There is a maxim attributed to Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, that the most effective way to demonise one’s enemies is to accuse them of what you yourself are doing. Goebbels would nod his approval at the antics of Australia’s new Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Senator James Paterson. Ever since he entered the Senate in 2016, Paterson has squawked almost constantly, albeit with scant evidence, about alleged political interference in Australia by “hostile” foreign nations. Yet an objective appraisal of Paterson’s own associations, influences and chosen political causes could not fail to conclude that he himself is a walking, talking foreign interference operation by our “allies” Britain and the United States, who has deliberately worked in their interests in preference to Australia’s.
In 2016, 28-year-old Paterson was parachuted into Parliament from Liberal Party-aligned think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), where he had worked in various roles since 2011, finishing as its deputy executive director beginning 2014. Founded in 1943, the IPA has been a bastion of the neoliberal economic policies of deregulation, privatisation and unfettered “free markets” implanted into Australia by the British Crown-sponsored Mont Pelerin Society, ever since the latter’s inception in 1947. Paterson came to the IPA from the office of then-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate Sen. Mitch Fifield, and had previously interned for several months for US Republican Party Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
According to a profile in the 9 October 2021 Australian, Paterson was raised in a “Labor-voting, union-loving” family, but became “conservative” in his teens. “One event that helped define his world view”, the article states, “was when, not long before the September 11  terror attacks, his mother had a brief work placement in Washington DC and the young Paterson attended an elementary (primary) school there. After the attacks, Paterson, who was by then back in Australia, says he was dismayed by claims from the left America had brought the attacks upon itself because of its foreign policy. ‘I went to a school where many parents worked in the national security establishment and probably the Pentagon and I had a very strong reaction to that cultural relativism [sic] from the left’, he says.” Readers are left to decide for themselves how it could possibly constitute “cultural relativism” to point out the fact that in order to destabilise, overthrow the governments of, and/or create pretexts for wars upon multiple Muslim-majority nations, the USA had co-created, armed and funded the very al-Qaeda terrorist organisation to which the 9/11 attacks were attributed.
Along with neoliberal economics, Paterson has also been a devotee of US-derived neoconservative (i.e. imperial) foreign policy since his teens, telling the Australian for example that he had alienated classmates and teachers at his high school in 2004 by declaring that then-US President George W. Bush had “done a good job in the war on terror”. Those two complementary lines of thought have combined in his otherwise empty brain to produce a fanatical hatred of China. Almost since the day he took office, therefore, Paterson has worked to advance policy agendas targeted mainly at that country, in the name of “national security”, which have done enormous damage to Australia’s actual security along with its economy and international relations.
According to another Liberal rising star and anti-China hysteric, Andrew Hastie MP (who after a similarly meteoric rise was appointed shadow defence minister in June 2022), in March 2017 Paterson led the back-bench revolt that scuttled plans finally to ratify the extradition treaty with China which the Howard Liberal government had negotiated 10 years earlier. “James just stood up and said [to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop], ‘I’m not backing this and I reserve my right to cross the floor’”, Hastie told the Australian, “and then he walked out. … He got an angry call from [PM] Malcolm Turnbull the next morning but the vote did not go ahead.” Other parliamentarians from both major parties thereafter reportedly formed an “informal grouping … to discuss China policy”—and thus was born the “Wolverines” clique, named for the heroes of the paranoid 1984 Hollywood film Red Dawn, in which a group of Colorado high-schoolers wage guerrilla war against invading Soviet and Cuban troops. Derided in 2020 by two former Australian intelligence chiefs as “immature, juvenile and destructive” and “add[ing] no value” to the discussion,1 Paterson, Hastie and their fellow Wolverines have nonetheless been allowed to drive the Parliament’s foreign policy debate ever since, resulting in the passage of successive suites of ever more draconian “national security” legislation. They have done so in collaboration with some of the most extreme neoconservative elements in both Washington, DC and London.
Chief among these is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a pro-war think tank based in London and named after the late US Senator (in 1953-83) and anti-Communist ideologue Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Founded in 2005, the HJS lists among its “international patrons” several of the US neocon gang responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, alongside one of its main Australian boosters, former Labor MP Michael Danby.2 In 2011 it championed the equally illegal and even more disastrous US/UK/French regime-change war on Libya. Hastie and Paterson have worked hand-in-glove with the HJS since at least 2017, with Hastie speaking at its international events and co-chairing—along with fellow Wolverine, the late Labor Party Senator Kimberly Kitching—the London-based International Parliamentary Alliance against China (IPAC), designed by the HJS and modelled upon the Wolverines to try to coordinate identically insane China policy uniformly throughout the so-called “democratic” world. Paterson replaced Hastie as IPAC co-chair in February 2021, following the latter’s promotion to assistant defence minister the previous December; as of this writing he has not resigned after his own promotion to the senior Shadow Cabinet, and continues to be listed as Australian co-chair on IPAC’s website alongside Labor MP Peter Khalil. A former Defence official and fellow Iraq war apologist, Khalil is currently chair of Canberra’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), a role in which he was preceded by Paterson, and Hastie before him.
The PJCIS purports to exert democratic oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies, but in practice has served almost exclusively as a rubber-stamp for their—and through them the Anglo-American establishment’s—agenda. Paterson’s appointment to the shadow cabinet, and Khalil’s appointment to chair the PJCIS in his place, once again illustrates that Australia is a one-party state where “national security”, or indeed any vital policy area is concerned.
1. “Former intel chiefs slam ‘Wolverines’, call for ‘sensible engagement’ with China”, AAS, 24 June 2020.
2. “Here’s a good use for a Magnitsky Act—sanction Andrew Hastie’s cronies in the Henry Jackson Society”, Citizens Party media release, 27 May 2020.
By Richard Bardon, AAS, 3 May 2023