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Projections on Australia’s future are bleak if it maintains its hostility to China and cloying dependence on America, particularly when coupled with Covid19 and a corrupt and incompetent LNP government.

Tell me, where do you think Australia will be in one, five and twenty years time?

Let me speculate. One year from now Covid19 will still be with us and may have increased its grip throughout NSW and perhaps Australia as a result of Premier Berejiklian’s ideological and irresponsible handling of containment. Nothing will have been resolved with China. Further trade restrictions will be in place and President Biden will have opened a dialogue with China to advance US economic interests. We will not be coat tailing on those discussions. The US will still be confronting China in the South China Sea but without harm to its moderately improved relationship.

The US will request that Australia overfly and conduct naval patrols and exercises in the South China Sea, which we will do, eliciting praise from the US and further perplexing and angering the Chinese who in addition to restricting the import of iron ore will limit tourist and student arrivals.

The Australian economy will be shagged. With an election approaching Morrison may well take a pragmatic and irresponsible decision and borrow more money. A lot more money. Initially scared of debt the LNP will have come to see the political and electoral advantage of doing so. They will take the view that short term LNP gain will be long term Labor pain.

Which is all very well except that Albanese is unelectable. Nice as he may be, he does not have the leadership skills or strength of character to handle the crises Australia is now facing and which will only intensify over the next year. Murdoch will back increased debt, so will the US.

Australia doesn’t have a clue where it is going and has not for many years, probably a hundred. Tucked under the umbrella first of Britain and then America we did not have to think. We had no need for independent foreign or defence policies. When I was in the Department of Foreign Affairs, we would not move on making a major decision without the approval of Washington and London.

Secure under this imaginary umbrella Australians were free to acquire wealth, wreck the environment, indulge in sport and feed their insatiable hedonism, ‘Where the bloody hell are you.’

If Australia had some idea of self, outside of self indulgence, Abbott and Morrison would not have been Prime Ministers and Albanese would not be leading Labor if the unions had not been emasculated by Hawke and Keating.

Australia will not find sufficient new markets to replace Chinese imports, certainly not from the UK and Europe. Faced with a deteriorating economy and increased debt the dollar will fall. This under normal circumstances would aid exports, except that Tehan will not turn things around. He neither has the wit nor wisdom to negotiate, he is a dud.

Australia’s credit rating will be marked down, adding to the cost of borrowing and the economic downward spiral. Morrison will win the election and the Labor Party will go into an even bigger funk because Albanese will resign with no obvious successor. Labor, bereft of leadership, will assume long term opposition, much as the failed opposition in white South Africa, which Australia will increasingly come to resemble. What small policy changes occur will be as a result of external pressure.

Morrison’s spin and jargon will increasingly be detested but accepted in the absence of an opposition and functioning MSM. He will try and revive Australian exceptionalism, sporting prowess and beaches but it will not wash overseas. The EU, Japan, China and other nations will slap a tax on our goods in the absence of functioning and effective emissions control and again, as with Apartheid South Africa, Morrison will attempt to spin his way out of it. But by then we will be on the nose, a pariah state.

At this point Australia should reinvent itself, it should break free from the cloying, constricting, confining, controlling and humiliating embrace of the United States and negotiate our place in Asia. But we won’t. We don’t have the courage. Australians are good on physical courage. Physical courage impresses coaches, other teams, the media, observers and military opponents. Moral courage is something Australians, by and large, do not understand and place little store in. It is obtuse, invisible and for the Right it demonstrates a weakness of character.

Australia does not have the moral courage to break free of the declining and decomposing US. We have determined that we will go down with the ship. In the absence of courage and imagination we have decided that we will be martyrs to the declining and decaying American dream of gun ownership and the desire to ‘go it alone’. The all American, ‘stuff you – who needs consensus’. Just as an aside, American diplomacy has always been a weak tool, relying on and standing just behind American military might. Yes, ‘we are happy to negotiate but if you don’t comply, we will blow your brains out.’ Just look at the Paris peace talks between Viet Nam and the US. Kissinger.

The US did not come to the assistance of Australia or the East Timorese at the time of bloody independence. They said they gave us information but we had our own better sources through Australian intercepts. John Howard was dragged, in his own inimitable way, kicking and screaming into East Timor. It was public opinion that pushed him. He wanted American involvement, they told him to do it himself. That sat a couple of ships off shore but they did not honour ANZUS. And this after all we had done! The Americans made a point which we have failed to notice.

Having got away with corrupt practice the LNP will continue to bend and break the rules to keep themselves in power and in pocket. They will continue to pay Indonesian and Sri Lankan military, police and officials to stop refugees in boats, a practice begun under Howard. The white dominated LNP feel Australia is theirs they take offence at refugees seeking solace and protection. They are affronted by ‘outsiders’ taking a piece of the action. They demand forelock tugging, unless new arrivals are very rich and they can get a bit of the action.

Five years on and Morrison’s borrowing will only have benefited the top end of town. Unemployment will have increased; poverty will be visible and social unrest will be making the north shore and eastern suburbs uneasy. Many will have copied Johannesburg and surrounded their houses with razor wire and electric fences. Security companies will be in demand.

Dutton will declare demonstrators ‘enemies of the state’ and deploy terrorism laws to round them up for periods of detention without trial. They will spend time on Christmas Island and other former refugee detention centres being re-educated.

Leadership will not have improved, if anything it will be worse, as the LNP remains cowering under US command. China will have asserted it’s influence in the region, which will be prospering, and internationally, as American influence declines.

The inevitable conflict between the US and China will occur toward the end of this period with Australian losses of aircraft, ships and troops who were deployed to take several islands in the South China Sea but repulsed. America will get a very bloody nose. It will consider using nuclear weapons but will be restrained by threats from Russia, France and Germany. America will slink away, concluding a face saving ‘peace treaty’ that concedes China’s control of the South China Sea.

Anywhere between then and twenty years down the track, Australia, by then a virtual one-party state, with draconian police powers in play, will be the visibly poverty stricken poor white neighbours of Asia. China will offer loans and grants in exchange for ownership and equity. These will be accepted. Political life and the economy will be controlled by China through a thoroughly corrupt LNP puppet government, very much reflecting the government of Sri Lanka.

China will address the issue racism through the state-owned newspaper, The Australian. They will explain it is far more entrenched and subtle than calling a person of Asian appearance a chink. It is middle class mothers asking their sons if they marry that Asian or African girl, do they really want their children to look different. They will explain the pain of a sugar coated racial slur and the deep seated and insidious nature of white supremacy.

