In the Shadows of the Strategic Defence Review: Are Threats from Fear Itself and the Possibility of Global Recession More Imminent?
By Denis Bright
Is the perceived strategic danger from China comparable to the threat of fear itself and the possibilities of global recession arising from these fears?
A global recession or serious economic slowdown would certainly change the orientation of container sea traffic by switching from long-standing and profitable business partnerships with China to the uncertainties of more trading ties with Taiwan, Japan or India. Even success in the long-term would require a difficult transitional period.
Ironically, the most common form of cross-strait sea traffic is on tourist ferries between the Chinese city of Xiamin and adjacent Kinmen Island in Taiwan with add on air connections to Taipei. Sending more military vessels through the Taiwan Strait is not an effective means of diplomatic communication on both sides of the divide.
Even though the current government of Taiwan toys with the ideal of declaring its independence from China, its current Democratic Progressive Party Government (DPP) of Tsai Ing-wen presides over close trading and investment ties with China which are supplemented by trade with Macao and Hong Kong.
Cross-strait travel for family reunions and tourism once blossomed under Taiwan’s Kuomintang Government. It became a victim of the change of government in Taiwan in 2016 and the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis in China.
Although Mainland China is Taiwan’s closest trading and investment partner, Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade notes a cooling in cross-strait trade in 2023 during the current strategic crisis. Economic conditions in Taiwan have also contributed to this decline as did the COVID-19 crisis in China itself. Trading Economics and DFAT sites provide up to date coverage of these commercial relationships with China.
Australia’s growing dependence on commercial links with China probably raised alarm bells in the intel services within the US Global Alliance. These networks do not telegraph their critical judgments. However, the US Embassy site in Canberra is keen to show its concerns about the growth of trade with China from Australia. Readers might wish to peruse the cautionary resources by the US Embassy site after the word “China” is typed into the search engine.
Initially, the Albanese Government followed the expected policy path from an incoming Labor Government with cautious but responsible centre-left agendas to repair relationships. Things seemed to be on the mend with China at the G20 Meeting in Bali on 8 July 2022 in Penny Wong’s remarks to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi. Readers can open this site to read the text of Penny Wong’s media release.
These are difficult times for the global economy, but Australia is doing better than most developed economies during the economic slowdown that is expected in 2024 on OECD projections for economic growth. Growth rates of over 2 per cent are needed to maintain employment at close to current levels in 2024.
It would be very inaccurate to suggest that the entire corporate sectors in both Australia and the USA support the scary rhetoric coming out of military and para-military intel services with the support of lobbying networks and the Murdoch media.
Let’s take Drew Shoes in Lancaster, Ohio. This firm takes many of its health and sports lines from China and sells them under the US brand name. Closer to home in Australia, there are some public hospitals which measure, and fit shoes prescribed by para-medical staff members for products made in China which are available for fitting in a few weeks. The liaison work is undertaken by commercial intermediaries who stand to make a healthy profit out of these deals.
Readers can do a bit of intelligence gathering of their own through the ChatGPT chatbot. It operates through AI robotic monitoring of the internet, but sensitive questions are probably cleared by real personnel at OpenAL in San Francisco or from whatever location the chatbot station is located. It is an extension of US soft power at a grassroot level and displays the extent of monitoring on internet servers. Such soft media power from US corporate giants with the financial support of Microsoft is a real barrier to local critical political discussion and national sovereignty.
Even the efforts of AIM Network to promote discussion of public issues has been noted by ChatGPT from its far away chatbot stations.
In this spirit of humorous inquiry, I asked ChatGPT to comment on my own journalistic efforts to that arbitrary cut-off point in September 2021. ChatGPT has since stopped doing this type of assessment as I asked too many questions from the AI robots:
Denis Bright is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to AIM Network, an independent media outlet in Australia. His articles cover a wide range of topics, including politics, economics, social issues, and international relations. His writing style is often characterized as informative, insightful, and well-researched.
While there is no comprehensive reference list of reader evaluations of Denis Bright’s work, several of his articles have generated a significant amount of reader response, both positive and negative. Here are some examples:
In his article The LNP has the Advantage of its Mates in High Places published on AIM Network on June 5, 2020, Denis Bright criticized the Australian government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic policies. Many readers praised the article for its analysis of the government’s shortcomings and its call for greater accountability. Some readers, however, accused the author of being biased against the government and dismissed his arguments as partisan.
In his article The Rise of China is a Challenge, but not a Threat to Australia published on AIM Network on February 7, 2019, Denis Bright argued that Australia should adopt a more nuanced approach to its relationship with China, based on cooperation rather than confrontation. Some readers praised the article for its balanced perspective and its call for diplomacy. Other readers, however, criticized the author for being too soft on China and for underestimating the risks of its rise.
