Foiled at Toronto: The Tiger Squad’s Canadian Outing

Silencing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul was a feat of primeval…

COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United…

Continued from: COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or…

Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: No More Exemptions for…

By Denis Bright  Authorities at state and federal levels have been less than…

Busy, Busy, Busy !

It was another busy morning at the Trump White House. Morning tweets…

Death From the Sky: Hiroshima and Normalised Atrocities

When US President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop the…

Climate Snippets #2

Electric carsChris Mitchell wrote in The Australian, July 6, 2020 (pay walled)…

'Aged care' should be exactly that, and not…

As Prime Minister, Scott Morrison must take responsibility for aged care.Most people…

Living with uncertainty

Over 20 years ago, Paul Kelly published 'The End of Certainty', about…


Tag Archives: defence

Is the “Defence Land Grab” Turnbull’s “Carbon Tax Lie?”

In 2010, Tony Abbott, supported by the media in epic proportions, touted Gillard’s infamous “Carbon Tax Lie” as THE lie that cost Abbott the Prime Ministership. Moving forward to 2017, an even bigger lie has been revealed. This just may be THE lie which allowed Turnbull to hang on by the skin of his teeth to power.  This lie is the Turnbull Government remained silent on the compulsory acquisition of farming land in Central Queensland for supplying land to the Singaporean Army for defence training.

Lust for Power and Political Lies

When the lust for political power is such that it sees citizens denied their rights, or it denies voters to make an informed vote, it is up to all of us to stand up against that.

Prior to the election in May 2016, the LNP MP for Capricornia, Michelle Landry announced that the Turnbull Government was investing in defence at Shoalwater Bay.  Landry was pleased to announce that this would pump millions into the local economy and it was a positive for small business.

In all instances, Michelle Landry framed the Shoalwater Bay investment in terms of an upgrade, implicitly insinuating that the upgrade was to existing facilities. Landry omitted the cold hard facts that this also included, or had even the potential to include compulsory acquisition of nearby farming land, owned by local farmers for generations (see maps in link above).

In addition, Bill Byrne, QLD Labor Minister for Agriculture has also accused Defence Minister Marise Payne of misleading the Senate.

QLD Labor Minister Byrne said that:

“There is no doubt in my mind that vital information was withheld to gain electoral advantage, and I am raising the possibility that Minister Payne… misled the senate estimates hearing,”

How Long Have They Known?

On 18th March, 2016, Defence Minister Payne issued a press release which detailed the enhanced development of training operations between Singapore and Australia.


Therefore, in March 2016, the Defence Minister, Minister for Trade and Investment, Special Envoy for Trade and the Foreign Minister knew that an increase of Singaporean Troops was earmarked or military training facilities. The question is:

Did not one of these Ministers have any awareness that this increase would indeed require an expansion to the military training areas?

Was this promise made without even developing an understanding of how it might impact on people living in the region or the impact on our economy?

Has the Member for Capricornia, shown absolutely no interest in asking her own Party about any perceived negative impacts on the constituency she is supposed to represent? 

Do You Even Budget?

The Federal Budget papers do not detail any expenses for upgrading the Military Operations in Shoalwater Bay.

However, in capital expenses, the Government does commit to $29.9 billion over 10 years from 2016‑17 to 2025‑26 to support initiatives in the Defence White paper which includes:

A number of ADF training areas in northern Australia will receive upgrades by 2020, including Shoalwater Bay (Queensland)

Once again, Shoalwater Bay and Townsville are only discussed as upgrades and not as an expansion.

In October, Senator Payne took a question from Senator McDonald regarding the memorandum of understanding with Singapore. Senator Payne detailed that the Singaporean Army will invest “around $2.25 billion in upgrades to Australian training areas while up to 14,000 Singaporean troops will join our own for training for up to 18 weeks per year in Australia.”

However, in Senator Payne’s response in the Senate, she details that this inclusion in the Defence White Paper includes increasing international defence engagement. The CSP will particularly enhance training area access and joint development of facilities.

Shoalwater Bay Expansion

The expansion was announced in the Senator on 8th November. Senator Payne advised the house that she would make sure that ADF would conduct extensive engagement and consultation. This has not occurred and Farmers were advised via a letter of the compulsory acquisition of Land, a shock to many. The Coalition Government decided upon compulsory acquisition of land without consulting Farmers. 