All this might have been avoided if Australian politicians had voluntarily moved from under the wings of the eagle and engaged in an open and honest way with China. But that would require intelligence and courage which they have been sadly lacking.

To strike a more optimistic note. The future of Australia is in the hands of the people, not the politicians we have become used to. We must change the nature of our political discourse and leadership, we must reinvent ourselves.

If you believe this projection far fetched or too harsh, please indicate what you think the next twenty years holds for Australia.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat. He is also a former Jackaroo, Roughneck, Taxi driver, Tank gunner and farmer. His honours thesis was on Australian political cartoons 1960-69. In Afghanistan he took photographs of Russian military equipment. He was portrayed in the film ‘Cry Freedom’ and was a friend of Steve Biko. He was a confidant of Benazir Bhutto. He served on the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Racism, fear and lack of moral courage sees Australia tied to a declining America, suffering, as a result, a lack of self-respect, independence and a viable and progressive relationship with our largest trading partner.

In 1909, at the urging of Great Britain, Australia organized a local section of the Imperial General Staff (IGS). In light of the foreseeable European war, Britain wanted to mobilise and control the armed forces of what were termed the Dominions, through the IGS.

In 1910 Lord Kitchener inspected troops in Australia and urged the establishment of a military college to train officers. This occurred on 27 June 1911, in a former sheep station, Duntroon, on the edge of Canberra. It was modelled on the British Military College, Sandhurst, and staffed with British officers and senior NCO’s including my grandfather.

The training, mindset and philosophy was to prepare officers to fight alongside or within British units for British objectives. This proved successful and lasted unchanged until the British withdrew from Asia and the Pacific in the 1950’s. Luckily for Australia the Americans moved to fill the gap. The conservative Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, encouraged and welcomed the Americans and adopted their world view which included a hostile China. It was accepted, without debate, that China was promoting the downward thrust of communism through Asia.

Ever fearful of it’s environment Australia signed a collective defence agreement with the US in 1951 to cover the security of the Pacific. Known as the ANZUS treaty it has been invoked more broadly than originally intended. Lacking self confidence Australia has clung to the treaty which it views as an insurance policy requiring regular contributions. The first of which, eagerly grasped by Menzies, was to offer troops for service in Vietnam to help the US contain communism. The US had misread the situation, it was in essence a civil war, but we did not question them. Menzies was keen to pay his dues.

Another conservative Prime Minister keen to pay his dues was John Howard. He sent Australian troops to join US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the case of the latter without strategic objectives other than to bust up Muslims which had the unintended consequence of Australian special forces committing war crimes. To date the conservative government which sent them there is having trouble getting its head around this and has shown every inclination of sweeping the initial investigation under the carpet. This is a terrible consequence of having stupidly followed the Americans into a meaningless war.

Why do we follow the Americans so blindly and before them the British? As noted above a lack of self-confidence has been a motivating factor but equally an inferiority complex which has seen Australians gawk at American exceptionalism and braggadocio. A lack of self-respect is also in play as evinced through the treatment of Indigenous Australians and refugees.

The ugliness of racism sits just beneath the surface in Australia. The white political, business and military establishment is comfortable in dealing with America and Europe, far less so with Africa and Asia. It was easy for Australia to wage war in Vietnam, for at that time the Vietnamese were seen as a lesser and crude race. During my army training we were taught to refer to them as gooks, slope heads and Charlie. Equally derogatory racial stereotypes have made it easier for Australians to wage war against the ‘rag heads’ of Iraq and Afghanistan. The racism of the troops was aided and abetted by the racism of the LNP government which treated refugees as a lesser group and referred to them as terrorists.

The training of ADF officers occurs within the framework of going to war with the United States. There is no independence of thought because Australia has no independent foreign or defence policy. Defence procurement is similarly governed. Whatever is purchased must have interoperability with US defence hardware. And our defence spending is profligate.

Defence analyst, Brian Toohey, describes it as mind boggling and ill thought through. We are purchasing submarines not yet designed, for delivery between 2030 and 2050 to operate with US submarines in the South China Sea for a current cost of $90 billion. We purchased F35 fighters off the design board and 20 years later due to innumerable design failures and difficulties only a handful have been delivered. New frigates have undergone extensive design changes to fit particular radar systems. And together with the US we are developing hypersonic cruise missiles.

In terms of our region this is a massive overspend unless we see our major trading partner as our enemy. And if we do, why is this so? Is it because our erstwhile military ally does? It makes no sense. Instead of recognising the dynamics of our trading relationship with China and upping the level of our diplomatic and cultural ties we have downgraded them.

Morrison talks about defending our sovereignty against China but that has already been ceded for no good reason to America. I wonder if Morrison and Dutton realise how much of our sovereignty, we have passed to the US with their base, known as Pine Gap, in the Northern Territory? We only have partial access and there are other US bases and facilities in Australia to which we have limited access. There are American B52 bombers at Tindale RAAF Base ready to bomb Chinese submarine pens on Hainan Island. What are we doing? What have we been conned into?

The government’s attitude toward the Chinese government and people is condescending and racist. They are seen as inferior compared to Europeans. Morrison and Dutton have had limited exposure to life outside of white Australia. Their racism is exemplified by their treatment of refugees. Their contempt was there for all to see in the tone and thrust of their call for an international inquiry into the origins of Covid19 in god forbid, the wet markets of Wuhan. The sneer of ‘wet markets’ and the desire to punish amplified in the arrogance of the underlying message, ‘who do these uncivilised people think they are foisting a deadly virus on us.’ This was not lost on 1.6 billion Chinese, particularly the government.

So, despite our best interests white Australia will cut off it’s nose to spite its face. White America and white Australia remain members of a dwindling club. America is worried that the family firm is under threat but can’t bring itself to modernise. Australia as shareholders on the farm are going to be taken to the cleaners.

It might surprise Morrison, Dutton, Birmingham, Porter et al, that the Chinese would like the same respect as that shown to Donald Trump by the LNP. They would like to be on an equal footing with the new American administration. They are angry. They do not want to be spoken down to.

Asia sees Australia much as Africa viewed white Apartheid South Africa. They are waiting for basic change to take place. They are waiting for Australia to find the guts to establish its place in the region, and the world, independent of the old failing firm.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired Diplomat.