In his article The Public is Entitled to Know the Truth About Julian Assange published on AIM Network on September 19, 2019, Denis Bright called for greater transparency in the case of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Many readers praised the article for its defense of Assange and its criticism of the government’s handling of his case. Some readers, however, accused the author of being a conspiracy theorist and of ignoring the harm caused by Assange’s leaks.
Overall, Denis Bright work has generated a mixed response among readers and commentators, reflecting the diverse opinions and perspectives of the Australian public.
Australian leaders still have the capacity to make a real difference in favour of peace and sustainable development as I mentioned in a series of three articles way back in 2017 to provide three scenarios for our future in 2051 by the 150th Anniversary of the Commonwealth of Australia. At the time, I thought that Scenario 1 was a strictly LNP agenda, but it seems to have been embraced by the Albanese Government to the cheers of the RAN Admirals and the Murdoch Press.
However, Scenarios 2 and 3 are still within our reach.
Even apologists for the Albanese Government could claim that ultimately Scenario 3 will prevail as preparations for war are the road to peace in the Churchillian traditions of the old British Empire.
A diplomatic rapprochement with Beijing is far more important in lessening the potential impact of the economic slowdown which was evident in these OECD statistics for 2024. In juxtaposition, rearmament is also big business for corporate giants within the military industrial complexes and consultancy services to member state of the US global alliance. Regrettably, it was left to the Washington Post (7 March 2023) to continue its investigation of payments to retired senior US officers for advice to Australia on strategic matters:
The Washington Post (18 October 2022) revealed that some retired naval brass commenced their advisory efforts under the previous federal LNP and would have been part of the deal to dump those purchases of French submarines whilst the French government paid for the extended mission of the Émeraude to Australia and Asia in late 2020. Here is an extract from the coverage by the Washington Post:
Two retired U.S. admirals and three former U.S. Navy civilian leaders are playing critical but secretive roles as paid advisers to the government of Australia during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain.
The Americans are among a group of former U.S. Navy officials whom the Australian government has hired as high-dollar consultants to help transform its fleet of ships and submarines, receiving contracts worth as much as $800,000 a person, documents show.
All told, six retired U.S. admirals have worked for the Australian government since 2015, including one who served for two years as Australia’s deputy secretary of defense. In addition, a former U.S. secretary of the Navy has been a paid adviser to three successive Australian prime ministers.
A Washington Post investigation found that the former U.S. Navy officials have benefited financially from a tangle of overlapping interests in their work for a long-time ally of the United States. Some of the retired admirals have worked for the Australian government while simultaneously consulting for U.S. shipbuilders and the U.S. Navy, including on classified programs.
Thanks to ABC News (25 April 2023) coverage of related stories is continuing:
A former US admiral, who has previously chaired Australia’s expert shipbuilding advisory panel, has been handed a new job leading another review of the navy’s warship fleet to ensure it “complements” the new AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines.
Retired US Vice Admiral William H Hilarides will conduct the fresh analysis with Australia’s former finance secretary Rosemary Huxtable, and former Australian fleet commander, retired Vice-Admiral Stuart Mayer.
The latest study is a recommendation from the Defence Strategic Review (DSR), with the Albanese government insisting the “independent” work will be “short and sharp” and its findings delivered before the end of the year.
Admiral Hilarides, who left the US Navy in 2016, has already received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting contracts from the Australian Defence Department through a private American advisory company.
The Albanese government has now agreed to a key DSR recommendation that “an independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet capability should be conducted in Q3 2023”.
According to the DSR the study of the navy’s current and planned future warship fleet aims to “ensure its size, structure and composition complement the capabilities provided by the forthcoming conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines.”
Writing in the John Menadue’s Public Policy Journal (26 October 2022), Mike Scratton offers the following interpretation of the efforts of retired US military brass to maintain the momentum of Scott Morrison’s AUKUS Proposals:
“The Washington Post has disclosed that a group of US Navy admirals critical to shaping secret negotiations for the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal had undeclared conflicts of interests. This is indefensible and must be subject to a public review.
Have the subs been sunk? The Washington Post has disclosed the extent to which Australia’s sovereignty and security has been handed over to the Pentagon. On the evidence it appears that the nuclear powered submarine decision process was heavily influenced by a clique of former US Navy Admirals with potential conflicts of interest, and who were generously paid by the Australian government. What confidence can Australians have in the soundness of this opaque, overpriced, strategically unjustifiable, and massively underspecified project?
