The 2019 Election and a history of Australian coups

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Rupert Murdoch and the U.S. often pull the strings in Australian politics (Image by Dan Jensen)

Australian political outcomes have a history of being influenced by the USA and the Murdoch media, writes Davey Heller.

THE GREAT LIE of global politics is that far-Right governments are gaining power due to an organic groundswell of support from below. The truth is that such governments are being fostered by sections of the ruling class — to divide and, if necessary, smash the working class in the face of the ongoing conditions of the capitalist crisis and the concomitant threat of socialist revolution. The recent victory of the Morrison Liberal Party on 18 May in Australia illustrates this international trend.

The key moment in Scott Morrison’s victory did not happen during the election campaign but rather, in fact, nine months earlier in May 2018. This was the moment that Malcolm Turnbull was toppled as PM in an internal Liberal Party coup and Morrison installed as leader as part of a push to transform the Liberal Party into a far-Right Trumpian political party.

Turnbull was fully in support of the security alliance with the U.S., however, he also represented the faction within the ruling class concerned with moving too aggressively against China, therefore endangering the vast profits which flow through from sales to China. That this alienated Trump was indicated by Stephen Bannon (top Trump ally and former advisor), who stated in an interview on the ABC filmed shortly before Turnbull’s removal, “I think Turnbull has been way too much of an appeaser and I think that’s not going to turn out well”.

In addition to the “China” question, Trump had another motivation for removing the more moderate Turnbull. In a process that began under Obama in Ukraine, but greatly accelerated under Trump, the U.S. continues to support far-Right and openly fascist governments in order to further its imperialist aims.

As Trump continues to pursue his “Make America Great Again” campaign, an openly unilateral strategy promoting the far Right has become a tool to smash the multilateral institutions which defined the post-World War 2 order and confront Russia and China in particular. This has included supporting far-Right parties and governments in Hungary, Poland, Brazil, India and elsewhere.

The Australian ruling class supports the U.S. alliance as it provides the necessary political and military support to pursue its aims of profiting from the resources of the Asia-Pacific. However, the U.S. military and security complex has integrated itself within the Australian establishment in order to ensure its interests are also protected.

These forces were at work in the removal of Turnbull. For example, two of the key Liberal Party figures in Turnbull’s removal were former special forces officer and head of the Senate intelligence committee, Andrew Hastie and former army general, Jim Molan.

The former Australian-now U.S. citizen and far-Right billionaire media oligarch, Rupert Murdoch, is another key asset of the U.S. to ensure its interests are protected.

The Guardian explained in the article A very Australian coup: Murdoch, Turnbull and the power of News Corp, the enormous sway News Corp has in the Australian media landscape:

‘News Corp Australia dominates the country’s media sector, with 58 per cent of daily newspaper circulation; a swathe of regional newspapers, the only national broadsheet, the Australian; the only pay TV network, Foxtel, which broadcasts the Murdoch-owned Sky News; and the most-viewed website, news.com.au.’

Murdoch used this power to its fullest to oust Turnbull by flying into Australia in the week before the coup to personally oversee operations. Turnbull himself identified Murdoch as a key player in his removal. Turnbull went public with the claim that Murdoch had rung Kerry Stokes (owner of national TV Channel 7) in the days prior to Turnbull’s removal to argue that the PM needed to be removed. According to The Guardian, Turnbull rang Murdoch himself to complain after failed challenger Peter Dutton first tilted at the leadership.

This is not the first time the U.S. and Murdoch have worked together to achieve a parliamentary coup. In 2010, the U.S. (CIA) used a small group of Right-wing ALP figures to remove the then Australian Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and install Julia Gillard. Wikileaks later released classified State Department cables that showed the leading figures involved were ‘protected U.S. sources’ who reported regularly to the U.S. Embassy.

The issue was, again, China. Kevin Rudd had fallen foul of the Obama Administration for being insufficiently supportive of the growing moves of the U.S. to militarily and economically contain China. Rudd believed that the U.S. must make allowances for China as a rising power to avoid conflict. In contrast, when Gillard took office she gave full-throated support to the U.S. “Pivot to Asia”.

Once again, the work of the U.S. was abetted by the Murdoch propaganda machine. Rudd has since spoken out against Murdoch, calling for a Royal Commission into News Corp and labelling News Corp a cancer on democracy.

Rudd has stated:

‘Murdoch is not just a news organisation. Murdoch operates as a political party, acting in pursuit of clearly, defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-Right ideological world view.’

In fact, the history of the U.S. and Murdoch working together on coups extends back to 1975. The U.S. was suspicious of Whitlam’s Government due to its opposition to the Vietnam War, its hostile relationship to the security agencies and its questioning of the future of the Pine Gap spy base. John Pilger has documented the way the CIA used a network of assets to undermine the Whitlam Government. 

Then young Rupert Murdoch also used his Australian newspapers to undermine the legitimacy of Whitlam. Declassified U.S. State Department cables reveal that in 1974, a year before the coup, Murdoch told his editors to “kill Whitlam”. By November 1975, Whitlam was gone after being sacked by the Queen’s Representative in Australia, the Governor General.

While facile, mainstream press coverage after the election claimed that the ALP had scared off its support by being too Left-wing, none of the real fundamental issues that drove Murdoch and the U.S. to intervene in Australian politics touch upon reality. The election of Scott Morrison cannot be understood without an internationalist perspective of how it fits into the broader struggle against U.S. imperialism and the threat of the far Right which are both ultimately products of capitalism in crisis.

Davey Heller is a socialist from Melbourne and long-time campaigner for Left-wing causes including anti-war, refugee rights, environmental protests and workers' struggles. He currently writes for a blog called classconscious.org. You can follow him on Twitter @socialist_davey

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