Many American’s believe that, in the words of Tina Turner, America is ‘Simply the Best’. The notion of American Exceptionalism can be traced to the founding fathers, it evolved through the crucible of WWII into a belief that America’s destiny was to lead the world. A notion that became a propaganda crusade deployed to fight the Nazis, Fascists, Japanese Militarism, Communists in Korean and Russians in the Cold War. In reality it is all about power. With the birth of American Military Exceptionalism grew the need to maximise international outcomes favourable to America, particularly the acquisition of wealth. To do this it needed to see off rivals.

America has sought to control outcomes worldwide in order that its economic advantage will not be lost and new opportunities gained. It secretly sided with the apartheid regime to stop what it saw as the downward thrust of communism into South Africa by socialist government’s in Angola and Mozambique. It sought to protect its trade in gold, diamonds and market for oil.

For the same reasons of trade, it fought for the South in the civil war in Viet Nam and it invaded Iraq for oil. America has sought to preserve its hold over the world’s financial reserves. It has sought to control the movement of capital, which it believes is the unique preserve of the USA. It fights to protect Capitalism. Any diminution in trade and finance is viewed by the US as a loss of power.

The current dispute with China has little to do with the South China Sea and a lot to do with seeing China as an economic rival and competitor. The US, in my opinion, is seeking to contain and intimidate China. It is seeking outcomes through bullying rather than negotiation. American diplomacy since WWII has been conducted through the barrel of a gun. Unfortunately Australia has followed.

There are strands to American exceptionalism, some are idealistic, believing that America with God’s will could create a better world. That view was held within churches but is fading in the face militant right-wing Christianity.

Another is held domestically and broaches no criticism. It is narrow, inward looking and holds that America can achieve whatever it wants, whenever it wants. It is blind and exists in the face of reality. It is a view held on the right of American politics which continues to believe in the superiority of American arms and believes they should be used to maintain American prestige and pre-eminence.

Another is held outside of America and dates back to the visits of European intellectuals and industrialists in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. They were awed by the wealth and power displayed by the furnaces of Pittsburgh, the trans-national railways and skyscrapers of New York; they wrote about America with envy. It was a view held by Thatcher and now by Johnson.

With American exceptionalism finding its apotheosis at the end of WWII, wartime propaganda was refined into promoting all things American by Hollywood and the media from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Life, Newsweek and Time magazines.

The media in Australia, mainly controlled by Murdoch, has been worshipful and sycophantic in its reportage of all things American. American exceptionalism had a strong currency with my generation. It has diminished, hastened by Trump.

The American hold on technology expressed through the automotive, aviation, space industries and Silicon Valley was exceptional but the lead and reputation gained has been whittled away by competitors such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and most recently China – a source of great anxiety to America.

Many churches support exceptionalism, particularly in the south where it co-exists with white supremacy. Educational institutions support the notion along with the armed services where it is linked to patriotism. Success in sport is an extension of the exceptionalism battle ground.       

The ignominious US defeat in the Vietnam war, together with unsuccessful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan has put paid to international perceptions of American exceptionalism. Nonetheless the American defence establishment continues to believe in its own invincibility which is dangerous when set against wounded pride and diminished prestige, not helped by Trump.

There are hundreds of US bases around the world with 200,000 troops deployed. There are four US bases in Australia, with the US also having access to ADF bases and training areas. Since 9/11 the US has spent $6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and securing what it regards as its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, even though those rights were never under threat.  The US has fifty bases ringing China with the intention of containment and control; all of this to maintain American supremacy, which is itself based on the notion of exceptionalism.

Australian exceptionalism is shrill, shallow, showy and superficial; it does not stand up under scrutiny.  

Bruce Haigh

Retired Australian Diplomat and political commentator.

The question taxing many and one to be answered, is why are our security services and not the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) running our relationship with China?

The answer is complex and begins with what I will term the onset of the Howard era in 1996 and continues in all of the era’s perniciousness to this day.

Howard ran into the arms of the AFP after the Port Arthur massacre and stayed there for the rest of his time as Prime Minister. The embrace became closer and more intimate after 9/11, with hysteria generated around Islamic Terrorism and demonisation of Muslims, which saw the AFP manufacture ‘evidence’ around ‘suspects’ such as Indian Doctor Mohamed Haneef; it was called out as a result.

Nonetheless, Howard and the LNP, remained star struck with their perception of the power skill and reach of intelligence agencies. Relishing their elevated status within the Canberra circus, security agencies, including the AFP, put forward ambitious funding proposals and were rewarded with their claims and more. Their power and influence were on the ascendancy at a time when Australian leadership was declining, in politics, public service, defence, business, church and education.

Increasingly operating in a vacuum, with few institutional checks and balances, the agencies took advantage. Interpreting data morphed into analysis and then projections based on intelligence data. It wasn’t long before these projections addressed options for action. On this trajectory and within this framework it was a ‘logical’ next step for agencies to provide policy advice.

From climate change, energy, telecommunications, infrastructure and foreign policy, particularly relating to Iran and China, agencies, associated think tanks such as ASPI and defence industry lobbyists have become not only involved in the provision of policy advice but in the case of ASIO, ASIS, AFP and ASPI, driving and implementing policy contained in the advice they have provided government.

ASIO has been making political judgements and recommendations since it spied on the Australian Communist Party in the 1950’s. At the time of the Vietnam War it spied on anti-war demonstrators. It regarded them as enemies of the state. It created files on activists which were used to prevent them getting jobs with government departments. It also spied on anti-apartheid activists and members of the ANC and PAC resident in Australia.

In 2011 ASIO made adverse security findings against sixty Tamils from Sri Lanka who were found to be refugees. The decision had the effect of keeping them in indefinite detention. ASIO apparently had obtained information indicating that the Tamils were former members of the Tamil Tigers and were likely to seek to re-activate that organisation, which the Sri Lankan and Australian Governments had declared to be terrorists. The Tigers were Tamil soldiers who fought against Sinhalese soldiers in a civil war from 1983 – 2009 which ended in a massacre of thousands of unarmed Tamils.

Writing in The Canberra Times on 3 March, 2012, I said, ‘The only source of information available to ASIO to maintain it’s intransigence…is the Sri Lankan Government. It is unconscionable that the Australian Government allows one of its agencies to be beholden to the Sri Lankan Government in this way…The head of ASIO, David Irvine, has unfettered authority in this matter. He has made a poor call.’ This unfortunate travesty of justice and humanity took place under the umbrella of the war on terror.