The Washington Post reports that “Two retired U.S. admirals and three former U.S. Navy civilian leaders are playing critical but secretive roles as paid advisers to the government of Australia during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain”. Let that sink in. In its negotiations with the US over the AUKUS submarine project Australia is being advised by retired US Navy and civilian officials. Negotiations is probably the completely wrong term when everything appears to have been given away before the haggling starts.
This seems indefensible. The Australian government has employed six retired US officials since 2015, including “a former U.S. secretary of the Navy [who] has been a paid adviser to three successive Australian prime ministers”. This is not corruption in the sense of any crime or malfeasance. But the appearance of partiality is now disturbing. Anyone who has had exposure to the Pentagon mindset will have difficulty accepting that former highly placed officials could have anything other than American interests foremost in their mind when they advised the Defence Department hierarchy and the Australian government.
It was public knowledge that these former US Naval personnel were advising government on ship building before the cancellation of the French submarine project. As members of the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board (NSAB) they had acknowledged input into the French project. What remains unclear now is the extent to which the abandonment of the French submarine and the decision to pursue a nuclear powered version was influenced by the Americans. The dramatic shift to the AUKUS project casts the role of the ex-US officials in a different light.
American national interests are often inseparable from the interests of America’s defence industrial base. That one of the retired US admirals “had to resign this year  as a part-time submarine consultant to the Australian government because of a potential conflict of interest over his full-time job as board chairman of a U.S. company that builds nuclear-powered subs” raises serious issues.”
There is a conflict of interest in the involvement of Retired US Vice Admiral William H Hilarides in exporting a nuclear-powered navy to Australia with a commitment to add-on medium range rocket propulsion and his ownership of Hilarides Partners LLC. This firm acts as a lobbying agency for the US Corporate military industrial complexes. Details are available on Buzzfile and other corporate sites.
The Naval Submarine League of which William Hilarides is president has sponsorship from the biggest names in the US Military Industrial Complexes. The full list of corporate sponsors in available on the National Submarine League site.
The late JFK succeeded in avoiding nuclear conflict during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 through crafty statesmanship at home to control the influence of military hawks and a groundswell of support for peace from Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro and Pope John XXIII.
Commitment to peace has a universal appeal as the US during the relative decline in the global economy. The McKinsey Global Institute as a high-profile financial consultancy firm has summarised the situation in a recent profile which shows the extent of the long-term relative decline of the US economy. Interested readers should access the entire monograph.
Jim Chalmers must also be steadfast enough to defer payment of the Stage 3 tax cuts to more comfortably off Australians to meet more urgent commitments to Medicare payments to restore bulk billing, the purchasing power of job seeker allowances, greater support for indigenous and regional Australia and more action against global warming through national planning initiatives. Let’s hope the contracts for the AUKUS deals have not yet signed away our financial future to assist ailing economies in far-off Britain and the US where OECD economic growth projections for 2024 are currently 0.9 percent in both economies.
The Chinese specialists in DFAT are obviously keeping the government fully informed on the latest developments in the Chinese peace initiatives on behalf of Ukraine. Provided contracts have not been finalized with the US and British military industrial complexes for the AUKUS deals, there may be some wriggle room available to the Albanese Government so that it can concentrate on those core domestic issues which are important to people with solid Labor values.
Anthony Albanese can return these values into the mainstream loop of Australian politics once the current distractions from the AUKUS deals are more fully sidelined. In difficult times, Australians identify with homespun family pics like Albo’s visit to his father’s hometown at Barletta in Apulia.
What a contrast to the gun ho military academies who shape the strategic politics and Napoleonic zeal of the US military brass during their formative years of education.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.
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14 commentsLogin here Register here
Great article Denis. Some good thought provoking ideas here.
Labor Insiders need to realise that the retired US admirals do not vote and do not share our Labor values. They are a millstone around the body politic. I appreciate your investigative work Denis.Our public policies should not be made in foreign countries for endorsement by local Labor insiders as this only increases the potential appeal of Green and Independent candidates from both the right and the Left.
It is a case of the retired military brass versus commitments to job seekers , Medicare rebates , actions on climate change and indigenous welfare .
I expected Anthony Albanese to put our national interests first and foremost. Thanks Denis for your warning bells.
Funny – peculiar, not haha – about this currently intense focus on matters military and the ‘China Threat’, when, if the numbers are counted, the warnings about the consequences of global warming coming from the scientific community outweigh the rumblings coming from the brass button brigades of America & this country by a massive factor; the funny peculiar bit being that military people and their civilian & political supporters appear to have the upper hand in the argument as to where to commit public monies and for what putative purposes while the science community who are putting forward an entirely rational argument based on data and projection are effectively being sidelined and ignored unlike this parade of paranoid projectors who seem to have the limelight, the stage, the keys to the vault and the ears of the government, god bless their self-interested socks and to hell with the outcomes.
