- by Anna Pha
- The Guardian
- Issue #2051
Samantha Power, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development meets with Penny Wong, Australian’s Foreign Minister. Photo: USAID – flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)
“So today I want to talk to you about how we avert war and maintain peace – and more than that, how we shape a region that reflects our national interests and our shared regional interests,” Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong told the National Press Club in her address on 17th April.
In the same breath, Wong talks about Australia “shaping a region that reflects our national interests,” and about not “encroaching on the ability of countries to exercise their agency … and decide their own destinies.”
Australia’s shaping the region sometimes appears to be single handed or sometimes with our “partners.”
References later in the address leave no doubt that “our shared regional interests” are those shared with the US and its allies.
“Tensions have risen between states with overlapping claims in the South China Sea … China continues to modernise its military at a pace and scale not seen in the world for nearly a century with little transparency or assurance about its strategic intent.”
“On top of that, North Korea continues to destabilise, with its ongoing nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile launches, threatening our friends in Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the broader region.
“Altogether, this combination of factors and the risk of miscalculation comprise the most confronting circumstances in decades.”
“So I will say it now to the National Press Club – to avoid any possible misunderstanding: our job is to lower the heat on any potential conflict, while increasing pressure on others to do the same. The Albanese government does that here at home, and we do that in our diplomacy.”
How will “we” really do that? The rest of the speech does not sound like “diplomacy.” It sounds more like through AUKUS, an arms race for military superiority and war preparations.
“… AUKUS represents an evolution of our relationships with the US and the UK, helping make Australia itself a stronger partner for the region.”
“In an age of military modernisation, as other militaries can operate from increased range, with faster speed, and greater precision and lethality, taking responsibility for our security means being able to hold potential adversaries’ forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance.”
According to the Foreign Minister, AUKUS represents “a transformational moment for our nation, our Defence Force and our economy.” The last point is correct but not in the way she would have us believe. It will divert upwards of half a trillion dollars from the budget into the pockets of US arms manufacturers at the expense of the wellbeing and security of the Australian people.
Under AUKUS, Australia is purchasing nuclear-powered submarines, missiles, and building and expanding bases for the US. These will not be under Australian command and may include nuclear weapons. AUKUS ties Australia into preparations for a war against China and sacrifices our sovereignty, despite Wong’s claims to the contrary.
“Our focus needs to be on how we ensure our fate is not determined by others, how we ensure our decisions are our own,” Wong says, in total denial of the implications of AUKUS.
“Our focus must be on what we need to do so we can live according to our own laws and values, determined by our own citizens, pursuing our own prosperity, making our own choices, respecting but not deferring to others.”
“We need to harness all elements of our national power to advance our interests, when the implications of unchecked strategic competition in our region are grave,” Wong says, as if AUKUS is not fuelling the arms race and China is not allowed to protect itself.
DEFERRING TO THE US
“The United States is our closest ally and principal strategic partner.
“The Indo-Pacific would not have enjoyed its long, uninterrupted period of stability and prosperity without the US and its security guarantee to the region.” Never mind the US wars in Korea and Vietnam, or the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.
“The whole region benefits from US engagement, from their contribution to the region’s strategic balance.”
“As we seek a strategic equilibrium, with all countries exercising their agency to achieve peace and prosperity, America is central to balancing a multipolar region.” Multipolar with the US at the helm!
“And this balance must be underwritten by military capability,” meaning US military might and hegemony.
Australia’s interests “lie in a region that operates by rules, standards and norms – where a larger country does not determine the fate of a smaller country; where each country can pursue its own aspirations, its own prosperity.”
This is a reference to Western interests, rules and system, a system in deep crisis – not those of socialist China.
“All countries of the region must exercise their agency through diplomatic, economic and other engagement to maintain the region’s balance – and to uphold the norms and rules that have underpinned decades of peace and prosperity.”
SHUTTING OUT CHINA
Wong repeats the concept of shaping the region: “… I want to talk about how we contribute to the regional balance of power that keeps the peace by shaping the region we want.” This “regional balance of power” is yet another reference to US domination. It goes to the essence of her intent to ensure US hegemony over the region.
Australia is working “closely with our regional counterparts to help the Pacific family stay united …” “Our view and the view of the Pacific Islands Forum is that the Pacific family is responsible for Pacific security.” Yet Australia is “shaping the region we want!” Why then is the US playing a strategic role in the region?
Apart from its military role in AUKUS, Australia is expected to strengthen ties with Pacific Island nations through such means as increased aid in an attempt to keep China out of the region.
The government is encouraging “greater economic engagement in Southeast Asia by the United States and other partners from the Indo-Pacific and beyond, including through IPEF.”
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is a regional arrangement to build cooperation and economic integration in the Indo-Pacific launched in September 2022. Its 14 member-states include the US, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia as well as Australia. China is not a member.
“I want to conclude with a point I make with many audiences around the world, because it really gets to the heart of it.
“Today’s circumstances have prompted comparisons with 1914, the 1930s, and 1962. These being the First World War, the rise of fascism and the Second World War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis which brought US and socialist Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.”
These comparisons have legitimacy in that they raise the main contradiction in the world today, between socialism and imperialism, the highest and final stage of capitalism. This contradiction is embedded in the text of Wong’s speech, which itself reads like a cut-and-paste position paper from the US State Department.
“We are investing in our national power, not just to guard against regional contest, but to shape and influence it to advance our national and shared interests.
“We are doing this by creating deterrence, with major military investments in future capability, including through the AUKUS partnership.”
And the arrogance of nationalism: “Our decision is to use all elements of our national power to shape the world in our interests, and to shape it for the better.”
- Australia has surrendered its sovereignty to US imperialism;
- Australian taxpayers are funding US war preparations;
- Australia remains the deputy sheriff for the US in the Pacific region;
- Australia is wooing Pacific island nations with the aim of excluding China from the region;
- Despite the rhetoric about averting war, the Australian government is preparing for war;
- The Australian Parliament – and certainly not the Australian people – will not be consulted before Australia goes to war.