Australian security organisations have always been close to their American counterparts as have Australian Governments to successive American Administrations. In Australia it is an article of fundamental belief by both the LNP and ALP that America, if and when push comes to shove, will come to our assistance. This belief stems from WWII when America used Australia as a base and stepping off point for its Pacific campaign to defeat Japan. Australia has chosen to interpret American self interest as a selfless gesture of support. Fear of losing this support has led to a craven history of engagement with the US in military defeats in a number of theatres over the past 55 years.

Australian foreign policy has followed the moral and intellectual dependency on the US in relation to defence policy and planning. An unfortunate prism, with which to view the world, was provided by the so-called war on terror; it was accepted by the US and adopted by Australia.

President Trump has consistently vilified China. His rhetoric, such as it is, has been to caste China as a threat to America and an aggressive rogue state intent on destroying world order. He used the possible break out of Covid19 in China to further demonise and isolate China. Joe Hockey a former LNP minister and Ambassador to the US, now living in Washington, said on 22 September that it was essential that Trump be re-elected. That is the position of the LNP and ASPI and presumably Australian security agencies. They have convinced themselves of the threat posed by China and incredibly see Trump as the person best placed to contain that threat. Many in the media in Australia have bought into that.

Morrison, Dutton and Payne chose to single China out as the Covid culprit; rightly, through their thick-headed choice of words, invoking the justified ire of China. It was very much a case of fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. None of this worries ASPI and the other Australian security agencies who seek confrontation with China believing that America has their backs. Not so.

The most incredible situation has arisen as a result of their naivety, skewed ideology and complete misreading of the situation. China has reacted with trade sanctions on beef, barley, meat and wine, probably worth annually around $80 billion. That is chicken feed to our newly powerful security agencies. They don’t care. Where is the money coming from to replace this loss? Not our problem.

The issue is to teach China a lesson, no matter the cost. America can dictate to Australia, spy on all our citizens but not China. China for them is the enemy. It is also our biggest trading partner. I asked Birmingham’s office to supply details of approaches made to his Chinese counterparts to resume normal trade. They refused to provide details. Subsequent exchanges convinced me that despite his office claiming approaches had been made, none had. Birmingham is not attending the Shanghai Trade Fair in November.

What is going on? Australian foreign policy, particularly with respect to China but also with Iran, has been taken over by the security establishment. They are telling the government what to do with respect to China. They are directing ministers. They don’t care about the loss in trade which they see as inevitable and collateral damage. China is about to impose further trade sanctions. It does not need us, we need it. Who will and what will replace this lost trade revenue? This is the stuff of cloud cuckoo land. Morrison has lost the plot. He has been white anted from within.

And who gains? Dutton. Using the so-called threat of China, agencies under his control have infiltrated the political process and are by passing or marginalising the bureaucracy. Dutton still has his eye on the top job. Morrison and he are well matched. Both cunning, conniving and immoral, but Dutton has a right wing ideologically driven Department of Home Affairs at his disposal and he is using it. The cost to the country will not worry Dutton. His concerns about the human condition are reflected with the Tamil family incarcerated on Christmas Island.

What if Biden wins? An unholy and undignified scramble on the part of Morrison and the LNP to try and retrieve something from the shell of the China relationship; but what of the ALP? In the absence of  an ALP reformed, reconstructed and with courageous leadership, Dutton has the day, using his security agencies to gain him power. Remember the Stasi?

There is, or there should be, more to spying than high tech electronics. As we have seen high tech can get agencies into trouble; It can lead to dead ends and bear pits. We need to get back to basics, feet on the ground. Our high-tech security agencies are making a hash of our relationship with China.

There has been a lot of talk of spies and spying recently. The right is enthralled with the notion of spying. Just as boys and girls with leanings toward the right tend to join the armed forces so too do right leaning youngsters get recruited as spies.

A Spy is a person employed by a government to obtain secret information or intelligence about another country and individuals within it. Spies come in many shapes and forms. They can be full or part time, they can be sleepers, activated as needed, or members of professional or sporting associations and academics who report regularly or as required, or when they judge something is of interest to their minder. They might be journalists, but they shouldn’t be. Sometimes Diplomats are Spies, sometimes Spies use the cover of diplomacy to undertake their activities.

During a posting to South Africa, as Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy, I was spied on. I was followed and my phone tapped because I had contact with black South Africans including the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).

Many of the people I met with were under surveillance, including Steve Biko, the leader of the BCM, murdered by the police in September 1977. It subsequently emerged that the regime thought I was a spy.

Without having set out to do so I became conversant with the craft of spying. I knew the mood of the townships and sometimes plans which extended beyond them. When a British MI6 operative learnt of my activities in helping people cross the border, he organised visas for them from neighbouring British High Commissions.

During a posting to Saudi Arabia as First Secretary, my phone was tapped. An embassy based CIA agent told me that when an American company set up the Saudi telephone system the CIA bugged it. The Americans knew everything the Saudis were saying. Much as they did with the Collins Class submarines, they can be tracked worldwide. Don’t worry about the Chinese, big brother has got Australia well and truly covered with Pine Gap playing an important role.

In the course of a posting to Pakistan, after I had become a confidant and friend of the future Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, my phone was tapped and I was followed. Of course, developing a relationship with Benazir was a legitimate and proper undertaking for the diplomatic Counsellor at the Australian Embassy.

What was not quite so regular was for me to take photos of Russian soldiers, tanks, radio communications, trucks and bases in Kabul during three monthly visits from Islamabad in the period 1986 to 1988. I had been a national service tank gunner and radio operator. The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) in Canberra supplied a magnificent little camera with a hot shoe and lots of film. And they expressed themselves happy with the results.

Kabul was a city under siege from the Mujahideen. Fear does strange things. The only way I could go to sleep in our little house in Kabul was lying on my back so I could ‘see’ the rocket or mortar that came through the roof.

I met the Polish First Secretary at the airport flying from Delhi to Kabul. I made arrangements to call on him. He had a jumper on. Underneath the jumper was a ‘box’. We talked. He was cautious. I organised a lunch party at home. I invited our western as well as some of our East European friends and the Chinese but not the Russians.

I asked my Polish colleague what was the box under his jumper and he said it was a recording device, I said his technology was crap and he laughed. He wanted to talk. We established a rapport, I said anything he could pass on about the Russians would be good. He did, the Poles were fed up with the Russians. He arranged for me to meet with them.

