for thought, but no, a supine media, lack of debate within academic institutions and amongst what remains of an intellectual class has seen the AUKUS proposal gain ‘acceptance’ by politicians without so much as question or query. And this in the complete absence of planning detail and cost analysis.

There has been a lot of poppycock about acquiring nuclear submarines and of having them built in Australia with a lead time to delivery of 20 to 30 years. Only child politicians and their puerile advisers would be prepared to swallow such rubbish. The submarine deal was always a smokescreen to get US nuclear armed submarines based in Australia. The so-called deal was a sop to public opinion and for the moment it has worked with a China hating, US loving, Murdoch led MSM. Where is the sense in spending over $200 billion in the face of a one Trillion-dollar debt? The money would be far better spent on health, education and infrastructure.

AUKUS is nothing more than a US takeover of northern Australia as an operational base against China. Australia has rolled over and the new Minister for Defence, Marles, has gone so far as to offer full integration of the ADF into US force structures.

The most appalling defence acquisition program over 20 years has left Australia without a viable fighting force. Whose decision was it to buy the upgraded version of the Abrams tank? As an ex-tank man, I can say the decision is entirely without merit and smacks of lining US pockets at Australian taxpayer’s expense. The US has a history of foisting rubbish on the ADF, such as the F35, and Australia under leaders such as the toadying and incompetent, John Howard, of rolling over and accepting them.

Instead of weeks, which the US proposed, Labor was given just 24 hours to consider the AUKUS ‘proposal’ by the devious Morrison; it agreed in order to avoid a wedge in the face of the election. Anthony Albanese agreed to something that he knows nothing about. And to prove it he continues to grind on about nuclear submarines.

The Americans thought they were very clever in dragging the British in on the deal. Anyone but the arrant, arrogant and colonial Johnson would have demurred. The UK in AUKUS is unlikely to survive the departure of the incompetent Johnson. The British east of the Suez is the material for jokes. After Brexit they are much reduced and once the Queen dies their prestige will be on sale in second hand shops. The US made a mistake in dragging the UK  in. They probably thought it would add some weight to their containment of China.

AUKUS is all about the US and its rivalry and competition with China. It wants to use what Australia has on offer, a base to confront, and when the time comes, to attack China. There is nothing in it for Australia. We are not threatened by China. It is and should remain a major trading partner.

The wounded bison is thrashing about with its sole survival plan to wreck the China shop and it doesn’t care if it takes us with it. In fact, it is better to set Australia up as a primary target than Hawaii and the west coast of the US.

Darwin will become the centre of a US centre monitoring (controlling) all sea and air movements in a wide zone embracing much of the north of Australia with what will be termed a joint operations command. Tindal is being expanded along with Stirling in order to take US arms and delivery vehicles.

The QUAD is a quad in name only. India with its strong ties to Russia was never in it beyond the extent of Modi’s ego. South Korea and Japan will always play their own game depending on who is in power in Washington and Beijing. NATO moving into the so-called Indo-Pacific is little more than a US induced wet dream on the part of Stoltenberg who has absorbed nothing of Nordic notions of social justice and dialogue. No doubt the US is pleased with the NATO announcement seeing further China containment as having been achieved.

Anthony Albanese fans the fires of AUKUS with incomprehensible talk of submarines and staying in step with allies but much more so with his inflammatory statements about China.  Penny Wong has outdistanced her Coalition predecessor by leagues. She took on the very difficult task of rebuilding the relationship with China after the oafishness of Morrison and Payne over Wuhan and Covid. She is succeeding. She has deployed a nuance which is a pleasure to watch She has brought her considerable intelligence to bare. She has been subtle and tough minded. She is the person of the moment. Australia got what it needed.

Not so with Anthony Albanese. He has done his best to wreck Wong’s good work.  He talks of the continuing danger posed by China, forgetting the AUKUS takeover. He says China has changed and we haven’t? What does he think Morrison did? He trashed twenty years of relationship building, including a most successful visit to Australia by Xi Jinping in November 2014. And he and Dutton banged the drums of war as an election ploy.

Anthony Albanese has not attempted to get his head around foreign relations, in particular China. He is stupidly relying on the people who advised Morrison. People like the head of ONI, the LNP favoured, Shearer and the US arms funded, ASPI. Neither should be allowed near a Labor government. They continue to push the LNP/AUKUS agenda.

