Turnbull in lock-step with Trump

Greek street artist Skitsofrenis captures his country's social turmoil

Malcolm Turnbull grovels to President Trump … How the Oz-US alliance was born … Bob Carr and Kim Beazley turn US alliance into a cargo cult … Tribute to mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace … Festival of Dangerous Ideas … Great Crashing Bores …

Every time the USA moves to the right, the Australian political class and its mainstream media follow suit. Ever since the end of World War Two, successive Australian governments, Coalition and Labor, have been shifting rightwards in synchronicity with the increasingly rightward shift in Washington politics.

In 1968 Liberal prime minister John Gorton tried an Australian nationalist approach and look what happened to him. He was ousted from office by his own party room in 1971. Labor’s Gough Whitlam introduced an independent, internationalist policy and look what happened to him. He was dismissed from office by a subversive plot between the Royal Family, the US Embassy, some High Court judges and born-again American Republican, Rupert Murdoch.

In the 1950s Liberal Party founder and prime minister Robert Menzies, despite his worship of the “Mother Country”, joined America’s Cold War against the Soviet Union; and he sent Australian troops to the US-led invasion of Korea and then Vietnam. His protégé, John Howard, committed Australian troops to illegal and unsupportable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Labor’s Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard both supported America’s “regime change” invasion of Libya and their successors backed the US-ordered bombing and ground attacks in Syria and Yemen.

The record shows that whatever US imperialism decides to do, the supine Australian political class blindly follows. They claim to be acting in “Australia’s national interest” but that isn’t true. They are actually endangering Australia’s future – its economy, trade, jobs, diplomacy and the lives of its citizens if Trump-inspired conflicts erupt in our region.

When President Ronald Reagan adopted monetarism and its bastard offspring, privatisation, so did Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. When Presidents Clinton and George Bush stepped up the “war on drugs” so did Howard. And when Bush’s first recruits to America’s “war on terror” were Howard and UK New Labour PM Tony Blair.

Belatedly, Keating has begun to berate the official Canberra policy of traipsing after Washington and suggested Canberra should “cut the tag” with the US foreign policies. Once again, his maverick opinions may be late, but they are very welcome.

Birth of the US alliance

In the beginning, right-wing Australian politicians jumped to attention the moment London issued an order. How, when and why did their grovelling shift to Washington?

On Christmas Eve 1941 Australia’s great wartime leader Prime Minister John Curtin wrote a New Year message for Sir Keith Murdoch’s Melbourne Herald outlining “The Tasks Ahead”. Eight hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, Emperor Hirohito’s Imperial Army invaded Hong Kong and captured it in 16 days. One day later, on 8 December 1941, Tokyo launched a naval, air and ground attack on the Philippines and forced the surrender of the US garrison in four months.

Meanwhile, Tokyo’s land and air forces conquered Thailand and Malaya and headed for the British military base on Singapore. What was next? Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane?

Curtin, a pacifist who opposed conscription for World War One’s imperialist slaughter, was deeply conflicted. Britain’s Conservative Party leader Winston Churchill was demanding that the Curtin government provide ground forces for the North African campaign against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and for the retaking of Crete and Greece.

Curtin knew that if gave way to London’s demands he would be condemned by Australians (and history) for exposing his country to Japanese invasion and occupation. In his New Year message, Curtin broke the traditional snivelling and cowardly response to London’s orders, telling his countrymen and women:

“The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies’ fighting plan. Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.

“We know the problems that the United Kingdom faces. We know the constant threat of invasion. We know the dangers of dispersal of strength, but we know, too, that Australia can go and Britain can still hold on. We are, therefore, determined that Australia shall not go, and we shall exert all our energies towards the shaping of a plan, with the United States as its keynote, which will give to our country some confidence of being able to hold out until the tide of battle swings against the enemy.”

Australian conservatives and colonial traditionalists erupted in fury. They denounced Curtin, as did Churchillian Tories in Britain. But Curtin’s bold and correct re-appraisal carried the day among Australians, and the US-Australian was born.

Since then, the trans-Pacific alliance has assumed “cargo cult” status, particularly among right-wing Laborites, academics and armchair militarists. Flattered by all-expenses trips to Washington and New York, Washington has cultivated opinion-makers in politics and the media.

