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Issue #1931      September 7, 2020

Foreign relations bill is “height of hypocrisy”

At the end of August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans for a foreign relations bill to give the Foreign Minister unprecedented, permanent powers over states, local government, and universities. The bill, if passed, would take Australia another step down its present trajectory towards an authoritarian state.

Universities and the corporate sector as well as the people of Australia should be worried and do all they can to prevent it being passed.

Under the bill, all existing and any prospective foreign arrangements, memoranda, and partnerships would need to be registered. The Foreign Minister would have the arbitrary power to cancel or prohibit any they deem might hurt Australia’s foreign relations or sovereignty.

It would give the government arbitrary powers to cancel and prohibit agreements that are “not consistent with Australia’s foreign relations policies,” Morrison said. It could even extend to sister-city relations. Politicians travelling overseas would be required to register who they are going to meet.

“This is an important day for sovereignty in Australia. It’s an important day for ensuring that Australia’s national interest is protected and promoted.” These extreme veto powers are retroactive.

The bill does not protect Australia’s sovereignty or national interests. Instead, it subjects Australia to the political, economic, and military diktat of Washington and the Pentagon. The bill excludes commercial relations between non-state corporations. This raises the question: how many Chinese corporations would be ruled out, such as the communications giant Huawei was, because of alleged links to the state?

The bill provides a potentially powerful economic weapon to be used when Chinese competition threatens Australian or US corporations.

This unprecedented power-grab would enable the Foreign Minister to bypass Parliament. The veto powers run contrary to the government’s worship of “free markets”, severely restricting trade, investment, cultural, and other relations with China. Universities are furious over the restrictions it could impose on their curriculum.

Morrison’s talk of making Australia Number One, smacks of Trump’s nationalism. The government is also misleadingly couching the bill as needed for “national security” purposes.

As usual, whenever “national security” is mentioned, the Labor Party murmurs something about needing to review it, and then hops on board. After saying that Labor would have to review it before expressing an opinion, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson Senator Penny Wong said, “The sort of powers the government is talking about to override agreements that are counter to the national interest, of course Labor supports that.” Watch this space, as they say.

There is still time to ensure that Labor and the cross-benchers do not support the Bill in the Senate.

Political and economic

The US, as an economic powerhouse, is in decline and will do anything to hold onto its domination. It perceives China, which is developing rapidly, as a threat to its pursuit of global domination.

One of the government’s principal targets is the participation of the state of Victoria in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI poses a major threat to the US’s ambitions. It offers many third world countries an alternative route to loans, thus enabling these poorer nations to escape the clutches of the likes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The BRI loans do not carry the same conditionalities that loans from organisations such as the US-dominated IMF impose trapping nations in a downward spiral of never-ending debt. Instead, the loans are on a mutually beneficial basis and come with comparatively low interest rates over long terms.

Continuation of China bashing

The bill is yet another in a series of ongoing offensive and provocative actions against the People’s Republic of China and its people. As deputy-sheriff Australia continues to do the US’s dirty work.

For some time now, the Australian government, the opposition, and the media including the ABC, have been whipping up anti-China sentiments. This demonising of China has all the appearances of manipulation of the mood of the Australian people in the lead-up to a war against China.

They have generally been in the name of protecting “national security” and Australia’s interests. These actions include:

  • Ban on Huawei as a provider of 5G communications equipment
  • Call for inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus
  • Foreign donations bill
  • Pursuit of Confucius Institutes as “Chinese Communist Party propaganda machines”
  • Every time there was a reported cyber attack, China was immediately blamed
  • Rejection of Chinese purchase of a dairy
  • Accusations of technology theft and that China was in breach of intellectual property rights
  • Australia’s navy patrolling South and East China seas
  • Requirement for Review Investment Board to review all foreign investment proposals, with a list to be drawn up of trusted exemptions.

The agreement for the US to locate a military reserve supply of oil on Australia’s shores was particularly inflammatory, as was the focus of Australia’s heightened military expenditure and the joint military exercises in the region.

And now the government is going further with the foreign relations bill which targets China and down the track, if the US tells Australia to, could include Russia.

Hypocrisy

It is the height of hypocrisy to introduce a bill in the name of protecting Australia’s national interests and sovereignty when at the same time the government hosts foreign bases, spy stations, and military forces under US command. All foreign bases and forces must be removed if Australia is to exercise its sovereignty. The government is making Australia a target in any future war between the US and China.

Counter-productive

Suggestions by Australian politicians that Australia could inflict economic damage on China saw China quickly respond by diversifying sources of its imports.

For example, China has reportedly established the infrastructure to receive extra-large iron ore carriers from Brazil. New routes are opening up with the BRI. Such changes would see Australia left out in the cold as China winds down imports from Australia, without any guarantee of restoring these lost exports at a later date.

At the beginning of this year, China took 48.8 per cent of Australia’s exports. Agriculture is another area where there has been growing reliance and opportunities for Australia. Australia’s and China’s exports are complementary – each providing goods and services the other requires.

A trade war with China is the last thing the Australian economy needs, in particular for an economic recovery to occur. Already, during the pandemic, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost to universities as students cannot enter Australia. Tourism is also suffering because of closed borders. The resources and minerals sector is beginning to feel the impact of a drop in exports.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was not amused by the announcement of the bill, sarcastically saying Morrison would, “no doubt very soon be able to list the full range of other free trade agreements and other markets that we’ll be sending Victorian products to. I look forward to that.” Obviously protecting and creating jobs was not high on the Prime Minister’s agenda.

Australia should assert its independence and sovereignty by closing all foreign bases, removing all foreign military forces, and determining its own foreign policy in the interests of the Australian people.

A number of European countries are stepping up their economic relations with China. Australia should do likewise while it has the opportunity to do so.

Finally, the government should accept China’s repeated requests for friendship and cooperation.

Next article – EDITORIAL: Injustice prevails against Bla(c)k deaths / Tony Abbott’s loyalties

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