The Chinese had good information about the Russians but the Chinese which they were happy to share with me. They understood the difficulties of a fly in flyout Australian diplomat and had me to dinner during my visits. Information and dinner were on the basis of the strong relationship established by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1972.

The British Embassy in Kabul was staffed by MI6, the US Embassy by CIA. The US Embassy in Islamabad was responsible for over 600 ‘aid workers’ based in Peshawar, Quetta and inside Afghanistan. They were involved in training and supplying the Mujahideen. A friend in Peshawar, who worked with MI6, was married to a Frenchman who took photographs inside Afghanistan, he was a spy. He was shot at the back door of his house in Peshawar with an AK47 by a person dressed as a Pathan.

His wife later married a man who had been through Sandhurst. He was MI6. He worked with the British SAS in their operations across the border in support of the brilliant Mujahideen leader, Maqsood. He was later killed in Russia when working as a ‘journalist’, widowing his wife for a second time.

An Australian working for a journal based in Asia, accompanied me to a meeting in Peshawar with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He blew his cover when a report turned up in our diplomatic bag from one of our agencies reporting the meeting.

It was at a Russian Embassy reception that I learnt from an Indian RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agent that General Zia had been blown up in his air force Hercules. RAW believed it was a group of middle ranking Pakistan army officers were responsible and they were right. My interlocuter, knowing of my relationship with Benazir, wanted that information conveyed to her, which I did.

Spying requires boots on the ground, getting down and dirty and first hand observation. People heading intelligence agencies with only screen and cyber experience don’t know the half of it. Others have claimed their leather seats by political brown nosing and cruising corridors. But more on that later.

Bruce Haigh

Is the Australian Government serious about restoring the relationship with China? There are disturbing indications that it is not.

At the National Press Club (NPC) on 26 August, the Minister at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, Wang Xining, delivered a cleverly crafted address containing a pathway to parlay after months of Morrison mudslinging at the Chinese Government following the LNP fear of catching the Corona virus.

The event was organised by China specialist and former diplomat Peter Phillips, who along with other retired Australian diplomats, is concerned at the ignorance and right wing ideology now governing our most important diplomatic relationship.

The embedded LNP media, known as the Main Stream Media (MSM), present at the NPC, either chose to ignore the invitation to parlay or it passed over their heads. 

The invitation was subtle but it was not obscure. Former DFAT colleagues, watching on TV or present at the NPC, picked it up.

Alan Behm formerly DAFAT and Defence and now head of international and security affairs at the Australia Institute, writing in The New Daily on 29 August, said Wang Xining’s speech was a clever, measured and thoughtful contribution to the conversation that Australia and China need to have. He outlined four principals that Wang set out to promote the partnership: respect, goodwill, fairness and vision and noted he offered the good offices of his embassy ‘in getting Ministers talking to each other.’

Right wing MSM journalists managed to miss all of this, instead running the LNP/Murdoch China bashing line. Chris Uhlmann, Channel 9, claimed Trade Minister Birmingham had made approaches to the Chinese seeking dialogue.

I contacted Birmingham’s office seeking details of these alleged approaches. The Ministers Senior Media Adviser, Benn Ayre, responded by email saying, “The Minister said late last week: ‘There have been at least half a dozen requests for ministerial conversations since late April, including a request I made in writing as recently as last week.’ “

I did not find this advice enlightening so I responded, ‘Thanks Benn. Who were the requests made to? Who was written to? All the best, Bruce.’

His reply, ‘Requests for meetings with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan. These have been either direct correspondence or requests through our embassy in Beijing or their embassy.’

To which I asked, ‘When were the approaches to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra? Written or verbal? At what level? Were they formally acknowledged? Who made them? The Ministers office or DFAT?

And his response, ‘Sorry Bruce, but we are not going to go into that level of detail. Cheers, Benn.’

That made no sense to me. During the course of a 23 year career in DFAT, which involved briefing Ministers and Ministerial advisers, I cannot recall the provision of such simple and straight forward information not being provided under the circumstances prevailing in this matter.

I went back, ‘Thanks Benn, but surely you need to establish the veracity of your claims. Otherwise they remain hearsay. When I was in DFAT it was par for the course to back up claims by the Minister in matters such as this. In those days the MSM was tougher and more professional in pursuing ministerial statements.

What is being said here is trust us. As you will appreciate the stakes are high and ‘trust us’ under the circumstances does not cut the mustard.

The Chinese Minister, Wang Xining, says as far as he is aware no approach has been made to the Chinses Embassy in Canberra, to facilitate Ministerial contact. My reading of his statement was that he was offering to facilitate an approach.

So who is dissembling, Wang Xining or Simon Birmingham? This is a very serious matter in terms of the bilateral relationship. Would you like to reconsider your advice? All the best,  Bruce.’

I heard nothing further so I rang him but no further details were forthcoming.

Under the circumstances I have concluded that Birmingham’s office is not telling the truth. Birmingham has made no approaches and why?

Birmingham is not the brightest or strongest person on the front bench. Who might have lent on him and why?

Could it be that those dictating Australian policy toward China do not want a rapprochement? Who are they? DFAT is seen by right wing think tanks and consultants as weak on China. It is weak but not just on China. Payne is one of the most insipid Foreign Ministers Australia has had for some time, morally and intellectually. Probably not since Tony Street have we witnessed such a poor performer in that role.

The finger of suspicion must fall on the right wing Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) which has been rabid in its contrived public attacks on China. But ASIO, ASIS and Border Force must share responsibility, locked as they are, into Trumps visionless future for the region and anti-China posturing.

Grasp this. As Trade Minister, Birmingham, appears not to be making any move to restore the trading relationship with China and this may be because the right wing, both in Parliament and through the likes of ASPI do not want him to, and may in have applied pressure for him not to do so. If Australian right-wing organisations believe they can punish China they are delusional.

They might like to explain their thinking to the National Farmers Federation, wine, beef and barley producers. Such thinking, if it is abroad, would be totally at odds with the national interest. It would represent a self indulgent and destructive Canberra power play, with billions of trade dollars at stake.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and former Diplomat.

The military in Australia has played a key role in the national narrative. Its achievements have been woven into myth. External threat has long been part of the political fabric. The ADF and para-military organisations are seen as protectors of the political class and enjoy protected status as a result. As security organisations proliferate, the military move toward centre stage. Climate change and Covid19 consolidate their social and political position.

