Politics Analysis

China scare campaign bad news for Australia

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The mainstream media's campaign to raise fear of war against China is being blamed for drumming support for military funding (Imageg via Wikimedia Commons)

Recent warmongering by the mainstream media serves no purpose other than to increase military spending, distracting from where the money is truly needed, writes Dr John Jiggens.

IN AN EXTRAORDINARY editorial that was labelled as warmongering by former Prime Minister Paul Keating, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) called for China to be labelled a clear and present threat, argued for the reintroduction of conscription and for long-range missiles armed with nuclear weapons, and urged Australia to prepare for war with China in three years.

The editorial was accompanied by a massive 8,000-word article called Red Alert by an SMH “expert panel” that ran on the front page and spilled over to occupy four inside pages. The SMH’s expert panel was convened by noted China hawk Peter Hartcher and included fellow China hawk, Peter Jennings.  

Jennings had previously been CEO of the Australian Strategic and Policy Institute (ASPI) before he was replaced by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on 29 February 2022, 12 days before the writs for the 2022 Election were issued and the Government went into caretaker mode. Dutton and former PM Scott Morrison then fought the Election on their coming “war with China” policies and the L-NP suffered its most massive electoral defeat ever. 

Dutton replaced Jennings with Justin Bassi, whose previous job was chief of staff to L-NP Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Before that, Bassi had worked in Malcolm Turnbull’s office and before that, for L-NP Attorney-General George Brandis. As well as appointing this ex-Coalition staffer to replace Jennings as head of ASPI, Dutton also appointed former L-NP Ministers John Anderson and Michael Keenan to the board of ASPI. 

ASPI is supposed to be an independent, non-partisan body that provides military and strategic advice to Australian governments. Dutton’s stacking of ASPI’s board with former L-NP ministers and staffers, weeks before an election the L-NP was expected to lose, shreds any lingering doubts about ASPI’s bi-partisanship. Dutton’s selections were bipartisan only in the sense that he chose both a former Liberal and a former National Party minister. All jokes aside, it was surprising that John Barilaro wasn’t appointed to the ASPI board.

Besides Paul Keating, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) was also not amused by the SMH’s China scare propaganda. Its media release called the article ‘rabid media war propaganda’ and ‘an appalling misuse of media ownership... intended to create fear... [and] create support for a heavy increase in military spending’.  

Bevan Ramsden, a spokesperson for IPAN, said that Australian involvement in a U.S. war against China would be a catastrophic disaster for the Australian people:

If the U.S. got into a war with China the main threat to Australia would come from our hosting U.S. military bases and forces in Australia that were supporting that war. We are talking about Pine Gap and North West Cape in Western Australia, which gives the United States communication access to its nuclear submarines in the Indian ocean. 


Even more dangerous is the Force Posture Agreement with the U.S. signed in 2014 by Julie Bishop and David Johnston. This remarkable sell-out of sovereignty provides the United States military with unimpeded access to our ports and to our airfields for their navy and their aircraft. It provides unimpeded access to agreed facilities and places and allows their contractors to build structures and facilities in Australia that will be under their complete control for pre-positioning of their spare parts and their ammunitions in Australia at these facilities, which are entirely under their control.

Bevan Ramsden said that the militarisation of the Northern Territory was going on at this moment. It enabled the U.S. to park their B-52 bombers at the Tindal air base in Darwin.

Mr Ramsden continued: 

“Our government doesn’t even know if they are bringing in nuclear weapons or not because, as Penny Wong admitted in a recent Senate Estimates committee meeting, the U.S. does not confirm or deny if its aircraft or ships are carrying nuclear weapons. So apparently, they don’t care whether they bring them in or not. They could be storing them at the moment in these facilities that are under U.S. control.”

The massive increase in military expenditure, doubling defence spending, that the SMH expert panel recommended, he added, would divert spending from urgent community needs such as bringing our hospitals up to scratch, the urgent need for affordable housing and addressing the impact of climate change. 

Dr John Jiggens is a writer and journalist currently working in the community newsroom at Bay-FM in Byron Bay.

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