Gushing pro-American boosters like Bob Carr, Kim Beazley and Stephen Loosley are more American than many Americans. They helped propagate the specious theory that the ALP and the US Democratic Party were fraternal organisations. They aren’t. Traditionally, the ALP is a party based on the social aspirations of workers, in the city and the bush, and progressive sections of the middle class, while the Democratic Party is a ruling class organisation which originated in the Southern states as a racist, slaving-owning party.

In the 21st century, when another seismic reassessment is needed, the Coalition is prostrating itself before President Trump while Labor is terrified of articulating an independent diplomacy. While Curtin dealt the exigencies of the wartime era with courage and foresight, today’s social democrats are wimping out.

Washington’s anti-China obsession

Current Washington policy is to confront China and build a “ring of steel” around the world’s most powerful emerging nation.

At the behest of the Pentagon, Prime Minister Turnbull has ordered the RAN and the RAAF to conduct missions in the South China Sea. These sabre-rattling activities are dangerous, provocative and stupid.

Our supposed “allies” in these activities are South Korea where millions of people are on the streets of Seoul demanding the removal of scandal-ridden President Park Guen-hye because she is “not fit” for office. Hours after his election victory, Trump phoned the embattled Ms Park (popularity rating 9%) to tell her: “We are with you and we will not waver.” Hearing that, she should have resigned on the spot but she probably contacted her principal adviser, a religious guru named Ms Choi Soon-sil, who has since been arrested on massive corruption charges.

Another Washington “ally” is President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines who is on a murderous mission to summarily execute alleged drug dealers and throw their bodies into the sea to “feed the fish”.

Washington is now trying to coerce Indonesian President Joko Widodo into its anti-China coalition and it has asked Turnbull’s government to apply pressure to this end. Joko abandoned his proposed visit to Canberra to address Parliament after tens of thousands of Jakartans poured onto the streets, defying water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas, to demand the trial of the capital’s governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, on blasphemy against Islam charges.

Another pro-US, anti-China “ally” is Thailand which has shutdown for 12 months to mourn the death of King Bhumibol the Great. With Thailand’s pro-Bejing Communist Party growing in strength, any hostile move against China would cause a social eruption.

Only Liberal Party and National MPs, about 120 individuals from a population of 23 million, are “all the way with Donald J”. If Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton try to militarise the Australian people against China they will face a wall of opposition. Turnbull’s Coalition is already deeply unpopular; by falling into step with Washington it has unnerved most Australians and doomed itself to an even shorter life.

Turnbull welcomes arms race

A wave of excitement swept through the Turnbull Government this week when Team Trump revealed that the next US administration will increase war spending by an extra $100 BILLION annually. Turnbull was so excited he almost wet his pants. The US announcement, he gushed, was “exciting” and “great news”. It would secure “jobs and economic growth into the future”. Really?

First of all, where is the extra $100 BILLION going to come from? As all the world knows, the US budget is deep in deficit. Team Trump is promising a “New Deal” approach by spending billions on new bridges, tunnels, roads, dams, “a great wall” (!), railways and airports.

The American budget on war spending is currently $598.5 BILLION, 54% of the federal budget. (By comparison the budget for education is currently $70 BILLION, or 6% of the overall budget, which explains why Americans are among the dumbest people on earth).

Does Turnbull really believe that the Australian economy is on the brink of a “US arms-led recovery”? Or is he reading from a script supplied by the US Embassy in Canberra? Perhaps he doesn’t realise that the same script was handed out to pro-American political leaders in Tokyo, London and Tel Aviv.

Kumbaya? Are you kidding?

Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton divided America during their marathon billion-dollar race for the White House. They divided white Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, male and female Americans, working class Americans, middle class Americans, poor and rich Americans, gay Americans, Christian Americans, Moslem Americans and non-religious Americans, pro and anti-abortion Americans, pro-police and pro-civil rights Americans, pro and anti-gun Americans. The list goes on and on …

Having split, divided and dissected the population, Trump and Mrs Clinton now want it to reunite. This won’t happen. The divisions run too deep and remain too bitter. The current conciliatory stand-off is based on an unwritten deal: if you (Trump) don’t appoint a special prosecutor to investigate my (Clinton’s) emails and the Clinton Foundation, we (the Democrats) will constructively support your presidency.

However, it’s a deal that won’t fly. Trump is reviled by so many Americans (who aren’t Clinton or Democratic Party loyalists) that his administration is going to be under widespread public attack from Day One. The current Kumbaya mood won’t last.

