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Ukraine, India, China and Australia: a Khaki Election?

By Geoff Miller

Prime Minister Morrison seems to want to fix in concrete what he says he and we should most fear – a Russia-China “alliance of autocracies.” He treats similar responses to the Ukraine crisis by China and by our fellow Quad member India very differently. Could the coming election be the reason?

In his constant aggressive comments on China, Morrison not only sounds like “the mouse that roared” – to recall an old British movie – given our extremely limited current defence capacity, but also sounds as if he positively wants to bring about what he claims to fear most. He gives room to the claim that China knew in advance what Russia was going to do in Ukraine, though we have no proof of that, and then goes on to demand that China condemn Russia and join in the sanctions against it. He must know that this would be very difficult for China to do, given the wide-ranging agreement between the two countries announced during the Winter Olympics. He also pays no attention to the facts that China has not supported Russia in the votes in the Security Council and General Assembly, and that Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that every country is entitled to have its sovereignty and territory respected, and that that applies to Ukraine. According to very recent reports China has also offered to act as mediator between Russia and Ukraine, with which it has quite strong relations in various fields.

Rather than seeking to make the most of these actions, statements and possible opportunities, as the United States through Secretary Blinken has reportedly been doing, Morrison seems to have taken every opportunity simply to demand publicly that China condemn Russia and join in the sanctions against it, to claim that China has formed an “autocratic alliance” with Russia and will at some point act against Taiwan as Russia has against Ukraine, and that we and our Quad partners and others must therefore arm ourselves to oppose this.

But what about the Quad partner, India, that has, like China, a long, serious, and complicated relationship with Russia? It, like China, abstained on the Russia resolutions in the United Nations. But, according to a report in the Weekend Australian of 5-6 March, Morrison said on 4 March that he could not draw an “equivalence between India and China whatsoever” in their responses to the Ukrainian crisis, saying that Beijing was working in “instinctive alignment” with Putin’s regime, while India was “seeking to ensure that the violence ends.”

In his remarks Morrison has almost seemed to be including China in his condemnation of what Russia, not China, is doing. Is it sensible to be running them together like this? In an article in The Australian of 7 March Ben Scott, who directs the project on Australia’s Security and Rules Based Order at the Lowy Institute, takes a different tack. He writes that:

“Putin may not have fully disclosed his intentions to Xi and China is clearly uncomfortable about being associated with Russia’s behaviour… Beijing abstained rather than vetoed a UN Security Council resolution ‘deploring ‘ the invasion. So Biden should continue refraining from speaking of China and Russia as common foes and seek to engage Xi and Putin separately.”

One would think that that advice applies as much to Morrison as to Biden.

In taking the line he does Morrison is also ignoring the clearly intentional and authorised conciliatory remarks made by the recently arrived and senior Chinese Ambassador, who called for Australia and China to try to meet each other halfway – not an offer which one would think should be ignored, coming as it does from our major trading partner and the most consequential country in Asia.

So what is it all about? It is hard not to conclude that Morrison’s fervent embrace of the simplistic “autocracies versus democracies” world-view, his demonisation of China and his enthusiasm for weaponry essentially designed to combat only it, reveal his intention to run a national security, “khaki” election campaign. Indeed in his address to the Lowy Institute on 7 March he made clear that he will run in part on the claim that the Coalition has superior national security credentials. So we know what to expect, but we should take his claims with a grain of salt, not regard them as necessarily corresponding too closely to the real world – and hope that the campaign does not do too much harm to our national interests.

Geoff Miller is a former diplomat and government official. He was Director-General, Office of National Assessments, deputy secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Japan and the Republic of Korea, and High Commissioner to New Zealand.


This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations.


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  1. New England Cocky

    I am far more concerned with the seditious behaviour of the foreign owned main stream media-ocrity and their one sided biased misleading reporting of the so-called ”news”.

    But wait ….. then there are the the foreign owned multinational mining corporations being paid to drift through various government offices, including Prime Minister & Cabinet (PMC), spreading the ”wisdom” of exploiting CSG for the benefit of their foreign based shareholders while paying little/no taxation in Australia thanks to Australia so-called ”taxation” laws.

    Making a song & dance on the world stage does not obfuscate the complete lack of feral government policies NOT MADE during the past nine (9) years of misgovernment. Really, it is too many ill-trained ”Publicity Officers” in the PMC office regurgitating press releases between lattes because the politicians lack the capability to actually do anything other than mouth platitudes to keep their very profitable incumbencies.

  2. James O'Neill

    Morrison is arguably a threat to Australia’s National well being. He should be removed and tried for his crimes. He has joined the Ukraine war without the least possible mandate; is destroying the relationship with China, the world’s number one economy; and is acting in a way that is inconsistent with Australia’s interests. If only the LaborParty had the gumption to act in the national interest instead of following a “me too” reaction to every government mis-step one might be tempted to vote for them. Instead, my vote will go elsewhere.

  3. GL

    Ignore Bob’s link it leads you to utter crap like –

    Monica is, according to her, “Australia’s first political prisoner. ” and a rabid anti-vaxxer amongst other things.

    Malcolm Roberts.
    Joining up with Clive’s party – https://www.unitedaustraliaparty.org.au/video/reignite-democracy-australia-is-joining-craig-kelly-and-uap/.

    It’s Bob trying yet again to foist his conspiracy/lunacy/anti-vaxxer bullshit upon us.

  4. David Stakes

    This is a Governments year of Living Dangerously. Need to be removed before they cause irreparable damage.

  5. Andrew J. Smith

    On the article in The Australian of 7 March Ben Scott, this linkage between Putin-Xi has been stressed in US media (till recently), inc. NYT, Fox, WSJ etc. as a way to claim Biden-Democrats ‘weak’ (this also occurred first time in 2014 with Obama); midterms coming up and GOP all over the place.

    Locally, of course, it’s been directed at Labor e.g. ‘Manchurian candidates’ as agitprop for rusted on legacy media audiences in the important above median age vote.

  6. wam

    When scummo et al require no supporting evidence or facts for their announcements, it seems easy to attack their inactive actions???
    Ou est tu, Albo?

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