This afternoon I updated the Senate on how the Government is engaging with local businesses and community leaders in Central and North Queensland ahead of the implementation of the Military Training Agreement with Singapore.

Posted by Marise Payne on Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The strategic partnership is detailed as developed in May, the White Paper states upgrades as an aim. However, in May, 2016, the Government did not detail any expenses for an expansion, just an ‘upgrade.’ The Government knew the increase in Singaporean Personnel and the aims of the strategic plan, at least in May. Why did they not question the logistics of this increase? QLD Minister Bill Byrne goes into much more depth here.

Lies or Incompetence?

The Government either hid the information regarding the compulsory acquisition of farming land from voters prior to the election, or they were incompetent in their planning with the Singaporean Army in the land area that was required to achieve the aims of the strategic plan.

If the Government was evasive and did not disclose in May that this land was a necessity to acquire by force of compulsory acquisition, then the Government is also incompetent by excluding the loss of revenue from Beef Producers in the region in the Agriculture revenue within the Budget. This will rip approximately 100,000 head of cattle from our local producers and severely impact on the two meat works in Rockhampton.  Rockhampton is the Beef Capital of Australia. This Defence threat to farmer’s land will hand this title to Casino in NSW.

The Defence Land Grab Lie

To put the omission of the compulsory acquisition of farming land into perspective of the infamous “Carbon Tax Lie” is that the Coalition rests on just 76 seats. Just enough to form Government. The Carbon Tax Lie was touted by the Coalition and by the media as the lie that denied Abbott the Prime Ministership.

In Queensland the Coalition won 21 seats. There are quite a number of seats in QLD that the coalition holds onto with very slim margins. Michelle Landry’s seat of Capricornia scraped through with only 1111 votes, with the majority of Liberal votes coming from the rural areas via postal votes. The nearby seat of Flynn, saw the local Labor candidate, Zac Beers, almost decimated O’Dowd’s comfortable seat, leaving O’Dowd with a swing against him of -8.96. Capricornia was one of the deciding seats in the election. Flynn now sits on a margin of 2.08, 1,814 votes.

These are just some examples of regional seats in Queensland, where the Liberal National Coalition and indeed the local LNP MPs fighting to keep their seats would know full well that attacks on our farming community and a farmers land grab would have banished at least Landry and O’Dowd into oblivion.

In Regional Queensland regardless of whether we live in town, or out on a property, or what our traditional political beliefs are, everyone is united in standing up for the farmers. No doubt, many Australians feel the way regional Queenslanders do and would have voted accordingly.

Announcements Before the Election

As detailed above in March, the Defence Minister met with Singapore to discuss mutual aims for Defence, including access and development of training facilities. From May, the Coalition were spruiking their deal with the Singaporean Army, which would bring 14,000 Singaporeans to the region for training.  The ADF website details that:

“Identifying a remote parcel of land for Singapore Armed Forces training was considered during development of the agreement, but was dismissed due to the limited benefit for the Australian Defence Force.”

Therefore, in May, the Coalition knew full well that an expansion was required. In no instance, did Michelle Landry or Marise Payne identify the expansion and what land was to be (initially) used. They simply implicitly stated that they were ‘upgrading existing facilities’ to house the increase of Singaporeans.

The revelation that the Liberal National Government had no contingency plan if this ‘parcel of land’ detailed above fell over and that would mean forced acquisition of farming land, speaks to the either a cover up and deceit to voters or blatant incompetence.

How the LNP Duped Voters – Psychological Projection

Psychological projection is a tried and true campaign style of the LNP, particularly in Queensland.  Psychological projection is when someone takes their undesirable feelings or beliefs and projects them onto others, with take the focus of them and project it onto others.

For example, if the Liberals stated the opposition would ‘harm families’ but knew it was their party and not the opposition, that had a plan to abolish funding that would harm families. This is psychological  projection. This technique is also used by Republicans in America.

Setting up for the Campaign

On the 4th May, the Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry posed a question to the Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce. This question was put forward to demonstrate how much the LNP invest in helping farmers. This is such a contradiction in terms to the real truth that an expansion would heavily impact on Beef production and supply for the Capricornia region. Landry had already established a platform that LNP supports farmers and Labor does not prior to the election. That smells very much like a precursor for the campaign strategy below.