Penny Wong is not in that camp, which is lucky for the rest of the country. Albanese must learn to do his own thinking and to find the courage to sack and distance himself from the pernicious influence of Morrison’s dangerous and undermining advisers.


This article was published by The Global Times on 14 July 2022

Mis-information, false information, prejudice and the dirty politics of the retention of power caused a thick and low hanging fog through which Australia is now trying to navigate a path to China.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has demonstrated skill in charting a course to China. She has displayed diplomatic skill.

Wang Yi called on Australia to be a partner rather than an opponent, seek common ground, reserve differences, build public opinion and not targeting nor being controlled by a third party (clearly a reference to criticism of China and the influence of the United States over Australian foreign and defence policy). The Australian government needs to push back against the biased and at times hysterical Murdoch Press.

The two demonstrated how diplomacy should be conducted – with respect and consideration. The nature of their dialogue and the cordial atmosphere stands in marked contrast to the crude, rude and gauche behaviour of the recently departed and unlamented former Prime Minister Mr Morrison toward China and that of the current leader of the Opposition, Mr. Dutton. Their rudeness, ill-informed remarks and aggression toward China are an embarrassment. Dutton is very close to the US Republican Party and right wing think tanks. He is an unoriginal thinker and remains bellicose in his public statements relating to China.

The new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has been focused on domestic politics for much of his political life. He has inherited and chosen to retain public servants shaped and politicised by twenty years of LNP governments, including Andrew Shearer, head of the Office of National Intelligence. Shearer was the national security adviser to LNP Prime Ministers, Howard and Abbott and was Morrison’s influential adviser on China. He is a foreign policy hawk. He is a key adviser to Anthony Albanese. He supports the Quad and he supports and was a likely promotor of AUKUS. He is seen as extremely influential in policy debates relating to China and the US.

Compared to Wong, Albanese and Richard Marles, the defence minister, appear to be reading off different briefing notes. Albanese has made clumsy and wooden remarks about the dangers of China, despite opportunities to be more nuanced and positive and Marles has been positively destructive. He gives every appearance of just not getting it. He is an embarrassment. A puppet on a very short US string. He warned of a “military build-up at a rate unseen since WWII” in Washington on 11 July in Washington. Who is briefing him?

Marles has yet to assert his leadership of the Defence and Security bureaucracy. He needs to make clear the nonsense of carping about the viability of our trade routes while undermining Australia’s trade relationship with China. He needs to undertake a review of the ‘policy’, pushed by the US, of the ‘right of innocent passage’ in the South China Sea.   

 There are no policy differences relating to China within the Australian cabinet and government, however the Shearer approach to dealing with China is different to what is evolving from within the department of Foreign Affairs, with Wong as Minister. If differences emerge, they will need to be reconciled.

ASPI continues to play a less than constructive role in the reset of relations with the former director, Peter Jennings, attempting to rattle the sabre over arms sales, including nuclear submarines. ASPI is a strong supporter of AUKUS. How influential ASPI is with the new government remains to be seen.

Also influential with the last government was Dr Michael Fullilove, of the Lowy Institute and Professor Rory Medcalf of the National Security College, ANU, and also previously with the Lowy Institute, neither are friends of China.

Australian public support for the alliance with the US remains strong, how much support there is for AUKUS is untested. Details relating to the understanding have not been released. They remain secret. There has been some media speculation but no details have been made public. Before the election the Labor Party was given 24 hours to agree or reject the ‘proposal’. In order not to be wedged they agreed. AUKUS and all matters associated with it need to be debated in the Australian parliament. Secrecy in one state leads to secrecy in another.

Clearly what needs to occur now is a continuance of calm and directed diplomacy. Ms. Wong has said the meeting with Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, is a first step in stabilising the relationship. That is an important acknowledgement and should be a precursor toward formal high level discussions.

In addition to Australia adjusting it’s focus on China, it must weigh carefully words and undertakings emanating from both China and the United States, particularly in relation to Taiwan and the South China Sea. It is in Australia’s interest to see considered responses from both.

Normal trade, tourism, study and research should resume as soon as possible between China and Australia.

