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AUSMIN Meeting at Kirribilli House: Advancing the American Frontier into Hazardous Waters?

By Denis Bright

The extent of Australia’s moves towards the centre-right of global politics is illustrated by the eyewitness media space given to Andrew Hastie’s remarks about the extent of Australia’s economic and strategic relations with China.

Australians must surely detach themselves from such comments and continue with their long-standing financial ties with the world’s largest economy in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. The whole economy of West Australia which Andrew Hastie represents as member for Canning is highly dependent on trading and investment ties to China. It is unfortunate that Andrew Hastie has a higher political profile as Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security and Intelligence. The minutes of actual minutes are not released on the parliamentary web site which still offers some useful anecdotes on the activities of the Committee. These are available on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security website.

Andrew Hastie’s personal concerns about the rise of China are endorsed by some powerful friends on the global speaking circuit from the Trump Administration. Attendees at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) meeting at Kirribilli House on 4 August 2019 certainly got a thorough briefing on the need to deepen the scope of the US Global Alliance across the Indo-Pacific Basin.

The mainstream media is a big player in promoting the outreach activities of the US Global Alliance.

The Weekend Australian used its print and electronic outlet to welcome the AUSMIN event. The headlines in the print edition in the Weekend Australian came with additional endorsement from Foreign Editor, Greg Sheridan the day prior to AUSMIN.

The extent of the Weekend Australian’s endorsement of the AUSMIN brand of threat anticipation did suggest that something might be in the wind at Kirribilli House on Sunday 4 August. Here defence and foreign ministers of Australia and the US conferred with specialist staff on the strategic state of play in the Indo Pacific Basin.

As always, our LNP federal ministers wanted to assure everyone that the discussions were in the old traditions of the ANZUS Treaty of 1951. The confident assurances came before the AUSMIN meeting in a joint statement from our foreign and defence ministers as early as 26 July 2019:

Our relationship with the United States is built on an historic alliance – established by the ANZUS Treaty in 1951 – and deepened by our shared vision for a safer and more prosperous Indo-Pacific

The Reality of a Politically Oriented AUSMIN?

Back in Washington D.C., the Department of Defense web offered instant endorsement of the joint statement from the AUSMIN event. Our own DFAT web site responds more cautiously. The 2018 AUSMIN Meeting in Palo Alto, California is still the latest event on the site.

In Washington, D.C., staffers authorised to on Mark Esper’s global outreach campaign on behalf of the Pentagon. Anyone can make bad typing errors but was the misspelling of Australian allies more of a Freudian protest at the need for tedious consultation with allies across the seas?

Defence Secretary of State Esper continued his liaison with supportive leaders in New Zealand, Mongolia, South Korea and Japan to assure media networks back home that he had competently replaced the former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis who had resigned over policy difference with President Trump.

Staged political theatrics were evident throughout each phase of the engagements attended by the new US Secretary of Defense. The message of All the Way with the USA was much the same at every stop, even in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia which the US Military Times spells correctly in modernist mode and not the way I used as a teenager at university (7 August 2019).

Like Australia, Mongolia is classified as a NATO Partner (Image: US Department of Defense). Perhaps Secretary Esper’s arrival in an air-force plane rather than the usual plush VIP jet is significant. Was the plane allowed to transit Chinese or Russian airspace I ask before the exotic grandeur of state visits prevailed (Military Times, 7 August 2019):

Perhaps the 34-year history of AUSMIN can assist in explaining just why Australia is on such a carefully staged briefing circuit here and abroad.

The consultative aspects of ANZUS receive scant attention today. It was a different matter when the ANZUS Treaty was enacted in 1952.

History of Australia’s Involvement with AUSMIN

The protocols for AUSMIN consultations have been shrouded in mystery from the first event in Canberra in 1985. Discussions at AUSMIN are not open to public scrutiny. The earliest meetings did not generate easily accessible public files at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in Canberra.

Much of the material released of later meetings is of limited news value with an emphasis on posed photographs and the final joint statements.

Hence The Australian newspaper with its own global intelligence links can offer supportive speculation on confidential proceedings (The Australian, 4 August 2019).

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper have used the annual bilateral Ausmin summit to speak out strongly about the US commitment to the Pacific and against what they described as aggressive, destabilising behaviour by China in the region.