At the Norman Road booth in Capricornia, where I handed out HTV cards, Landry’s fly-in campaigners from down south (because her local volunteers do not appear to be in abundance) were screaming:

“Labor Hates Farmers!!!” 

They were also telling voters not to vote for the Katter Party or Glenn Lazurus as “they are funded by the dirty filthy unions.”  The absolute hatred for the worker by the LNP in Capricornia also runs deep.

If this was the campaign style at one booth, then it would stand to reason that this was the campaign strategy at many booths.

The truth in this, is that whilst Landry’s mob were screaming “Labor Hates Farmers!!” it was indeed Landry’s mob who were getting set to do the dirty on farmers in the Capricornia region.

Labor Supports Farmers

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, QLD Minister Bill Byrne, QLD MPs Jim Pearce and Brittany Lauga and Federal Senator Murray Watt, have organised forums and rallies to give these Farmers a voice.  Brittany Lauga also organised counselling services for local farmers as, readers would appreciate the impact on their emotional health with this decision is heartbreaking and as Lauga said, quite urgent.

Please see the video below from the Rally, including a brilliant speech from local Farmer, Pip Rea.

Shoalwater rally against defence land grabs.

Posted by Queensland Country Life on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Never Underestimate the Vote in QLD

We have already seen what happens in QLD when the Government defies the wishes of the electorate.  In 2012, QLD Labor were banished to seven seats, for selling QLD Rail. In 2015, the LNP were thrown out of office after one term, with Labor taking 37 seats from the opposition for a total of 44 seats. Our assets are not for sale. Not now. Now ever.

Similar anger would have been felt from Queenslanders, on July 2, if they knew about the compulsory acquisition of farming land. This would have most certainly resulted in a very different parliament than we have today.

What You Can Do

Yesterday, the Federal Government said they would look at ‘alternatives’ due to the outcry from local farmers. However, local farmers are not satisfied, with some suggesting this is just to take the heat off of the first week in Parliament.

Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister personally and The QLD Premier has requested COAG be held in Rockhampton.

“IF he has any guts he will come here and face you.”
Annastacia Palaszczuk, QLD Premier, commenting on the Prime Minister “The Rally” Rockhampton 1st February, 2017.

However, that is not a victory.  A victory is no forced compulsory acquisition of farming land.  That is the outcome local farmers want.

To support Farmers you can like and encourage friends to like the Marlborough Defence Land Grab Facebook Page

Sign and share the Stop the Australian Farm Land being Blown Up Petition

Write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, Defence Minister Marise Payne and your local member and insist upon no forced compulsory acquisition of farming land for Defence Training to accommodate the Singaporean Army

Listen and Share Ray Hadley’s scathing interview with Barnaby Joyce linked below:

Renting our Land to the Singaporeans

Barnaby: If we say we will never forcibly acquire anything, we will never build another road, we will never build another dam…..

Hadley: Yeh but they are not giving it to the Singaporeans…….

Hadley: Barnaby, Barnaby, the one thing we never get involved in is BS…..

One thing Hadley is right about – this entire thing is B.S. 


The Maintenance of Madness: How Australia Funded a Warlord in Afghanistan

The Federal Cabinet has approved the deployment of about 300 additional Australian troops to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic State. The deployment will be for two years from the middle of may, and the troops join 200 existing special forces troops already in deployment in the region.

The Australian contingent will be joined by more than 100 New Zealand military personnel. They will be based at Taji military complex north of Baghdad, which is considered an “enduring base” by the United States Military, one of 14 such bases in the country.

Prime Minister Abbott made statements regarding the deployment at a press conference on the 3rd of March this year.

“We won’t have a combat role. It’s a training mission, not a combat mission. This is not just about Iraq, this is about our national security.”

A casual glance at the history of conflict in the Middle East will show that military intervention does not, as the government claims, increase national security, in fact it performs the exact opposite function, creating heavily armed and motivated militia groups with the spurious justification of prior Western aggression for their continued aggression.

Defence Department secretary Dennis Richardson has let it slip that highly trained military personnel, likely indirectly trained by US or Coalition forces, make up the leadership of ISIS:

“[ISIS] is led by experienced former Iraqi generals and others with substantial military experience.”

