The Age exposes the Australian foreign minister as an "agent" under US influence; Murray Hunter asks — is U.S. influence in Australian politics destroying policy objectivity?
JUST AROUND a week ago in Beijing, Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr entered the US-Korea conflict by trying to persuade the Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi to adopt sanctions against North Korea.
On Monday (8 April), an investigative journalist from The Age, after going through 11,000 cables from the U.S. embassy in Canberra and consulates in Sydney and Melbourne, leaked by US Army Private Bradley Manning and published WikiLeaks, found that the current Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr had been briefing the US embassy since the 1970s on both the internal decision making of the Australian Government during the Whitlam Labor Government (1972-75) and internal workings of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
Bob Carr has been Australia's foreign minister for 12 months, replacing Kevin Rudd, who resigned after challenging Julia Gillard for the prime ministership. Carr has been involved in the Australian Labor Party for more than 40 years and was New South Wales premier from 1995-2005.
Carr began his relationship with US embassy officials in the mid 1970s, when he was president of Young Labor and education officer of the NSW Labor Council. According to The Age investigative report Philip Dorling he would regularly brief the US Consul General over labour issues and the prospects of the Labor Government in Canberra. From the information gathered from Carr and also NSW Labor President John Ducker, intelligence reports on Australian politics and labour issues would be sent onto Washington. Leaked US cables to WikiLeaks also indicated that the former Labor Senator Mark Arbib was also a "protected" US embassy source passing on information and commentary on Australian politics.
Bob Carr is very well known for his staunch support for the Australian-US alliance as an non-negotiable pillar of Australian foreign policy and often dismisses critics as being in "emotional silly expression lacking in any substance and characteristic of the silly leftwing fringe of the ALP".
With such rigid advice to the prime minister and cabinet at a time where many academics and commentators like Professor Hugh White of the Australian National University are calling for a re-appraisal of this alliance and much more strategic engagement with China, it is very difficult to see how the Australian Government’s pending 2013 Defense White Paper will signal any major shifts in policy on this matter.
At the very least, hanging on to the Australian-US alliance without any objective appraisal and redefinition may not serve the country's strategy interests in the Asia-Pacific Region well if the U.S. continues a competitive stance against China.
These revelations add to past suspicions by many in the labour movement about members of the party and government (when Labor was in power) who have been involved in close relationships with U.S. officials.
Labor suspicion of U.S. intelligence operating in Australia mainly stems from the election of the reformist and nationalistic Whitlam Labor Government in 1972, after 23 years in opposition. Whitlam immediately pulled Australia out of the Vietnam conflict, recognized the Peoples' Republic of China, campaigned for a nuclear free Indian Ocean, spoke up for Palestinian rights in the United Nations, and opposed French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
In 1973, the then Attorney General of Australia Lionel Murphy led a raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), the equivalent to the U.S. CIA, over concern with the organisation's involvement with the training of fascist Croatian groups, and the launching of terrorist operations from Australian soil. According to the Hope Commission back in 1977, ASIO was handing over to the CIA information on Australian opposition politicians and kept files on all ALP members.
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) was assisting the CIA in undertaking clandestine operations in Cambodia and Chile, even though Australia was officially neutral in Cambodia and supported the Government of Salvador Allende in Chile, without the knowledge of the Australian Government.
Many felt that when the Whitlam Government took measures to control the operations of the US Naval Communications Station on the North-West Cape of Western Australia, the Defence Signals Directorate in Melbourne, the Joint Defense research facility at Pine Gap and Nurrunger in South Australia, that the U.S. became vitally concerned.
After Whitlam discovered that ASIO and ASIS had secretly assisted the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, he dismissed the heads of both organizations. Whitlam then hinted that he may not renew the Pine Gap agreement with the U.S. due for signing on 9th December 1975, which would have severely dented U.S. intelligence gathering ability. Labor mythology believes that the U.S. ambassador to Australia at the time, Marshall Green, had a hand in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in November 1975 by the then Governor General Sir John Kerr. Of course, Kerr's time working for a closely aligned Australian intelligence organization to the U.S. OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, has always added spice to such conspiracy theories.
During the first week after the dismissal of the Labor Government, the army was on stand-by at their barracks in case there were mass demonstrations. However, it was the Australian Council of Trade Unions then president Bob Hawke who summoned the labour movement to be calm. US diplomatic cables also implicate the former prime minister, saying he regularly conferred with the U.S. Consulate in Melbourne during his ACTU years. It was generally believed that the Labor Attaché at the U.S. embassy in Canberra was in reality the CIA station chief (McKnight, D., "Labor and the Quiet Americans", The Age, February 20, 2003, p15). The future Hawke Government, elected in 1984, went on to implement many pro-U.S. initiatives, and prevented public disclosure of documents relating to the Nugan Hand Bank during his term as Prime Minister, which were believed to implicate the CIA with drug trafficking and organized crime,.
This is the first time that leaked U.S. documents have confirmed what many believe to be the truth surrounding U.S. infiltration within the Australian Labor Party. The issue is likely to be very quickly dismissed in Australia by the argument that the U.S. is an ally. However, within these documents there is some proof and support that the U.S. has meddled in the affairs of the Australian union movement and political parties for many years. What is even more astounding is that some Labor politicians showed disloyalty to their party to a foreign power during the Whitlam years.
Bob Carr has been forthright in exposing past politicians as members of the Communist Party of Australia, so should take the accusations against him seriously, either stepping aside for the duration of an inquiry or resigning outright. David Combe's relationship with a Soviet diplomat Valery Ivanov back in 1984 led to swift action on the part of the Hawke Government at the time. In the interests of transparency and sovereignty, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO should conduct an inquiry.