Mr Pompeo told reporters in Sydney today the time was “right for the US and Australia to do much more together in the region and beyond”.

“We care deeply about that. We’re here to stay and we want all Australians to know they can always rely on the United States of America. Just as we talk of Britain as a special relationship, we think of this as an unbreakable relationship.”

Mr Esper described the Indo-Pacific region as the “priority theatre” for the US and warned China against “predatory” economic and other aggressive behaviour seeking to extend its influence among island states.

“We firmly believe no one nation can or should dominate the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Esper said.

“We also stand firmly against a disturbing pattern of aggressive behaviour, destabilising behaviour, from China.”

Let me be clear, the US is a Pacific nation,” Mr Pompeo said.

After the AUSMIN event, the US Secretary of Defense was off to New Zealand to check out the political mood in a former ANZUS state. Dr Esper almost crossed paths with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a missionary two-day visit to New Zealand before his arrival in Australia. The international campaigning to talk up more support for America First Strategies was on in earnest.

Some fence mending was in order across the Tasman. Here the Labour Government, with Winston Peters as Foreign Minister from the New Zealand First Party, is currently slightly behind the National Party in the two latest opinion polls.

The Ardern Government in New Zealand through its Disarmament Ambassador to the UN co-ordinated lobbying for the successful treaty to abolish nuclear weapons in 2017. Nuclear powered military vessels and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons in transit are not welcome in NZ. All this must be very confronting to the Pentagon.

From his public lecture at Victoria University in Wellington to his quay-side press conference with Defence Minister Reynolds in Australia, General Stoltenberg offered an invitation to become more committed to NATO operations globally in support of the US Global Alliance System. The time for old-style consultation as required in the ANZUS Treaty has been replaced by a new call to military commitment on behalf of the US Global Alliance.

Mark Esper was a senior corporate lobbyist for Raytheon before he replaced James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.

Like Raytheon, the Secretary of Defense is well versed in brand marketing with a patriotic hue both in Australia and overseas.

All this militarism is of course good for business at Raytheon:

The missionary zeal of apologists for Raytheon and the Pentagon is a reminder of the historical pressures which were placed by great powers like Britain in favour of more strategic commitment in a bygone but bloody era.

Diversion to Italy’s Interaction with the Great Powers

Let’s take the secret Treaty of London which paved the way for Italian participation in the Allied Campaigns against Austria and on the killing fields of the Western Front after 1915. It was finalised the day after the Gallipoli landing in a desperate effort by Britain to widen the number of fighting fronts.

This action undermined efforts by Pope Benedict XV to extend the Christmas Truce begun in 1914 into a permanent cease-fire across the Western Front. These efforts were documented by John Pollard in Benedict XV: The Unknown Pope and the Pursuit of Peace which is available from Amazon:

Benedict XV is one of the least known Popes of the 20th century, but one of the most important. Elected in 1914 after the outbreak of the First World War he dedicated his Papacy to achieving peace throughout Europe. In August 1917 he offered a ‘Peace Note’ to the warring powers to bring about the cessation of hostilities, engaged in humanitarian activities and was instrumental is setting up the Save the Children Fund.

The Treaty of London had come just after a disastrous earthquake in L’Aquila in 1915 with a death toll of 30,000. Despite shootings of anti-war protesters, thousands of Italian troops were escorted to the Austrian front and to the killing fields of the Western Front. The Italian death toll reached 60,000 by 1918. Italy was merely compensated by some token territories across the Mediterranean and not the strategic prizes that were offered in the Treaty of London.

In the spirit of Pope Benedict XV, Pope Francis will take his opposition to nuclear weapons to Hiroshima on a forthcoming visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in late November 2019. By then, plans for the installation of new short to medium range missiles by the US across Asia will have advanced a notch (, 6 June 2019).

Commentators need to tune into the new style of US Global Alliance established through agencies like AUSMIN in key allied countries.

Rewriting ANZUS without Guiding Protocols?

The Australia-US Alliance has evolved into a whole of government partnership which strays from the original strategic partnership into wider political and business networks.

The media plays a very significant role in strengthening these whole of government partnerships which strengthen the shared hegemony of the US Global Alliance over national politics globally.