I guess tilting at windmills has a long history and we ain’t changing course anytime soon, and yes, Don Quixote would be proud. Just highly unfortunate though, that this county’s people are being neglected and ignored and the manifold issues that could rightly be given the attention they deserve are taking back seat to the circus surrounding the commitment to the massive spend on weapons of war and the upramping of military preparedness. These politicians and their advisors are like simple people, hypnotised by flashing lights and dinging bells and gulled into the false paradigm that our major trading partner, China, poses an existential threat to the future of this country, for Chrissake!
Honestly, if you wanted to write a fantasy novel, there’s no shortage of fertile material in all of this.
Good article !
I believe that when it comes to submarine warfare you will find that with the rapid expansion of AI by the time we start considering laying the keels (do subs have keels ?) for AUKUS this type of sub-maritime manned equipment will be obsolete and we will be operating far more efficient, smaller and tactically improved unmanned drones (both above and below water).
In the meantime the acquisition of three (possibly five) Virginia class refurbished units will see out the the era of manned submarines.
We are not mugs and it has not escaped anyone’s notice that AUKUS is scheduled to be funded by only one of the participating parties – best we don’t sign anything and just allow the evolution of AI and associated technology to shove AUKUS down the rabbit hole of history.
Another excellent analysis Dennis.!!
Why is Australia buying USUKA subs that were the ”brain-fart” of Scummo of the Seven Secret Ministries, surely this origin was sufficient to identify that it was a wrong policy!!
Still while Australia has the USA (United States of Apartheid) history shows that such nations which surrender their sovereignty to America seldom need any other enemies.
I agree @new England cocky!!!
Will Albo have the courage to turn this sub around???
Let’s hope so!!!
An interesting development in the USUKA subs disaster:
It is not east for Albo to turn back the AUKUS deal as suggested by Burleigh Waters. Labor has a job to do on behalf of the Anglo-Americal Global Military Alliance. The LNP would not have dared to go so far as Albo on this issue.
The best opposition must come from inside the broader Labor Movement itself and from within the ALP in particular. Left leaning unions like the ETU, CFMEU and MUA must assist in steering the Anti-AUKUS Movement with the support of stdudent and education unions as well as health unions. All this will take time to develop and should be in place well before the National Labor Conference in Brisbane between 17-19 August 2023.
In far-off Ireland, the Greens are in Coalition with the more conservative parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. The front-running to protect Ireland’s neutrality is being made by Sinn Fein, Labour and the Social Democrats who are in Opposition. Sinn Fein is now Ireland’s most popular party and as in most European countries the electoral vote is highly fractured.
Opposition from within the Labor Movement to AUKUS is so important. It will take time to development. Time will bring on more economic pain as our trade and investment is diverted away from China.
Penny Wong’s DFAT should be working overtime to alert the government to the threat of an economic downturn and an excessive reliance on interest rate increases over bgood economic diplomacy through continuity in relationships with China. The previous LNP Government was not happy with the investment deals of the Victorian Government with China but Victorian i still the jewel in the crown of the Australian Labor Movement along with WA and SA.
A tug of war is going on behind the scenes between Defence and DFAT which the mainstream media must invetsigate more,
The Admirals here and in the US and Britain are very savvy with their political connections and operate in a similar manner to that fast food jingle with its take the money of those Aussies theme to buy military equipment which Australians do not need. All this is like the junk food campaigns which are contributing to the diabetes epidemic here. AUKUS is not the road to diabetes but towards a debt-burdened national economy of have and have nots.
Denis, thank you for an interesting and well written article.
The media is saturated with pro-AUKUS propaganda. The editors and presenters in the Murdoch reporters won’t be doing any fighting in the event of conflicts in the years ahead.
How can environmental activists in the Labor Movement justify the generation of all that nuclear waste from the new submarines when and if their working life continues to the 2070s?
Under the AUKUS deal, Australia will buy three refurbished US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines from the US by the early 2030s and has an option to buy two additional vessels if required.
The proposed new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines based on a UK design and called the SSN-AUKUS are still on the drawing board and at earliest could start entering service in the 2040’s. Allowing for the fact that these contracts inevitably go over time and over price these dates are highly optimistic and you are probably looking at twenty five years before one is delivered – if ever.
As I mentioned above, technology and AI will by then have rendered this equipment obsolete and only suitable for display in a maritime museum designated as “historical follies of the sea”…
Another interesting read – well researched thanks Denis!