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Issue #1739      July 13, 2016

Taking Issue – Don Wilson

The real undercurrent to this election

What should be stated is the illusory nature of these elections. This election is manipulated by the one percent of rich capitalists and their corporations that really control Australia. There is Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich. It is true we might get some crumbs that fall from the table, but the struggle at the basis of this “election” is wound up with the struggle for imperialist domination of Australia, Asia and the world.

Mostly the chatter in the corporate press is irrelevant to the real events affecting the lives of the Australian people and our history. However sometimes, little comments from our political masters tell us more about Australia’s political situation than all of our current affairs programs. Such a comment was made during the G20 Summit in 2014, by Tony Abbott, in private conversation with Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Abbott was answering a surprise question from Merkel about what drives Australia’s China policy. Abbott replied that Australia’s policies towards China are driven by two emotions: “fear and greed”. This offhand response captured the bipolar nature of Australia’s attitude to China. The public airing of this caused discomfort in foreign affairs circles but it also reveals the strategic divisions within the ranks of the born to rule elite.

On the one hand the Liberal party has to cater to the demands of China-reliant tycoons, led by Andrew Forrest, James Packer and Kerry Stokes, and the accept economic reality of trade with China. On the other hand, the liberal Party has to tug its locks to the United States Alliance and respond to intelligence directors, military chiefs and Asia-Pacific partners and allies.

A similar rare leak of a sensitive leader-to-leader conversation occurred when Kevin Rudd made his “brutal realist” response to secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2009, prompting recriminations from China and a personal apology from Clinton when it was broadcast by WikiLeaks.

Hillary Clinton revealed America’s deep anxiety over China’s growing economic power and hold on US finances by asking Australia’s then prime minister: “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” Rudd responded by calling himself “a brutal realist on China”, arguing for a policy of “integrating China effectively into the international community and allowing it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong”.

He described Chinese leaders as “subrational and deeply emotional” on Taiwan. Rudd also revealed that the thinking behind his ambitious “Asia-Pacific Community” was mostly to ensure Chinese dominance in the region did not result in an Asia without the United States”. “Many Australians were startled and Beijing was angry when it was reported via WikiLeaks, but it underscored the evolving difficulties the United States is having responding to an increasingly mighty China.

The question underlying these elections is the role of China in world affairs, and what are the implications for Australia? Promoting her recent memoir, Hillary Clinton observed that the push for more trade with China “makes [Australia] dependent, to an extent that can undermine [Australian] freedom of movement and [Australian] sovereignty, economic and political.”

She went on to say, “It’s a mistake whether you’re a country, or a company or an individual to put, as we say in the vernacular, all your eggs in the one basket.”

Her comments brought a brisk response from Malcolm Turnbull, who said that, “I’m sure that we’d love to export vast quantities of iron ore to the United States but they’ve never shown any enthusiasm in buying them.”

Professor Wu Xinbo, Executive Dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, addressed the question from the other side. He said there were “limits’’ to the extent to which Australia could tighten strategic cooperation with the United States without putting its relationship with China at risk.

Australia’s ruling class is divided between the pragmatists, such as Turnbull and the idealists such as “all the way with the USA” Tony Abbott who some in the Liberal Party are urging that he returns as Defence Minister.

Bob Carr made a very interesting comment when he visited China as Foreign Minister in the Gillard Labor government.

“I recall in my first visit to Beijing being challenged by then Foreign Minister Yang over the Australian government’s 2011 decision to have US marines rotate through the Northern Territory. My response was ‘Australians have always aligned themselves with the dominant maritime power of our region and of the world’. This is a grandiose way of saying we were happily part of the British Empire – never contemplated a declaration of independence from it – and, after the Second World War, settled on a security treaty with the United States. Or, as an irreverent left-wing acquaintance of mine joked back in the 1960s, ‘We went from being crown colony to banana republic’ – he seemed to imply, without skipping a heartbeat.”

Next article – Iraq and beyond – The world’s people demanded peace

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