These protocols seem to change with each US Administration and are currently interpreted in a more hawkish manner by US Ambassador Culverhouse in Canberra on behalf of President Trump (Financial Review, 5 December 2018).

Prior to last year’s AUSMIN Meeting, the ABC Conversation Programme made the following assessment of the strategic protocols in place:

“The 2018 AUSMIN Consultation in Palo Alto will be the 28th in 33 years (it is supposed to be an annual event). AUSMIN has existed in its current form since 1985, following New Zealand’s refusal to allow US nuclear submarines into its ports that year and the United States’ subsequent suspension of its ANZUS security commitment to Wellington. Past AUSMIN forums have included many formal resolutions strengthening the US-Australia security alliance, including the Sydney Statement (1996), the Memorandum of Understanding on Ballistic Missile Defense (2004), the Space Situational Awareness Partnership (2010), and the US Force Posture Agreement (2014)”.

These interpretations of Australia’s changing place in the US Global Alliance, are all short of defined protocols as approval in the ANZUS Agreement of 1951.

Even during the Obama years, Australia’s Prime Minister Abbott opted to join the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) despite concerns from US Intelligence Networks. Thanks to Tony Abbott’s pragmatic decision, Australia has deposits of over AU$4.5 billion in the AIIB and 3 per cent of the voting rights on the AIIB Board. This is comparable to the influence of Britain, France, South Korea and Indonesia. The AIIB has attracted deposits from countries on all sides of the political spectrum including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. Only the US is not involved with the AIIB and discourages Chinese investment in our immediate region with countries like Samoa, PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji through financial institutions that have greater rapport with Wall Street networks.

Despite assurances from both the foreign and defence ministers on 29 July 2019 that Australia is acting under ANZUS Protocols, the current defence minister Senator Reynolds is gun-ho about the new possibilities for the US Global Alliance during the Trump Era.

These developments do suggest that AUSMIN is a commitment to centre-right economics and a style of Australian government with a similar ideology and almost identical strategic policies.

While not welcoming the immediate deployment of US short and medium range cruise missiles from bases in Northern Australia like Tindal near Katherine, our LNP team has expressed no dissent from the Trump Administration’s rearmament of Eastern and South East Asia from a nucleus of bases in the Marshall Islands, Guam, Japan and Diego Garcia (Lolita C Baldor, “Esper: US to soon put intermediate range missile in Asia”, ABC News, 2 August 2019):

Some Pentagon estimates have suggested that a low-flying cruise missile with a potential range of about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) could be flight-tested this month and be ready for deployment in 18 months. A ballistic missile with a range of roughly 3,000 to 4,000 kilometres (1,860 to 2,490 miles) could take five years or more to deploy. Neither would be nuclear armed.

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 and banned land-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (310 and 3,410 miles). Its demise comes as world powers seek to contain the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. And it signals another milestone in the deterioration of relations between the U.S and Russia.

Esper also added his voice to those who believe that extending the New START Treaty may not make sense. New START expires in February 2021 and is the only remaining treaty constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Trump has called New START “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration, and has said he wants to negotiate a three-way nuclear arms control agreement among the U.S., Russia and China.

Esper said the U.S. should look at bringing in other nuclear powers and expand the types of weapons controlled by the treaty. He added that he does not believe this will trigger a new arms race, but that the U.S. needs to deploy missile capabilities that can protect both Europe and the Pacific region.

Loyalty to the Trump Administration largely prevents public criticism of current trade and investment war strategies by senior LNP ministers. There are dissidents within the federal LNP Ministry including the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham who dare to be more honest about the value of commercial and investment relationships with China (The Guardian 4 August 2019). Prime Minister Morrison has the political skills to maintain consensus between the strategic, regional and financial arms of his ministry.

This dissent also comes with the support of the Big End of Town from firms like Deloitte Economics and KPMG.

Financial markets globally have now temporarily stabilised again after the biggest corrections of 2019 as the thirtieth anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall approaches on 9 November.

Now, it is President Trump who wants a New American Wall to protect the US from global modernity.

Allies worldwide are expected to bear the costs of the current investment and trade war on China with extra strategic commitment to global trouble-spots and more support for regime change as required in the future.

