The Weekly Notebook – Morrison shifts Australia’s foreign policy

Serving us up on a plate: Scott Morrison at APEC with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

Scott Morrison shifts Australia from Pacific “Minder” to Trump’s anti-China “Deputy Dawg”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has placed Australia at the centre of Washington’s anti-China military alliance and signed up to underwrite the failed state of Papua New Guinea.

These dramatic changes were agreed by Morrison in his first overseas foray as PM – to the ASEAN conference in Singapore and the APEC conference in Port Moresby, both attended by US Vice President Mike Pence on behalf of his boss, Donald Trump.

Without consulting his own Coalition parties, Federal Parliament or voters, Morrison and his Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne have committed Australia to building a billion-dollar war base on Manus Island and signed up to an open-cheque plan to bring electricity to the scattered towns and villages all over PNG.

While the US media is excitedly obsessed by the prospect of a brand new military base on Manus, it has drawn minimum coverage here. US media has reported that the Manus facility will include a naval base for warships (including aircraft carriers), a giant air base for warplanes and an army base for Marines, Special Forces, tanks, gunships and missile launchers.

Will the base house nuclear weapons? We are not being told.

Morrison’s latest agreements mark a total change in Australia’s posture vis-a-vis cash-starved Pacific states; the world’s rising global power, the People’s Republic of China; and Far East Asia countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

The essence of the change is this: Australia is to shed its former role as a pseudo-neutral, paternalistic, regional aid donor. And under secret agreements reached at APEC and ASEAN, Morrison has committed Australia to a fully-fledged imperialist role in the region as Washington’s “Deputy Dawg”.

And who will pay for this imperialist leap in the dark? Not Washington. Not New Zealand. And not Japan.

The mugs will be Australian taxpayers. Morrison has signed up to regional responsibilities which are going to cost billions of dollars – and the Trump administration is determined to shift most of the cost onto faithful and obedient “allies” like Australia.

Most of the senior journalists from the mainstream media privately think Morrison made a complete fool of himself at ASEAN and APEC, particularly over his clumsy backtracking on his previous pledge to shift the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although they dismiss his defence undertakings as “over-reach” it hasn’t stopped them from vigorously selling the Morrison/Trump approach.

As if to underline Morrison’s reckless and stupid commitment to Trump’s anti-China policy, major street riots broke out in Port Moresby two days after the summit ended and police, prison warders and soldiers stormed the PNG Parliament demanding unpaid wages for their summit labours.

It is sickening to watch the mainstream press and the pro-Washington think tanks pushing ahead with Morrison’s “full Trump” Asia policy but even more galling to see Canberra’s “Opposition” parties standing lamely on the sidelines. 

Julian Assange’s US arrest warrant

Julian Assange at London’s Ecuadorean Embassy

 You might have missed this news item on Australian journalist Julian Assange and that is because the Australian mainstream media, including News Ltd, Fairfax Media and the ABC, only choose to publish stories portraying Assange in the most damaging light.

It has been revealed in court documents in the United States that an arrest warrant awaits Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, on unspecified federal crimes.

By accident, the arrest warrant against Assange was revealed by Assistant US Attorney General Kellen Dwyer while filing documents in an unrelated case in a District Court of Virginia. (CIA headquarters is located in Langley, Virginia.)

Oops. Dwyer immediately asked the judge to keep Assange’s charges sealed. “Due to the sophistication of the defendant [Assange], and the publicity surrounding this case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged … The charges need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

Joshua Stueve, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Virginia, went into damage control. “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”

Assange, now 47, has maintained for more than a decade that right-wing Bush Republicans and right-wing Clinton and Obama Democrats want to put him on trial in the US for treason.

The correctness of his claim has now been vindicated. Assange, his legal team and fellow journalists argued long and hard that the Swedish “rape” extradition was trumped up (no pun intended) to get Assange back to Stockholm where the FBI/CIA could take him into custody, fly him to the US and put him on trial. He faced a lifetime in jail (until he died) while some hardliners proposed the death penalty, the fate meted out to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg at New York’s Sing Sing Jail in 1953.

Rather than face rendition and the barbarity of US “justice”, Assange went into self-exile in a room in the Ecuador Embassy in London where he has lived for the past six years.

Will all those who ridiculed Assange’s fears of US arrest now admit they were wrong? Will they now support the campaign for the restoration of his passport, his civil rights and his longing to visit Australia to see his family?

As my personal contribution to Assange’s human rights, I’m thinking of producing a line of T-shirts with the printed slogan: “I believe him”. 

Ex-CIA agent backs Assange

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, now turned investigative journalist, reckons Julian Assange “will never get a fair trial in the US” and has stepped up his campaign to have all charges against the WikiLeaks co-founder dropped.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou

Kiriakou, an ex-CIA counter-terrorism officer, said Assange did not steal US state secrets. He was provided with email transcripts related to America’s military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and coordinated their release with the US government, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian of London. It was then shared by other news media around the world causing public outrage in 2010 over America’s war crimes.

Kiriakou maintains: “Assange was just a journalist doing his job and no US administration has ever charged a journalist with espionage for doing his job.”