ISIS is, in effect, the current incarnation of AQI, or Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a branch of the central body of Al-Qaeda with links to Osama Bin Laden and notable members of the terrorist organisation. Older readers and the more historically astute will remember that the United States was responsible for training and arming mujahideen forces against the then Soviet Union during its war in Afghanistan, including Bin Laden and his compatriots, who later became instrumental in forming the modern day iteration of Al-Qaeda.

The official reason for deployment is to help the Iraqi government prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counter-attack against Islamic State and regain control of its territory.

Abbott noted that Australian personnel will “not be working with irregulars, we don’t work with informal, armed groups.”

It turns out that this statement is entirely false and doesn’t accord with the documentary record.

Around November 2010, under the then Gillard government, six senior militia fighters loyal to Afghan warlord Matiullah Khan were flown to Australia to train with elite special forces as part of a “covert strategy to strengthen military operations against the Taliban.”

Matiullah Khan is known in the press as “Australia’s biggest ally in Afghanistan”. His uncle is former Uruzgan governor Jan Mohammed Khan, who has a reputation for corruption, brutality and double dealing.

In a few short years he went from being a taxi driver to a millionaire running security for NATO convoys in the area. He was appointed chief of police in Uruzgan province, despite numerous allegations of human rights abuses. There are reports that he has dealings with drug smugglers and Taliban insurgents.

We have contracted with his private army, Kandak Amniante Uruzgan, to provide security services to the bases around his compound in the Uruzgan province.

Under an arrangement with the Ministry of the Interior, the Australian Government pays for roughly 600 of Matiullah’s 1,500 fighters, including Matiullah himself, despite the fact that the force is not under government control or oversight.

Matiullah Kahn was killed in Kabul earlier this year in March by a suicide bomber.

From the Pakistani Daily Times:

“Khan’s militia has been involved in mass murder, rape and abductions of men and women.

The New York Times reported that he was earning $ 2.5 million a month through highway robbery, abduction, drug trafficking and extortion. Once, Khan warned his opponents that he could eliminate them by purchasing suicide bombers with the money he received from the Australian army.

WikiLeaks of the US embassy pinned him as a stand-over merchant, a wealthy warlord and drug trafficker.

Australian intelligence knew he was a corrupt war criminal but, despite the US army’s opposition, the Australian army and intelligence corps lobbied to make him an inspector general of the Uruzgan police in 2011.”

From Green Left Weekly, citing a story published in the Dutch Daily, De Pers:

“The extent of Matiullah’s brutality was shown in a massacre reported on by the July 18 Dutch daily De Pers.

The paper said the previous month, Matiullah’s army made a surprise attack on a meeting of 80 people in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province. Five people were killed in the ensuing shootout.

The remaining 75 were knifed to death.

Mohammed Daoud, the district chief of Chora, told De Pers: “As torture, they were first stabbed in the shoulders and legs. The corpses were treated with chemicals to make them unrecognisable.””

In this interview released several days before his death, the contents of Matiullah’s office suite are described as containing “plaques of appreciation from the Australian Federal Police” and a “boxed boomerang – a gift from Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, formerly head of the Australian Defence Force.

From the same interview, detailing a raid on a nearby village by Jan Mohammed Khan and Matiullah Khan:

“One man told me how his son was made to lie on the ground – and then they drove a truck over his head.”

These accounts are horrifying, and our complicity in them more so. Indirect involvement in these abuses, though despicable, could be rationalised as a product of the idea that we are working towards some greater good, and indeed, it seems this is the justification for our involvement from many of the sources mentioned in the above interview and publications.

Our direct involvement in war crimes in the region however, cannot be rationalised away.

Reports from The Age in 2009 describe cover-ups by the ADF of attacks on civilians by SAS soldiers in Iraq around 2006-7. The attacks in November 2007 resulted in the murders of three men, two women and one child in a house that allegedly belonged to an insurgent.

In the same month, the newspaper reported the use of SAS patrols as death squads, carrying out assassinations in Afghanistan.

One has to ask the question: how exactly does action of this sort confer an increase in our national security? If the Iraqi military is to be trained by the same forces responsible for the financial support of a local warlord and who have engaged in war crimes of their own, I don’t see it as unreasonable to suppose that ethics and adherence to international law will be covered as an afterthought, if at all.

The approach of fighting fire with fire has been an abject failure in stemming the tide of radicalised Islamic extremism in the Middle Eastern theatre, and this new deployment of troops into the region is simply more of the same.