Denis Bright (pictured) has a background from post-retirement studies in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism to raise issues for critical discussion. Comments are welcome, particularly from specialist insiders to move the debate along the new protocols at work in the new US Global Alliance. Like all articles based on computer research, this one can have its blind spots from someone with no experience in the military or the relevant strategic departments. I am merely the messenger who is accountable to readers of the AIM Network.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    A fat and filthy fraud mini mafioso named Pompeo, the inflated one, lands here to gather up fellatio standard friends, in a quest to underline USA pacific nation status. Having stolen, thieved, occupied, acquired Hawaii, Guam, parts and reefs and bits like Samoa, intruded in ugly overbearing in Okinawa, propping up Taiwan, leaning ever more on Australia, owning sovereign territory inside Australia, the USA is certainly a big blot in Pacific affairs. Pearl Harbour haunts them. Their disgusting and evil history in the Philippines haunts even more. Hiroshima defines them. Up’em.

  2. Jack Cade

    What about the Bikini atoll tests, where they deliberately detonated bombs so that the fallout was blown over their own people ‘to see what the effects would be.’
    And the Bikini people are kept in abject poverty while US personnel live in luxury across the bay, in plain sight.
    With friends like these…

  3. John Boyd

    Wadya mean ‘Centre’ right??

  4. Peter F

    ‘What about the Bikini atoll tests, where they deliberately detonated bombs so that the fallout was blown over their own people ‘to see what the effects would be.’’

    They could have just asked the UK: That is what happened in Australia, including collecting bones from dead adults and children from all around the country to be sent to England for analysis. Read ‘Maralinga’ by Frank Walker for part of the story.

  5. David Bruce

    The biggest threat will be from the deployment of hypersonic missile systems in the Indo-Pacific. They won’t be made in USA!

  6. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    I wondered why Dr Esper arrived in Alaanbaatar, Mongolia in a military plane. The usual transport is one of the many VIP Jets. Then there is the problem of the anticipated Mongolian gift of the buckskin-bulky cargo.

    Was the horse escorted back to the real American Frontier in the military plane where space might be available for appropriate feedlots?

    These antics strengthen my argument that the whole junket to Kirribilli House and back via New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia was more political theatrics than real fraternal consultation from a Secretary of Defense whose typing staff in their haste seem to think we are “Austrailian Allies”. But full marks for the US American intonation in the harmless typing error.

    With all this jet lag, staffers can be excused for their haste and enthusiasm for new jobs with the Secretary of Defense.

    Do correct me if my sequence of stops is not in the correct order after Kirribilli.

  7. Margie

    The Reserve Bank Governor identifies the trade and investment war with China as our biggest external threat. The AUSMIN Meeting did not do anything to minimise that threat.

  8. Chris

    The US cannot export itself as a model democracy: It is a failed state with 30,000 deaths from firearm violence at home.

  9. Louise

    Healthy Chinese food or more junk food from McDonalds? It’s our choice to make.

  10. Stella

    Denis, thanks for an interesting coverage of the AUSMIN meetings.

  11. Leila

    Great article Denis, great to have the opportunity to read a global view rather than a one sided view as portrayed by the Government and some newspapers & certain television commentary.
    Australia must fine its own place in our region & look after the welfare of our nation
    We are deluded if we think the US will back us in any way . They will use us , our people & our territory but don’t think they will look after our interests .
    Keep up the great research Denis

  12. James_Robo

    Interesting article Denis. The USA has always been the star of our strategic responses to Asia but hopefully this is changing.

  13. Tessa_M

    Imaging the folly of offering new missiles to replace non-alignment in South East Asia and East Asia. Younger Australians need to rewrite a more peaceful ANZAC tradition with New Zealand…

  14. wam

    As usual, denis, reading your posts, makes me feel not bright.

    As an americophobe, I consider the US as no better than China as an ally.
    Neither would bother who threatened us.
    Arguably the high court has given scummo’s boys Chinese/HongKong conditions and Hastie wants more so little would change.

    It is an interesting trinity, Auckland, Canberra and Ulaanbaatar? Gillard opened an Austrade office in 2011 wonder how it is progressing?

    Phil I love throwing wounded knee and bud dajo into the conversations with trump’s supporters when the bragging rises.

  15. pinkworth

    Thanks Denis for your meticulous research highlighting how Australia is drifting into this costly trade and investment war between the US and China

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