Trump and Morrison: A love affair imperiling Australia's future

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'Just got off the phone with U.S. President', tweeted Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 22 April.

It stated, further:

'We had a very constructive discussion on our health responses to COVID-19 and the need to get our market-led and business centres economies up and running again'.

Not enough attention has been given to this concerning comment, especially given the subsequent action Morrison has undertaken in direct support of Trump since then. 

The most recent example was Australia's acceptance of Donald Trump’s invitation to participate in the G7 in order to strengthen Trump’s position against the influence of Germany and France.  

Trump is seeking an expansion of the G7 to establish an anti-China coalition as part of his plan to increase confrontation with China during his re-election campaign. 

Since getting off the phone with 'the evil and obnoxious crook in the White House', as Trump has been described by Don Watson in the May edition of The Monthly, the Prime Minister has demonstrated his commitment to Trump’s re-election strategy of creating a new Cold War with China.

He has also followed Trump’s lead in attacking the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Australian historian Henry Reynolds has argued that:

'It stretched credulity to suppose that Morrison’s loud-mouthed call for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak was not made as an accompaniment to the rising tempo of Trump’s [escalation of the confrontation with China].'

Australia is the one nation in the world whose military forces are an automatic adjunct to the U.S.'s military. Its foreign affairs and defence departments are largely controlled from Washington.

For these reasons, insufficient recognition has been given to the fact that the Australian connection to the U.S. has now fully evolved into a direct alliance between the Coalition and the Republican Party.

In this context, Australian participation in the G7 isn't just as a puppet serving U.S. interests, but a puppet directly serving Trump’s interests. This represents a further extension of the role Australia has been locked into as part of the "coalition of the willing", albeit often as the sole "deputy" in a collation of two.

Ever since Vietnam, the story has been repeated again and again, but the relationship has gradually transformed from subservient ally to willing servant to deputy sheriff and general lackey to now that of an active operational agent for Trump’s re-election campaign. 

From "All the way with LBJ" in relation to the futile and bloody Vietnam War, through the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the current situation of following U.S. orders to send ships to the territorial waters of Iran or to the South China Sea, Australia has established its place in the global community as just an adjunct-puppet state.

So what’s the next step? What role does Australia now play during the rest of 2020 to serve Trump’s interests?  For example, if Trump, in his wrecking-ball megalomania, decides to turn his Cold War with China into military conflict, will Morrison take Australia into the abyss? 

If Trump uses military forces against his own people, as he has now threatened to do, where does that place the Australian military in its close arrangement with American forces?

Morrison would know that he won’t be regarded warmly by an incoming Joe Biden Administration in 2021 after interfering in U.S. domestic partisan politics by supporting Trump against the Mueller investigation

For various reasons, whether personal, ideological or religious, Morrison has transparently tied himself very closely to Trump from the time he was elected as Malcolm Turnbull’s replacement as prime minister in 2018. 

Perhaps he has a vested interest in Trump’s re-election, for he has gone further than most prime ministers in personalising the relationship on partisan terms. 

If this seems far-fetched, just consider the mentality of an Australian prime minister who would operate as the frontman for any U.S. President, let alone one whose leadership is a 'toxic mix of weak moral leadership, racial divisiveness, crass and vulgar rhetoric and an erosion of norms, institutions and trust', in the words of one international commentator. 

Just consider the mentality of an Australian politician who wanted to transfer its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because Trump did, when 89 countries maintained their embassies in Tel Aviv and only one other country, Guatemala, followed Trump’s lead. 

Then there is the abysmal attempt by Australia to pressure the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to investigate possible war crimes in Palestine, which the ICC rejected.

This is the general context within which it is necessary to interpret Morrison’s “constructive discussions” with Trump. 

This is no time for Australian leadership to indulge personal and partisan allegiance to all the inequities, dishonesty and destructive nihilism which Trumpism represents, but that is exactly what is happening.

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is right to say that the U.S."has Australia’s back", but in the sense that it’s to America’s gain, not Australia’s. 

The United States is already replacing Australia’s agricultural exports to China and the Morrison Government seems oblivious to the reality that China will increasingly seek to replace Australian mineral exports, including iron ore, from other sources.

The notion that “China needs Australia more than Australia needs China” is already collapsing, and this will escalate faster as Australia’s political relationship with its most important trading partner continues to deteriorate.

When Morrison speaks of discussing with Trump 'the need to get our market-led and business centres economies up and running again', he’s not speaking of making Australia more self-reliant, more resilient, more independent, or even trying to understand the tectonic shifts occurring internationally. 

In October last year, Morrison claimed with an arrogance that “Australia doesn’t have to choose between the United States and China”. Of course it doesn’t.  On the one hand, in relation to the United States Australia does what it’s told without question. 

On the other hand, as China increasingly looks to be more self-sufficient in food and raw materials, Australia will be first in line to disappear from China’s supply chain.

Australia is a country which has little interest in being an independent nation and therefore is in a paralysed state of infantile dependence, incapable of looking after itself. 

“Constructive discussions" with Trump is a moronic concept, if not oxymoronic. 

Peter Henning is a Tasmanian historian and author.

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