A critical question worth asking is this: Why is Assange being charged and not the newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post that published his material? Why not file charges against The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age editors as well, since both newspapers published the WikiLeaks material.

It seems like a howling double standard is operating: prosecute Assange but give a free pass to the media establishment around the world that printed “primary facts” about US war crimes revealed in US diplomatic cables. Can anyone explain how that works?

Kiriakou has written a dire warning of the Virginia judge who Assange will appear before if successfully transferred to the US. “No national security defendant has ever been found not guilty” in the Eastern District of Virginia where Judge Leonie Brinkema is the commanding judicial authority.

Kiriakou said: “Brinkema is a hanging judge. She was appointed to the Federal bench by Ronald Reagan after serving as a Federal prosecutor. She was then elevated from administrative judge to trial judge by Bill Clinton under the patronage of former Republican Senator John Warner.”

Although the Justice Department initially sought a 45-year prison sentence against Kiriakou for whistleblowing – and therefore breaching the 1917 Espionage Act (!) – a public campaign forced the prosecution to accept a lesser penalty under a plea bargain.

After giving Kiriakou 23 months, Judge Brinkema waved her finger at the whistleblower saying: “Mr Kiriakou, I hate this plea. I’ve been a judge since 1986 and I’ve never had [a plea bargain deal] like this. If I could, I would give you 10 years.”

Her inappropriate comments are now the subject of a formal complaint.

Kiriakou concluded: “Julian Assange doesn’t have a prayer of a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. He should never have been charged with a crime in the first place. He is a journalist.” 

What about Jamal Khashoggi?

There has more coverage in the Australian media of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi than award-winning Australian-born Julian Assange.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (left) and Saudi Arabia’s future ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (right)

Taking its lead from the coverage in the US and the UK, the spineless Oz media is following the Western imperialist – crocodile tears for Khashoggi and ignoring Assange.

But the indignation over Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment by a gang of executioners sent to Istanbul by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has a time limit. The Saudi journalist is disappearing from the front pages as fast as yesterday’s weather forecast.

Predictably, US President Donald Trump has led the moral retreat from punishing the House of Saud by arguing that Washington’s economic imperative is more important than any moral one.

Trump released a statement this week sub-titled “America First!” setting out his case for letting the barbarous Saudi rulers off the hook. “It’s a very simple equation for me,” he said. “I’m about making America great again and I’m about America first. If we abandon Saudi Arabia it would be a terrible mistake. Our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our important fight against Iran.”

He even cast doubt about the culpability of Crown Prince Bin Salman saying: “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”

But the whole world knows that MBS directed the assassination of his Washington Post critic. He was actively encouraged to silence Khashoggi because his criticism was impeding the planned war against Iran which supports two major players in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Hamas and Hezbollah. Go figure.

Last weekend, Trump gave notice of his solid backing of the Riyadh rulers when he told Fox News host Chris Wallace that Khashoggi’s murder was “very violent, very vicious and terrible”.

He added: “But at the same time, we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”

Over in London, Rupert Murdoch’s UK media empire was spruiking the same line – “Let’s put trading profits before our abhorrence of a single homicide”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May was edging away from her earlier condemnation of the murder and saying that her retaliation would be based upon “About who we are as a country”.

On October 9 The Times reported the deepening murder plot with the headline: “Has Mohammed Bin Salman gone too far?” Two weeks later it gave the answer: “Trump’s high-stakes gamble on the erratic Mohammed Bin Salman backfires”.

By this week the UK press and Mrs May had changed their tune. Now they were saying that the murder should not be allowed to interfere with business arrangements.

The Lord Rothermere-owned Daily Mail led the hypocrisy with an editorial saying Khashoggi’s murder was “a crime so repulsive that it cannot pass unavenged” and that MBS “must be taught that paying lip service to reform is not enough”.

This was followed by a further front-page editorial condemning British politicians who ride on “the Saudi gravy train”. Without naming them, this covers Tory, Labor, Liberal Democrat and nationalist MPs who spruik in Parliament on behalf of the House of Saud.

Khashoggi’s assassination has achieved four things:

  • Killed the growing love affair between Riyadh and Tel Aviv to isolate the PLO;
  • Destroyed the Trump administration’s famed “pivot” to create an unholy alliance between Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh to destroy Palestinian hopes for self-determination;
  • Increased global pressure on the Saudis to stop the horrendous war against Yemen;
  • Blocked the Israeli and Trumpian plan to step up economic and diplomatic warfare against Iran.

In fact, Khashoggi’s murder can be said to have caused “the Mother of all Unintended Consequences”.

Scott Morrison does it again

Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson who starred in the TV series Baywatch is an outspoken supporter of Julian Assange, visits him in the Ecuador Embassy in London and campaigns for his freedom to return home.

Pamela Anderson

In a 60 Minutes interview on 4 November, Ms Anderson challenged Morrison to actively support Assange’s return from London saying: “Okay well Scott, get Julian his passport and take him back to Australia and be proud of him. And throw him a parade when he gets home.”