The foundation of Australia was a military exercise. Around 200 British Marines supervised 754 convict men, women and children in the colony of Sydney from 1788. The Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, was replaced by Major Francis Grose who turned the colony into a military dictatorship. Officers traded in rum and were awarded large tracts of land.

From 1788 until 1870, twenty-four British Regiments served in Australia under military Governors. From 1870 the colonies took responsibility for their own defence until Federation. These forces established the tradition of going to the aid of England, even when we were not needed. Men from the colonies volunteered to fight in New Zealand, the Sudan, South Africa and China between 1861 and 1902.

Not only did the military shoot enemies of England they also shot the original inhabitants, the Aboriginals, who they forced off the land. In this they were assisted by police and white settlers. From 1788 until 1920 it is estimated that over 200,000 were massacred.

Convinced war was coming the British sent military reformer Lord Haldane to Australia in 1911. He recommended compulsory military training and the introduction of school cadets. On the outbreak of war in 1914, 20,000 young Australian’s joined the army. Out of a population of 5 million, 416,000 signed up, of whom 330,000 served overseas. We did not need to be there.

The Australian war correspondent, CEW Bean, was appointed official historian. He wrote dispassionately of the horror and put order where there was none. His was a boy’s own history, preparing the next generation for war. He advocated for a war memorial in Canberra which in design and display prepared the ground for the deification of Australian involvement in war. Bean was the father of the Anzac legend, which is fascist and racist in manifestation. Where you and I might have seen crude and foul-mouthed grafters, Bean saw beautiful boys. He loved them. I have been in the army; I have seen a different reality.

The 25 April, the day Australian troops went ashore at Gallipoli, was designated a national day of remembrance, attracting big crowds between the wars. By the end WWII it was an even bigger event with dawn services and marches through cities and towns by ex-servicemen.

WWII saw the militarisation of Australia. Out of a population of 7.3 million in 1944 Australia had 1 million people in uniform. There were 730,000 in the army, 400,000 served overseas. Australia made uniforms, small arms, artillery, tanks, planes, naval and supply vessels.

All things military had sunk into the Australian psyche by 1945. But not all embraced Anzac Day. Some saw it as showy and shallow, having little to do with remembering loved ones and friends, accompanied as it was with false bonhomie. Many knew all too well of the violence and nastiness that lay beneath the surface on the Day once alcohol had a grip, wives, children and girlfriends better than most.

From 1950-1953, 17,000 Australian troops fought against the Chinese in an American dominated UN force in Korea. Prime Minister Robert Menzies took the country to war in Vietnam. He accepted the Domino theory. He believed that Chinese backed Communism was on a southward march through Vietnam. He gave secret undertakings to the Americans that Australia would support them.

Knowing he was going to fight in Vietnam he introduced legislation to conscript 20 year old Australians. Once the bill had passed through parliament Menzies announced that conscripts would fight in Vietnam. It was an act of treachery. Vietnam led to a vocal and determined anti-war movement. Australia withdrew in 1972 following the election of Gough Whitlam. Anzac Day and the jingoistic response to war that went with it was discredited; it sank into disrepute until Prime Minister Bob Hawke visited Gallipoli in 1990 and by so doing revived Anzac Day.

Hawke and Kim Beazley, as Minister for Defence, embarked on substantial defence spending linked to a new assertive forward defence policy. Beazley’s background was one of Moral Rearmament, his transition to war lord should be seen in terms of his intellectual and emotional capture by the US military establishment.

However, it was John Howard who unashamedly used Anzac Day, the uniform and flag to underpin his prime ministership. After 9/11 Howard committed Australian troops to war in Afghanistan and then illegally to war in Iraq. It suited Howard. He maximised photo opportunities, attending dock side departures, returns and funerals. Uniforms became part of his entourage. He was fascinated and intimidated by them and used them shamelessly.

His so-called war on terror enabled the militarisation of Australia to proceed apace and a frame work was established to accommodate a future police state. From 2001, 82 terrorism laws were enacted. By contrast, the police state of Apartheid South Africa had 9 laws relating to terrorism.

In 2000 Howard had the parliament pass the Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to Civilian Authorities) Act. It gave the Federal Government the power to call out the armed forces on domestic soil against perceived threats to ‘Commonwealth interests.’ If deemed necessary the ADF may shoot to kill. That is a first for Australia and it is a most dangerous piece of legislation to have on the books.

The Labor Party, under Beazley, did not oppose the Bill. The Act states that ‘the Governor-General is to act with the advice of Executive Council or in an emergency, the authorising Minister.’ Probably why military men are favoured as Governors-General – they are more likely to comply with a request to turn out the troops.

Howard’s reluctant but successful intervention in East Timor under General Cosgrove in 1999 enhanced his reputation as a war time leader and furthered the militarisation of Australia. He cunningly twisted the narrative to ensure that any attack on him by was an attack on ADF personnel.

Because the debate on national security was centred around the war on terror, questions on policy were cast as disloyal. The Labor Party have been unwilling to challenge that narrative and as a result cannot lay a glove on the LNP in relation to security and defence issues. More often than not, in order to demonstrate their patriotism, they have gone along with poor measures and legislation proposed by the LNP.

Patriotism and loyalty have become bound into the outdated Anzac myth, the prosecution and celebration of it now often referred to as Anzacery. It celebrates a white anglo narrative and has no relevance or understanding amongst newer ethnic groups. It has been captured by the political right.

The ADF enjoys iconic status. It has been woven into the Anzac myth and is portrayed as a protector and nurturer of the Anzac spirit. It is protected, it can do no wrong. The AFP raided the ABC to silence critics. It has been inserted into the social and civilian fabric through disaster deployment.

The four year celebration from 2014 to 2018, of Australian participation in WWI, cost $600m plus $200m for Abbott’s museum at Villers Bretonneux, plus another $500m to ‘upgrade’ the themed War Memorial in Canberra.

Funds for militarisation and securitisation appear unlimited and expenditure is beyond parliamentary scrutiny. In 2006 Howard authorised paramilitary training for the Australian Federal Police (AFP), that training presumably continues. It can be assumed that elements of the Australian Border Force (ABF) also receive paramilitary training. The ABF came into existence in 2015. One quarter of its members are armed. They have intimidating black uniforms and their own system of awards giving them the appearance of a para military force.