We cannot hope to bring peace to the Middle East with the sword.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

Captain Confrontation

Whenever Tony Abbott takes on his tough guy approach his popularity in the polls seems to rise, or more accurately, his unpopularity wanes a little.  The smirk disappears, the slow measured speech, mind-numbing repetition and finger-counting disappears, and Tony comes as close as he gets to sincerity.  He seems to enjoy confrontation and relish in a belligerent reaction.  And it has always been thus.

Whilst at Sydney University, Tony led an aggressive rightwing revolt against the leftwing orthodoxies of the late 70s and the campus was covered with anti-Abbott graffiti.

In a 2004 article by the Sydney Morning Herald, one former student who was at Sydney University with Tony Abbott, Barbie Schaffer, described Tony Abbott as “very offensive, a particularly obnoxious sort of guy” and also being “very aggressive, particularly towards women and homosexuals”.

During this time, Tony  was charged with bending a street sign, accused of indecent assault, of kicking in a glass panel after being defeated at the University Senate elections in 1976, and, after having being defeated by Barbara Ramjan for the SRC presidency, approaching her, moving to within an inch of her nose, and punching the wall on both sides of her head.

Abbott’s willingness to confront people continued at Oxford.

In May 1982, six days after the British sinking of the Argentinian warship General Belgrano, with 323 killed, an Oxford demonstration took place against Thatcher’s military campaign in the Falklands. Hundreds of chanting students and locals converged on the Martyrs’ Memorial, a traditional gathering place for protesters.

Abbott hurriedly scraped together a dozen fellow rightwingers from Queen’s, rushed to the memorial, and mounted a counter-demonstration in favour of the British war effort. Provocatively, he stood beside the peace protesters, one hand in his pocket, bellowing pro-Thatcher slogans.  “Police attempts to disperse [his] unofficial meeting met with little response”.

Of his time at St Patrick’s seminary, vice-rector Fr Bill Wright wrote of Tony that many found him “just too formidable to talk to unless to agree; overbearing and opiniated”.

“Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

When the Church made a generous and unprecedented offer to accommodate Tony’s demands that he would prefer to study than do pastoral care and about where he would like to live and study, Tony rejected their offer and subsequently left.  Fr Wright asserts that

“Once Tony had beaten the system and was no longer able to locate the ‘struggle’ as being between himself and authority, he had no-one much else blocking his path but himself.”

We have all heard about Tony decking Joe Hockey at football but what you may not realise is that they played for the same club and the stoush happened at training.  Joe regularly played in the thirds and often got a run in the first XV but Tony, who was 10 years older and coached and sometimes captained the seconds, refused to pick Joe.  Hockey admits he didn’t like the way Abbott ran the team. By his own admission, he was also abrasive. Joe didn’t like his selections and didn’t mind telling him so.  So when Hockey saw the opportunity, he went straight for Abbott’s kidneys.  Tony’s reaction was “a blistering array of uppercuts, hay-makers and wild swings” which left Hockey unconscious with two black eyes.

Tony was writing for the Bulletin at this time and actually led a strike.

“When I was at the Bulletin, ACP management one day, quite unilaterally, decided to sack the entire photographic department ….we were all shocked, stunned, dismayed, appalled, flabbergasted – when management just came in and said they were sacking the photographic department. So we immediately had a stop work meeting. There were various appropriately angry speeches made and I moved the resolution to go on strike, which was carried, as far as I can recall, unanimously, and we went on strike for a couple of days.”

From there Tony moved on to briefly manage a concrete plant and very quickly found himself causing a total shutdown through his inept handling of employees.  Tony explained what happened in a 2001 interview with Workers Online.

“The ideology of the company was, in those days, was that the concrete industry had been run for far too long for the benefit of the owner-drivers and not enough for the benefit of the company and its shareholders – and we had to change that. So, like an obedient young fella I got to the plant in the morning, marched up and down the line of trucks like a Prussian army officer, telling owner-drivers who had been in the industry for longer than I had been alive, that that truck was too dirty, and that truck was filthy, and that truck had a leaking valve and had to be fixed.

Naturally enough, this wasn’t very popular, and I had been there a couple of months, and a phone call came through one morning from the quarry manager, saying that there was going to be a strike starting at midday, so can we put a bit of stuff on the road to you. And I said sure, send me as much as you’ve got. I’ll use it. I can keep my plant open for longer than I otherwise might.