In all likelihood Trump’s administration will end with his impeachment. His destruction will be supported by the heavies of the GOP as they seek to regain control of their own party from the far right interlopers from the Tea Party and the Mob-supported Trumpland.

At present, Trump and Clinton supporters are publicly singing “peace and love” songs but in the back rooms high-powered Impeach Trump and Jail Crooked Hillary teams are being formed. Their battle didn’t end on election day; it has just moved to another level.

A note from the archives

In my Weekly Notebook more than a year ago, I wrote:

“Seventeen billionaires or multi-millionaires are vying for the US Republican Party nomination to be the next US president. If any of them win the White House, the decline and fall of the USA as an imperial power will be a decade away. If the Democrats regain the White House, America’s economic and social implosion will be delayed by 20 years. In short, the fate of the US as the 21st century’s imperial leader is already decided, but whether it will implode in 10 years or 20 years will be determined by whether Republicans or Democrats win the White House in next year’s presidential election.” (“The end of America?” Weekly Notebook, 14 August 2015)

I have no reason to change this characteristically apocalyptic prediction. If anything, my time scale was too generous.

Now that’s a life!

Pix: Marjorie Wallace and legal writer Marcel Berlins at 2009 Christmas party of El Vino’s media group held at Chelsea Arts Club.

Marjorie Wallace, founder and chief executive of SANE, a leading UK charity offering support to people afflicted by mental health problems, has received official recognition for her dedicated work. She has been named Outstanding Campaigner in the 2016 Prudential Women of the Year Awards which were established in 1955.

Marjorie Wallace and legal writer Marcel Berlins at the 2009 Christmas party of El Vino’s media group held at Chelsea Arts Club.
Marjorie Wallace and legal writer Marcel Berlins at the 2009 Christmas party of El Vino’s media group held at Chelsea Arts Club.

The citation for Marjorie’s awards recognised her “courage, resourcefulness and flair” in a 30-year campaign for the mentally ill and their families, particularly in elevating public discussion and medical recognition of schizophrenia. Marjorie and I were colleagues on the London Sunday Times in the 1960s. She worked with two Australians, Phillip Knightley and Bruce Page, on the award-winning INSIGHT investigation which exposed the baby-deforming drug, thalidomide, its medical cover-up and the unscrupulous commercial profiteering. In 1986 she wrote the book The Silent Twins and its screenplay, portraying the extraordinary life of identical twins, June and Jennifer Gibbons. In the same year she wrote the ground-breaking series Forgotten Illness for The Times and founded SANE.

Jane Luca said Marjorie had “fearlessly fought for a better life for people who suffer with mental illnesses and their families and had changed the health of the nation as a result”. Prudential executive Jane Rawnsley added: “Her award is richly merited and acknowledges her extraordinary achievements not only in establishing the pioneering work of SANE but also in advocating and raising greater awareness of mental health as a major issue for the 21st century.”

I dips me lid, Marj. You wanted to be taken seriously, so you did something serious.

Festival of Dangerous Ideas – 6

Legendary London crime-buster, Inspector Archibald “Truncheons” Morse, head of the Ross-on-Wye dog squad, on his first visit to Australia, will discuss why our cities are vulnerable to international terrorism. His controversial solution – shut all airports and sea ports except for commercial trade – will be discussed by a panel of media experts – ABC TV’s Sally Neighbour, Sky News political guru Peta Credlin, former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Skippy the Kangaroo. Event sponsored by the Lowy Institute, the US Embassy, and its branch office, the Israeli Embassy, and News Ltd. Admission $500 or $450 for pensioners. Avoid inconsolable disappointment and book now.

Great Crashing Bores – 21*

It’s times like this that I feel like turning off the cricket and never watching it again. What’s wrong with this Australian team? They’re bloody hopeless. I could do better than most of them. We’re getting whipped by a team of whites, coloureds, Indians and blacks from South Africa, and that Amla bloke is a Moslem – under Sharia law they aren’t supposed to play cricket. I think they should sack the selectors, all of them, and hold a plebiscite to see who we should have in the team. I’d vote to bring back Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Michael Slater. And what about AB and “Pidgeon”, you know, Bill Lawrie? We have some of the greatest players the world’s ever seen, but we won’t give them a go. I suppose Don Bradman is too old to play again … What’s that? … He died, did he? Well they should recall Keith Miller and Victor Trumper. That would give the Yarpies something to think about.

* Great Crashing Bores is a work of satirical fiction.

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