The Department of Home Affairs was established in 2017. It has oversight of the AFP, ASIO, ABF, ACIC and Austrac. There are more intelligence agencies including ONI, ASIS, DIO, ASD and AGO. Then there is the AIC, NIC, NSC, NICC, NICMC, NIOSC and ANZCTC. Yes, it is a cat’s breakfast and may well lead to the sort of problems that caused a breakdown in intelligence exchange in the US prior to 9/11.

The proliferation of agencies highlights the growth of the terrorism industry, reflected in the empire building noted above. The industry has now shifted its focus to China, which offers prospects for growth in unearthing evil intent.

Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, has a powerful base for exercising and seeking to exercise control over his fellow Australians. Left to his own devices he would tap our phones and monitor our devices. Sally McManus of the ACTU believes he already does. I now have the same attitude to my phone in Australia as I did in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Parliamentary scrutiny of this basket of cats is almost non-existent, due to a lack of will and an attitude that it would be disloyal to dig up dirt. The official mindset, accepted by the mainstream media, is that these are national institutions undertaking vitally important work on behalf of a nation under threat.

Patriotism is defined by the ruling LNP and supported by the Labor Party. China has now been identified as the enemy. It is best to go along with that narrative lest your home is raided, travel restricted and phone tapped. The Anzac myth is deployed in these times as an appeal to a higher order of nationalism requiring sacrifice of some liberties and compliance with unpopular directives. Its greatest appeal is on the right of the political spectrum. It has reached its use by date but nothing else is on offer.

There is nothing very exceptional about American Exceptionalism other than many Americans find themselves exceptional and demand that others do likewise. Australian Exceptionalism is risible.

Many American’s believe that, in the words of Tina Turner, America is ‘Simply the Best’. The notion of American Exceptionalism can be traced to the founding fathers, it evolved through the crucible of WWII into a belief that America’s destiny was to lead the world. A notion, once evangelical, became a propaganda crusade deployed in fighting the German Nazis, Italian Fascists, Japanese Militarism and later Communists in Korean and the Cold War. In reality it is all about power. With the birth of American Military Exceptionalism grew the need to maximise international outcomes favourable to America, particularly the acquisition of wealth. To do this it needs to see off rivals. American Military Exceptionalism exists and is nurtured in the Pentagon and State Department.

There are many strands to American Exceptionalism, some are idealistic, believing that America with God’s will could create a better world. That view was tied into the churches but now has become tangled into military exceptionalism which sits comfortably with increasing evangelical right-wing Christianity.

One strand is held domestically and broaches no criticism. It is narrow, inward looking and holds that America can achieve whatever it wants, whenever it wants. It is blind and exists in the face of reality. It is a view held on the right of American politics and is allied to and at times intertwined with the evangelical Christian right. It was held by President Ronald Reagan and Vice President Dick Chaney. It believes in the overwhelming superiority of American arms and believes those arms should be used to support outcomes favourable to maintaining American prestige and pre-eminence. A veritable Catch-22.

Another is held outside of America and dates back to the visits of European intellectuals and industrialists in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. They were awed by the wealth and power displayed by the furnaces of Pittsburgh, the trans-national railways and skyscrapers of New York and Chicago; by the opulence of theatres, universities and other public amenities. And they wrote, indeed gushed about America with envy. It is a view held by overseas right-wing politicians such as Thatcher, Johnson, Howard and Morrison.  

American Exceptionalism is often referenced back to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was of a type all too familiar, strong on words and ideals and weak on practice. He was a major slave owner, with a slave mistress, who saw the ‘solution to salves’ in America as sending them back to where they had come from rather than emancipation. Despite the fine words in the Declaration he refused to envision black and white Americans as equal.

With American Exceptionalism finding its apotheosis at the end of WWII, wartime propaganda was refined into a broad spectrum championing of all things American, from the Red Woods to RCA, by the media and given expression, from amongst others, by The New Yorker, Life, Newsweek, Time and National Geographic magazines, The Wall Street Journal, Newsreels, Hollywood and Sitcoms. The media in Australia was worshipful and sycophantic in its reportage of all things American, particularly cars, clothes and consumer durables. American Exceptionalism had strong currency with my generation as we went through school and university, helped along by the Cold War.

The myth becomes reality when applied to music, movies, medical research and sport. The American hold on technology as expressed through the automotive, aviation and space industries and Silicon Valley was exceptional but the lead and reputation gained has been whittled away by competitors such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and most recently China – a source of great anxiety to America. Success in sport, and America has been very successful, is an extension of the battle ground to maintain Exceptionalism. Other countries know it and have adopted ‘whatever it takes’ including taking drugs to beat America.

Some, maybe many, Protestant churches in America support the notion of exceptionalism, particularly in the south where it has co-existed with white supremacy. Many educational institutions support the notion along with the armed services where it is linked to patriotism.

Nonetheless the notion of a broad and encompassing American Exceptionalism is hard to encompass when set against the reality of history with respect to continuing discrimination against Black and Indigenous Americans – reservations and the disempowerment that accompanied their establishment, past segregation, job discrimination and tolerance of the KKK. The hostility of the President and the Murdoch press to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and support for the gun lobby undermine claims of exceptionalism.

No doubt there are many Black and Hispanic Americans who believe in American Exceptionalism but if so, they are probably sharing American wealth. Those who do not, and there are many, can be forgiven for not embracing Exceptionalism. And the chances are they are being discriminated against. American exceptionalism does not embrace discrimination.    

The ignominious defeat in the Vietnam war, despite a significant advantage in men and materiel, together with a messy campaign in Iraq, leading to Middle East instability, and an unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan, which saw the Taliban regain control of much of the country, put paid many international perceptions of American Exceptionalism. Despite these loses, the American defence establishment continues to believe in its own invincibility.

There are hundreds of US bases around the world with 200,000 troops deployed to them. There are four US bases in Australia, with the US also having access to ADF bases and training areas. Since 9/11 the US has spent $6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and securing what it regards as its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, even though those rights were never under threat.  The US has fifty bases ringing China with the intention of containment and control; all of this to maintain American supremacy, which is itself based on the notion of exceptionalism.

We are told by Australian politicians that Australia has shared values with the US. ‘We’, the people, share some, but not many, the ruling political and business class share more. In considering American Exceptionalism we should look at Australian Exceptionalism which is based on sport and the ‘Anzac tradition’.

In my opinion Australian Exceptionalism is shrill, shallow, showy and superficial and does not stand up under scrutiny. It is embraced by conservatives in the community and the right in politics. It finds expression on Australia and Anzac Day. Cars are adorned with, and people wrap themselves in, the Australian flag.

