Australia’s political class is quick to criticise the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its control of China, but when it comes to foreign policy, Australia is no less a one-party state.
This was demonstrated again in Parliament last week, when the major parties combined to ram through McCarthyite laws to supposedly curb “foreign interference”. The haste, according to the government, was due to the need to protect the five by-elections scheduled for 28 July from foreign meddling. The laws establish a foreign agents register on which anybody who is deemed to be acting on behalf of a foreign power must be listed, or their activities will be construed as covert interference. The Attorney-General can also name people as foreign agents. The laws also punish journalists and others who reveal secret information, with jail terms of up to seven years.
(Proving such laws are not for show, Attorney-General Christian Porter has just signed off on charges against Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer known as Witness K, for revealing that ASIS—the Australian branch of MI6—bugged the East Timor cabinet in 2004 to give an advantage to Woodside Petroleum in negotiations over East Timor’s oil claims in the Timor Sea; the pair now face two years’ jail.)
In fact, the laws are themselves examples of foreign interference. They have been rushed through at the behest of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which is the primary conduit for Anglo-American manipulation of Australian politics. In “Australia leads ‘Five Eyes’ charge against foreign interference”, London’s Financial Times on 27 June noted that Five Eyes partners the USA, UK and Canada are working on similar foreign interference laws. There are calls for New Zealand, the final Five Eyes member, to be kicked out of the partnership because it is not aggressive enough against the target of these laws—China.
Despite the government’s denials, these laws clearly target China. But the more fundamental target is Australian democracy. Their intent is to suppress any democratic impulse to shift Australia’s foreign policy away from its subservience to US and UK interests and towards a more open engagement with other nations, especially nations that the USA and UK view as a threat to their global hegemony, namely China and Russia.
The danger is that any attempt to change Australia’s US/UK-dependent foreign policy can now be labelled foreign interference.
The Citizens Electoral Council has already experienced this new McCarthyism. On 27 March, former Office of National Assessments (ONA) analyst and Russia specialist Kyle Wilson told Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National that a 2015 CEC international conference on “The World Land-Bridge: Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All Men”, which promoted cooperation with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) alliance and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was an instance of Russian interference in Australian politics because a Russian diplomat addressed the conference.
Similarly, British intelligence and elements of US intelligence have targeted US President Donald Trump with the McCarthyite Russiagate beat-up to block him from delivering on his election pledge to normalise relations with Russia.
Most chilling about these laws is that, while the Labor Party pushed through some cosmetic amendments—such as reducing the jail term for revealing secrets from ten to seven years—the two major parties marched in lockstep to force them through with very little Parliamentary scrutiny. In an “us vs. them” speech in Parliament on 26 June justifying the laws, Labor MP Anthony Byrne warned unnamed forces who “wish us harm”—meaning bizarrely, our largest trading partner China, whose actions saved Australia following the 2008 GFC—that the major parties are united:
“I speak to those who have listened to representatives who have served in this place or other legislatures in this country who provided false hope or false comfort to those who may wish us harm”, Byrne said. “Today you are hearing the true voice of this nation and of this parliament. We effectively speak with one voice—a stentorian voice destined to be heard everywhere by those who wish us well or wish us harm.” (Emphasis added.)
Byrne continued: “The perception of autocratic regimes about democracies like ours, the United Kingdom’s and the United States’s is that the openness of our societies creates weakness and that this weakness can be exploited. This is an act of historical folly that seems destined to be repeated unless common sense and a study of history prevail.”
Byrne was expressing the Canberra consensus that Australia’s interests are intimately intertwined with the USA and UK. Our one-party state does not pursue an independent foreign policy, but one dependent on our Anglo-American allies. The late former prime minister Malcolm Fraser attacked this foreign policy in his 2014 book Dangerous Allies, referring to the UK and USA always dragging Australia into foreign wars, including illegal wars like Iraq—in which the Howard government’s ultimate justification was supporting the US alliance—and a future conflict with China.
Australia’s politicians have not always been so blatantly subservient to Anglo-American interests. As well as Malcolm Fraser, former ALP leader Simon Crean opposed the illegal Iraq war, at great personal cost and against the neocons in his own party like Kim Beasley, Kevin Rudd and Michael Danby, but history has vindicated his stance. Gough Whitlam famously pursued an independent foreign policy towards China and on other issues like the Vietnam War, which incurred the wrath of US and British intelligence agencies, both of which were involved in his dismissal by the Queen in 1975.
On ABC 7.30 on 10 November 2016, former PM Paul Keating summed up the state of Australia’s foreign policy: “We’ve got into this almost sort of crazy position now where the American alliance, instead of simply being a treaty, where the United States is obliged to consult with us in the event of adverse strategic circumstances, it has now taken on a reverential, sacramental quality. It’s like a sacrament. I’m not talking about simply the government; I’m talking about some people on the Labor side as well.” Keating identified that this situation came about through overt foreign interference: “There was a thing called the Australian-American dialogue, which by the way I never attended, which is a sort of a cult thing that’s gone on for years and I don’t know what the Americans put in the drinking water, but whenever the Australians come back, they’re all bowing and scraping and going on.
“I mean what we have to do is make our way in Asia ourselves with an independent foreign policy”, Keating said, echoing Malcolm Fraser. The CEC agrees, and will not stop pushing for Australia to become a truly independent nation with a foreign policy that emphasises collaboration with our neighbours on peaceful economic development.