I didn’t think anymore about it. All these trucks turn up at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon with gravel and sand and aggregate, wanting to dump it. And I couldn’t dump it without running material from the ground bins up to the overhead bins. It took me about half an hour to figure out how to turn the conveyor belt on because all the staff had gone home. I finally got it going; the materials were dumped; I went home feeling that I had done my job well. A phone call came through at 5.30 the next morning from the senior plant operator saying: “Did you turn the conveyor belt on yesterday?”. I said “Yeh”. He says “Right – nothing moves – this plant’s black – like to see you get yourself out of this little fix Sonny Boy!”

So anyway, I drove out to the plant that morning, thinking well, you know, this is a bit of a problem. How do I solve this? I thought that there’s really only one thing to do, and that’s to beg. So I got over there and I said to the senior plant operator. I said: “Stan I’m sorry. I’m new in this industry. I appreciate that I’ve been a bit of a so-and-so, but you’ve made your point and I will try to be different.”

He said to me: “It’s out of my hands. It’s in the hands of the union organiser.” So I said, who’s the union organiser and what’s his number? I rang him and I sort of begged and pleaded, and he said: “It’s more than my job’s worth to let this go. Bloody Pioneer are always pulling stunts like this. We’ve had enough of it! We’re sick of it! Got to do something.” So I said, well, look why don’t we put the old final warning. That if I ever do this again, I’ll be run out of the industry. And there was silence on the end of the phone, and after about ten seconds he said: “I’m putting you on a final warning mate, if this ever happens again you will be run out of the industry.”

Tony left soon after and began writing for the Australian.  When they went on strike over pay and conditions, Tony was by now campaigning on the side of management, arguing in front of six to seven hundred people at the lower Trades Hall in Sussex Street that they shouldn’t go on strike.  His speech did not meet with a particularly warm reception and the strikes went ahead.

When Tony became Minister for Industrial Relations in 2001, when trying to sell his workplace agreements, he said “I would have thought that sensible, intelligent organisations – unions no less than political parties like to say that if you are not against me you are at least potentially for me. Whereas the union I think is saying, if you are not for me you are against me, which I think is a counter-productive attitude.”  Pity he didn’t think of that before coming up with Team Australia.

As Health Minister in 2004, Abbott defended John Howard’s decision to invade Iraq.

“As the critics constantly point out, war means that innocent people die. Unfortunately, any peace which leaves tyrants in charge also means that innocent people die. Pacifism is an honourable course of action for an individual prepared to suffer the consequences of turning the other cheek. But requiring collective non-resistance is complicity in evil. It’s an odd moral universe where the accidental killing of Iraqis by soldiers of the Western alliance is worse than the deliberate killing of Iraqis by Saddam Hussein or where it’s immoral to risk hundreds of Western lives to save hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.”

Tony has continued the tough guy rhetoric in recent times, offending China, Russia, Indonesia, Palestine, Malaysia, PNG, East Timor, and most Muslims.  He is amplifying the danger to our national security every chance he gets (whilst admitting the actual threat has not changed) and is spending unending billions on defence, armaments, border protection, and anti-terrorist initiatives.

Captain Confrontation has chosen the ground and brought out the heavy roller to prepare the pitch for the spinners.

Australia-Japan Defence Agreements – Is the Abbott Government An Over-Eager Ninja?


This week Japanese Prime-Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Australia.

During his visit, Mr. Abe will conduct trade negotiations between Australia and Japan, address the Australian Parliament on Tuesday, and sign a defence technology sharing agreement as well as attending a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet.

Abe’s visit marks a significant strengthening of ties between Australia and Japan, particularly military ties.

The agreement is the culmination of Defence Minister David Johnston’s visit to Japan last month, and paves the way for Japan to provide Australia with the technology to build stealth submarines.

 Prime Minster Abe’s visit comes hard on the heels of his announcement that Japan could now take a more active role in international peace-keeping through UN charters and was able to respond to an armed attack on any close partner of Japan and where there was a danger to the Japanese people.

In making the declaration, Abe has sidestepped Article 9 of the Japanese constitution which prohibits the maintenance of armed forces for purposes of war.

The move has not been popular in Japan, and Abe’s popularity has taken a sharp dip in the polls.