The cultural contribution we could make is scorned and defunded by elected leaders. Aboriginal culture is derided and sacred sites and trees destroyed. Australia produces little other than mines. Good inventions, such as solar panels first invented in Australia, had to go offshore in 1983 to be produced. What Australia might be and what it is are two different things. We have failed to make ourselves exceptional whilst our leaders are besotted and blinded by their perception of American Exceptionalism.

Since Trump became President the relationship between the US and China has deteriorated to the point that some observers talk of war. Why is this? In simple terms America feels threatened by China’s rapidly expanding wealth and influence. Dangerous confrontation has resulted and Australia has been sucked in. How far remains to be seen, but it is not in Australia’s interest to be used by Trump or Murdoch.

By the early 1990’s America was pleased with itself. The narrative was that Reagan had seen off the USSR. The Soviets had been forced to withdraw from Afghanistan through American backing of the Mujahideen. Their economy collapsed because America had forced more spending on defence than they could afford. The fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 foreshadowed the loss of the Soviet empire. The Americans declared they had won the Cold War. But when they looked around, they found China staring at them with a degree of self-confidence they hadn’t noticed. They did not have the field to themselves.

China crushed the Democracy Movement in August 1989. Premier Li Peng acted swiftly after the bloody put down in Tiananmen Square was transmitted around the world. His zeal was driven by loss of face. A year on, confidence returned and China built on the economic reforms instigated by President Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin when he became President in 1993.

One set of eyes focused on China were those of Rupert Murdoch. However almost at the same moment he set his sights on what he saw as a huge untapped communications market he blew it. In a speech delivered in London in 1993, Murdoch said, ‘Advances in the technology of telecommunications have proved an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere.’ Bruce Dover, who worked for Murdoch in China, observes in his book, ‘Rupert’s Adventures in China’, that when reports of Murdoch’s speech reached the Chinese leadership, Li Peng ‘was incandescent with rage’.

Mesmerized as he was with a vision of the wealth and power that a slice of the Chinese telecommunications market would deliver, it was to no avail. He was frozen out by the Chinese leadership. Nonetheless he kept trying, he spent money, a lot of it, but every move he made was blocked. He was not trusted. He employed an American educated Chinese national, Wendi Deng, to open doors for him but in 1999 before her failure became apparent, they married. They were divorced in 2013.

Murdoch has no love of China and his media empire reflects that. Lachlan, his son and heir apparent shares his views. Both father and son are close to Donald Trump, who continues the erosion of American prestige and power, assisted by earlier ill-advised incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan and the GFC.

Trump, unable to comprehend the cause of the American decline, rounded on China and was willingly assisted and encouraged by Murdoch and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is looking for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He believes denigrating China will secure his base. He refers to, ‘the conflict with China’ as one between, ‘freedom and tyranny’. And Trump adviser, if there is such a person, Peter Navarro, calls China an adversary and ‘strategic enemy and revisionist power’.

China has not helped its cause. As its wealth has grown so have notions of its power and entitlement. This has grated with America. It has sought control over the South China Sea (SCS) and sea bed resources. In response to the US military encirclement it has militarised the SCS with the construction and occupation of islands and deployment defence resources, including naval, missile and air force. The US has bases or the use of bases in Darwin, Tindal, Changi, Korat, Trivandrum, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and maybe Wake and Palau.

Regional nations are concerned at moves by China which infringe upon their sovereignty but they continue trade, tourism, cultural, education and scientific exchanges and they maintain a dialogue, which is more than Australia can claim.

China has not closed shipping routes through the SCS and has made no moves to do so. Why would it? A large percentage of its trade passes through the SCS. Yet the United States followed by Australia claims that China does wish to close shipping routes. It conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) by sending war ships through the SCS. Australia has joined these exercises but to date has refused to sail within the 12 nautical mile limit, most recently reiterated at the July AUSMIN.

The Murdoch press together with right wing backbenchers and think tanks, most notably led by the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), founded and funded by the Australian government, the US government and arms manufacturers, have led the anti-China push. ASPI exists in a feed lot. US produced information is passed to it which it then regurgitates to the Australian government and media. This biased and lop-sided process dumbs down debate.

The US and Australian governments refuse to hear anything favourable about the Chinese government referring to it over past months as the Chinese Communist Party, a term designed to adversely brand and denigrate. It is puerile. In Australia adverse perceptions toward China found expression in an AFP/ASIO raid on the home of NSW parliamentarian Shaoquett Moselmane on 26 June, allegedly for “unauthorised contact with China”. There were vague murmurs of spying. Moselmane is taking the matter to the High Court. The mentality behind the raid is of concern. In democracies Intelligence agencies must be neutral and impartial and seen to be so.

Australia’s relationship with China is at its lowest point since diplomatic relations were established in 1972. And all because Australia is doing the bidding of Murdoch and the Trump administration. After a call to Trump, Morrison said the Covid19 virus originated in Wuhan and called for an investigation into the origins of the virus. It is nonsense to call for an enquiry when you announce what you believe the finding will be. It was obvious that Morrison, Dutton and Payne were being judgemental and seeking retribution. China was already embarrassed about the outbreak; they didn’t need their nose rubbed in it by a yapping dog. Australia caused loss of face. As tough as he would like to be seen Premier Xi Jinping has a glass jaw.

China has responded with cancellation of orders for Australian beef, barley and possible bans on students and tourists. It is looking for some understanding from Morrison for what is regarded as a calculated insult. They want face restored. It is beyond the comprehension of Morrison but perhaps not Payne. Australia cannot afford to be where the LNP has placed it with respect to China.

A different reading of China would see it as both assertive and defensive. It is flexing its muscles and literally testing the waters, but it remains unsure of itself. The US is bullying in trying to contain a largely contrived threat. However, as they have done before they may bring about the result they are allegedly seeking to avoid.

Australia must uncouple itself from the Murdoch/Trump axis. We don’t need it. The LNP feel they owe Murdoch for all his help. They have given News Corporation millions of taxpayers’ dollars. If they don’t uncouple, we will have to contend with Lachlan, who will be a more difficult task master than his father and more hard line on China, if that’s possible.

Australia needs to engage or re-engage with China. It needs to deploy diplomacy to engage with China, whenever and where ever around the globe. All of our diplomatic missions should be tasked with this. China is our most important relationship, now and into the future.

Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat and political commentator.

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.