- by Eileen Whitehead
- The Guardian
- Issue #1956
The lockdowns brought about by the pandemic have proved there is a silver lining to every cloud. It has introduced me to “zooming” and a wealth of wonderfully informative webinars: this one held on 25th March by IPAN, being no exception.
The two main speakers – Vince Scappatura, a doctoral candidate from the Deakin University’s School of International and Political Studies and Dr Alison Broinowski, AM an Australian academic, journalist, writer and former Australian diplomat – spoke at length about Australia’s current situation as trading partners with China and allies of the US.
Vince Scappatura gave a solid presentation called The Australian/US Alliance: Military & Defence, which was primarily concerned about Australia being dragged into yet another conflict with the US. He spoke about the militarisation of the region and the implications for conflict, now that the US empire is in decline and currently fomenting instability in the region by focussing on China in a newly fabricated Cold War.
He referred to the Anzus Treaty formed in 1951 as the cornerstone of Australian security, symbolic of a wider special relationship based on our mutually shared values. However, he saw this as a danger currently when the US continually depicts China as a “threat to open and free regional and global order.” This has led to a secret defence plan between Australia and the US to counter China’s influence in the region, with a strategic fuel reserve placed in Darwin, making it very difficult for any future Australian Prime Minister to say “no” to the US in the event of a crisis.
Instead of the alliance being between two equal partners, the US is reinterpreting its status as a “protector” in its fabricated depiction of China as a threat to an open and free regional and global order. In his view, he sees the current furore, generated by the US, about the militarisation of the islands in the South China Seas as hypocritical, considering the placement of its bases surrounding China. Furthermore, he sees challenges from China as being exaggerated for political gain.
He spoke of Pine Gap as the most significant US intelligence-gathering facility outside the US, giving Australia “everything and nothing” and hardwiring Australia into US wars whether we choose to participate or not. It makes us a nuclear target and plays a part in America’s great power rivalry with China.
According to the New York Times, one of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s primary objectives is to “try to coalesce sceptical international partners into a new competition with China.” And, more worryingly, is Lloyd Austin, US Defence Secretary’s remarks during his conference hearing in January, 2021, affirming his commitment to “a more resilient and distributed force posture in the Indo-Pacific, supported by new operational concepts.” Scappatura sees noises coming from Washington about the Chinese threat to Taiwan as nonsense, as are the fears being sounded about China’s regional economic power and threat to sovereignty.
Dr Alison Broinowski had some different slants regarding foreign diplomacy, where foreign policy reactions remain negative and bipartisan. She pointed out the importance of popular input into foreign policy and how it’s shaped and determined and felt that we don’t have enough input in Australia. The democratic system is not sufficiently respected so how can we achieve peace when Australian foreign policy is always framed around war: the country was settled by British armed forces; the settlers fought the indigenous people for over 200 years, and we always supported the British in their wars and invasions. So when the US enters into war it’s now automatically expected that Australia goes too.
A recent survey about people’s opinions of this sycophantic subservience to the US showed that eighty-eight per cent of Australians want change. Therefore foreign policy has to change. The UN Charter states that nations should:
- Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- Unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interests, and
- Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
She also blamed the myth of the “war on terror” from 2001 – which nations have mistakenly acted on and which has created unforgivable death and destruction ever since – saying the Anzus Treaty plays no part in this. She made a valid point referring to Kim Beazley, when Australian Ambassador to the US, realising that the US would defend Australia only if defending its own bases here: hence the US troops in Darwin. By allowing foreign troops on our soil, we have surrendered our sovereignty and independence. Currently, we are just a mouthpiece for the US government and our government must be told that this has to stop.