Asked on Gold Coast radio station, Hot Tomato FM, days later if he would accept Ms Anderson’s advice, Morrison leered and chuckled: “I’ve had plenty of mates who have asked me if they can be special envoy to sort this issue out with Pamela Anderson.”

This prompted an open letter from Ms Anderson on 17 November saying:

“Dear Prime Minister Morrison,

“You comments following my appeal to you on 60 Minutes were disappointing.

“You trivialised and laughed about the suffering of an Australian and his family. You followed it with smutty, unnecessary comments about a woman voicing her political opinion.

“We all deserve better from our leaders, especially in the current environment.

“Following the show, 60 Minutes canvassed the views of Australians online. People responded in their thousands, overwhelmingly – 92% of more than 7,000 – in favour of bringing Julian home.

“Rather than making lewd suggestions about me, perhaps you should think about what you are going to say to millions of Australians when one of this own is marched in an orange jumpsuit to Guantanamo Bay for publishing the truth. You can prevent this.”

On 19 November, Lisa Wilkinson, executive editor of Channel Ten’s daily show, delivered a scorching comment on Morrison’s “blokey” remarks.

“I know that your comments were meant as a ‘joke’, and because YOU think it was a joke, we’re all meant to laugh along with you, with a bit of a nudge-nudge wink-wink. But we know what you really mean, PM. Because to do anything other than laugh along with your ‘joke’ means being accused of not having a sense of humour, particularly if we are female.

Lisa Wilkinson

“We get it. The problem is, we don’t think you get it. When we hear these sorts of dismissive “harmless’ comments suggesting our ideas shouldn’t be taken seriously, mixed in with implied sexual innuendo, it’s not just your words we are hearing, Prime Minister. What we hear is every time we’ve ever been belittled it is simply because we are a woman.

“But Prime Minister, you’re the Prime Minister. We don’t want an ‘every bloke’ in that job. We want a leader for a change, someone who sets the tone for a better Australia.

We want someone exceptional. We want someone who shows us the standard to live by. Someone who makes us want to be a better man. And woman.

“If not for us, Prime Minister, then at least do it for your two daughters, and for all the little boys who are watching you. You should apologise to Pamela Anderson.”

PS: So far he hasn’t.

Bannon: Man on a Mission

Steve Bannon, the Breitbart multi-millionaire who once worked as policy adviser to President Donald Trump, is on a mission to build his self-styled “movement” worldwide.

He is currently concentrating on Western Europe where he is knitting together racist, ultra-nationalist and fascist groups.

His key European targets are Italy and Hungary where anti-immigrant, far-right parties are beginning to flourish.

Next year he will spend weeks or even months in Budapest working on the election of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Oban to the European Parliament.

Steve Bannon

“We will be spending a lot of time in Hungary,” said Bannon who has written approvingly of Oban’s pro-fascist Jobbik party which came to power earlier this year.

Other far-right parties on Bannon’s mailing list are Golden Dawn in Greece, Marine Le Pen’s racist front in France, and Holland’s fraudulently named Party for Freedom.

The common threads in Bannon’s movement are anti-immigrant, anti-Brussels, anti-globalisation and anti-modernity. This leads to a confusion of cultish ideologies from xenophobia to white supremacy.

In his tour of Australia earlier this year, Bannon was given an hour-long platform on the ABC’s flagship current affairs programme, 4 Corners, to spruik his grand plan for global influence.

He left Australia with a notebook full of far right contacts and the knowledge that he had succeeded in espousing his hateful views on the national broadcaster. His Australian “alt-right” movement is now taking shape and some brain-dead “reporters” at the ABC appear to be handling its publicity campaign.

Razer sharp

Helen Razer

 “Quinoa is the sort of Eurovision statement the UN expects itself to sing: peoples can be made invulnerable to poverty by the seed of their own indigenous wisdom. The UN’s Manchurian neoliberalism needs quinoa. First, they spent a lot of money on it, and continue to commission studies that argue its success, even conceding that the quinoa push has exposed Andean peoples to the threat of market fluctuations as never before. Second, it’s another one in the eye for Venezuela and, third, proof that a rising tide can lift boats without demands from angry, ripped-off sailors.”

Helen Razer, Melbourne author and columnist, on foodie promotion of Quinoa, Weekly Explainer, 18 November 2018

Hey, Big Spender

“President Donald Trump’s defence spending is out of control and getting worse. He still claims he wants $700 billion. Whatever the final amount turns out to be, it will be massive – about 10 times the size of Russia’s defence budget, and four times the size of China’s.

“Politicians inevitably fall in love with weapons and weapons-makers. They tend to have less interaction with the people we’re blowing up overseas, or with those who just want to spend relatively more on schools and medicine. The Pentagon has a powerful lobby; the anti-Pentagon, not so much.

“The Pentagon doesn’t just spend money, it spends a lot of money asking for more money. And it has many friends in politics and the media to help them along. Its people may not be great at preparing for the next war, but they know how to keep their budgets high and they’re at it again.”

  • Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine, 18 November 2018

One comment

  1. Dear Alex
    Thank you for your weekly News.
    This Government and its leader leave me speechless and afraid of what will become of Australia.
    Regards and the Season’s Greetings to you both.
    Gloria

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