It has been even less popular with China, and has served to heighten tensions between Tokyo and Beijing which regards Abe’s interpretation of the Japanese constitution as disingenuous, and further proof of Japan’s willingness to contain the rise of China in the Asia Pacific region at the behest of the United States.

 In the light of the US assurance to come to the aid of Japan should it be attacked – a clear reference to the ongoing dispute over sovereignty of the Diayou islands – it can be argued that China has strong grounds for concern.

In a situation that is already fraught with danger and steadily escalating, neither Abe or Obama seem aware of the lessons and ironies of history.

When placing a total embargo that included oil supplies on Japan following its invasion of Northern Indochina in 1941, the US believed that Japan would not go to war and could be made to back down over its territorial ambitions in Asia including withdrawing all of its forces from China.

For its part, Japan believed that the risk of war with America was morally justified and that the United States would soon tire of war. Internationally, Britain was on the verge of collapse and Germany appeared to be on the brink of victory.

This left Japan to face America single handed.

In attacking the US at Pearl Harbor, Japanese militarists staked their hopes on the fact of Japan’s supposedly superior spiritual power, its shorter line of supply, and the physical hardiness of its people would offset the industrial advantages of the US.

Both nations assessments of the others capabilities and determination proved to be tragically wrong.

There are now similarities between China’s present situation and that of Japan in the 1930s.

Following a breathtaking series of reforms to modernize in an age of empire but largely shunned by the West, Japan regarded itself as the late man to the feast.

The Japanese were determined to catch up and exert their influence in colonial Asia through the ‘Greater East Co-prosperity Sphere.’

The result of their efforts left an indelible stain on Japanese culture.

Similarly to Japan, China has modernized with great speed, and now insists on restoring what it considers to be its rightful place in the Asia Pacific region including territorial claims.

China’s stance has put it at odds with the US which is determined to preserve its own hegemony in Asia.

To this end, Washington appears keen to revive the Cold War tactic of ‘containment’ of China using Japan as the northern end of the ‘boundary’ and Australia as the southern end.

Under the Abe government, Japan appears to be more than agreeable to participate in Washington’s plans, as does the Australian government under the Coalition.

In the case of Japan, America was able to coerce far less right leaning Japanese governments than Shinzo Abe’s to partake in both the first and second Gulf Wars -albeit in a ‘support role’ – by raising concerns over oil supply.

In Australia’s case, no coercion is necessary.

Australian governments, particularly Coalition led governments have always found the smell of cordite pleasing and have been happy to respond to the call to arms with alacrity.

While an eagerness to embrace a more militarist Japan through defence technology agreements may seem appealing to the Abbott government who possibly view it as a step to further free trade agreements with Tokyo, while at the same time pleasing Washington, the realpolitic would suggest that in the long term it places Australia’s relations with China and the rest of Asia at great risk.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, has attempted to downplay the defence technology agreement and portray it as a greater availability of cheaper Japanese cars and electronic goods, and refused to admit that the technology is for the primary purpose of building submarines.

Robb’s assurances that Australia’s signing of a defence agreement with Japan is a part of firming security agreements with both China and Korea through trade is at the least, a misguided optimism in the face of the United States determination to retain hegemony in Asia through the containment of China.

In signing the agreement with Japan, the Abbott and Abe governments would do well to remember that agreements are not treaties, and that treaties between small nations and their super power allies only favour the latter and will serve their own interests first and that of their allies a distant second.

The Abbott government however, seems to be firmly of the opinion that the US will maintain its influence in the Asia Pacific region no matter what the circumstance, and seems equally determined to enmesh Australia in US foreign policy in the belief that like Britain at the turn of the 20th century, US military might will triumph over all.

The reality is that Australia’s armed forces are too small to make any significant contribution should conflict occur between China and Japan, and certainly could not withstand a determined and well armed invader, nor can it rely on the US to come to its aid.

While fostering better relations between Australia and Japan is highly desirable, it should not be at the expense of harming Australia’s relations with China.

In a recent conference on US-China relations held at ANU’s Crawford School of Global Affairs, Chinese academic Wu Xinbo observed that it was up to Australia to pursue its alliances in the region to the extent that it harms its relations with China.

Wu added that while China did not pursue alliances but rather concentrated its foreign and defence policies on having the minimum of enemies.

For the sake of Australia’s future trade ties and its furthering of relations with Asia as a whole, the Abbott government would do well to heed his words.

Scroll Up