Bruce Haigh is a retired Australian Diplomat and political commentator.


This article was published on the Independent Australia website on 9 July 2022

By the Government rightly dropping the charges against Witness K’s lawyer Bernard Collaery, Australia was reminded of the illegal bugging operation against Timor-Leste, writes Bruce Haigh.

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL, Mark Dreyfus, has thrown out all the concocted and spurious charges against Bernard Collaery the lawyer defending former ASIS employee and whistle blower, Witness K, who told Australia and the world about the illegal bugging, by ASIS, of the Timor-Leste Cabinet room prior to negotiations between Timor and Australia in 2004 over extensive and disputed oil and gas reserves.

The bugging was authorised by the then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, with the knowledge of John Howard, then Prime Minister.

Charges were brought against Collaery by the then A-G in 2018, Christian Porter, perhaps with the knowledge and agreement of Scott Morrison. The charges were vindictive and presumably laid to protect Howard and Downer. However, most of the matters they sought to hide have found their way into the public domain.

Many people have formed an opinion about Porter, his character and his veracity. And his unjust pursuit of Collaery have hardened, if not confirmed, those opinions.

Collaery may sue the Commonwealth and Porter; nobody would begrudge him for doing that.

Dreyfus has reversed a significant miscarriage of justice and in so doing highlighted another: the illegal and unethical bugging of Timor Leste authorised by the Australian Government under the leadership of John Howard.

Justice must now be served by investigating all the matters involved in this sordid episode of Australian foreign policy. A commission should be convened to do so. Howard and Downer must be made to account for themselves and the deals surrounding Woodside in this matter, who were keen to develop the reserves.

Howard has form with the false “children overboard” scare tactic against asylum seekers and refugees, and taking Australia to war in an illegal invasion of Iraq. He has an interest in attempting to clear his name.

The mainstream media also have form in not seeking to take apart the case made by Porter. In my experience, there are no security issues involved in this matter. The only issue sought to be covered up was an embarrassment to the Coalition.

The dismissal of this case by Dreyfus should begin the process of exposing the moral bankruptcy and corruption of the L-NP beginning with Howard, passing through Abbott and Turnbull until reaching its rotten conclusion under Morrison. Australia has been poorly served from issues such as climate change, dealing with China, Robodebt and the AUKUS arrangement.

The following article appeared in Pearls & Irritations on 29 June, 2022

Professor Hugh White argues, in an essay, ’If growing US-China rivalry leads to ‘the worst war ever’, what should Australia do?’ published in Pearls and Irritations on 26 June, that, ‘..the very real possibility that a war with China launched to preserve the US’s position in Asia might end up destroying it, just as the First World War destroyed the empires that went to war to preserve themselves in 1914.’

He contends that decisions taken in 1914 were critical in terms of going to war. They were not, the path to war had been embarked on much earlier, there was a dreadful inevitability about the likelihood of war, rooted as it was in the rivalry between Great Britain and Germany. From 1890 Britain became increasingly concerned that its monopoly of naval power and therefore of trade routes could come under challenge from Germany. It resulted in a naval arms race which became intense after 1906, resulting in war in 1914. The poorly negotiated settlement of World War One led to World War Two.

The rivalry and jealousy between Germany and Great Britain led to a complex arrangement of treaties designed primarily to shore up the power of Great Britain in much the same way as the Quad, Five Eyes and AUKUS are designed to shore up the power of the US with respect to the perceived threat from China.

Professor White contends that, ‘Washington has made clear that it has no interest in seeking an accommodation with China…” and observes that, ‘In fact, the risk of war is probably higher than the government realizes, because China is harder to deter than they understand.’

He ponders what Australia should and will do in the event that the US does go to war with China. That decision has already been taken. As with the First World War the die is cast. AUKUS ensures Australian involvement, just as it helps progress the inevitability of war between the US and China.

The US is a failing state, wracked by increasing internal division and breakdown of social cohesion. It has every reason to seek, indeed to foster, an external threat in the hope of drawing attention away from an inability to address let alone solve increasingly pressing and complex domestic problems.

Another reason for the inevitability of going to war with the US is the inability of the Australian political and military elite to see the US for what it is aided by their lack of leadership and moral courage. They are unable to resist US bullying and blandishments.