Australia has practically ceded its defence strategy and policy to the whims of the U.S., writes Peter Henning.
SPEAKER OF the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, must have caught by osmosis some internationally circulating furphy that Scott Morrison follows normal protocols of respect when he tells you stuff about his policies. This even came after French President Emmanuel Macron came to realise that he’d been taken for a ride by a skilled marketing cardsharp.
Apparently, Morrison didn’t have much difficulty in persuading Pelosi that Australia was “leading the way" on climate change. According to Pelosi, Morrison told her that:
"We’re not only addressing the Paris Accords — our slogan is we meet it and we beat it."
It all seems very odd given Pelosi’s long experience with political monsters like Donald Trump and his crew, but then again she’s probably not paid much attention to Morrison’s close relationship with Trump. Most likely, it didn’t merit her consideration that the prime minister of Australia would play deceptive word games with her.
But then again it could have been just her way of welcoming Morrison’s “transparency and loyalty” in agreeing to become China’s frontline of attack whenever and “forever” if necessary, and handing over so willingly U.S. control of Australian defence and foreign policy decisions to the White House and Pentagon.
What a “pal” to take the main hit from China in every which way, from hurting Australian trade relationship with China for US benefit, allowing the U.S. to fill the gap of Australian beef, wine and agriculture exports being scrapped, to being a better missile target than the U.S. mainland or Hawaii. Not to mention the neat opportunities Australia has now handballed to the U.S. and other nations in trade with France.
Meanwhile, the Australian mainstream media, now mainly a coalition of Coalition PR agencies including the publicly funded ABC, is waxing lyrical about Morrison’s Washington “success”, lauding the notion that the “fella down under” has done a marvellous job in becoming a newly welcomed addition to Biden’s best pals club.
Sure he has. The baseball caps have been binned. Suits and ties are now de rigueur. Morrison returned from his sojourn in Washington converted to Biden’s clean energy policy agenda. Trump’s coal spruiker down under, has transitioned with narcissistic chameleonic aplomb into a new role.
It is so appropriate to the nobbled chief functionary of a subject-state, a useful tool in the almost completed process, in practice rather than form, of Australia becoming an unincorporated territory of the U.S., akin Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
In reality, whether Australians prefer to ignore it, or gloss it as “alliance”, there can be no doubting that Morrison’s “forever partnership” means a willful and deliberate final transfer of Australian defence and foreign policies to Washington.
As former Prime Minister Paul Keating has said, 'the grand reception' Morrison and his forelock-tugging ministers got in Washington would have been given to:
'... any strategic client of the United States… had they turned over control of their armed forces to the U.S. [and] turning over effective control of our foreign policy into the bargain.'
Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne might as well transfer themselves from Canberra to an office in the Pentagon, while Morrison himself – like Tony Abbott before him – makes the occasional trip to pay his respects, dropping into the Murdoch headquarters on the way, to finalise approval for whatever’s up for signing.
Meanwhile, flushed with conceit at his own brilliance in convincing the world that what he says in no way directly contradicts what he does, Morrison announced that Australia would host a climate summit in 2022 “about pulling together a very clear work program as to how clean energy supply chains can be built up”.
In full flight, one of the world’s greatest lovers of coal went on to bluster:
'We know that if we can support developing economies to embrace and use the technologies that achieve net-zero emissions and see their economies grow and increase their jobs, that is not only wonderful for those economies and their peoples, but it also is good for Australia.'
No wonder he fooled Macron and Pelosi. Out-trumping Trump has now become Morrison’s standout rhetorical characteristic on the world stage, as well as at home.
After all, can anyone seriously believe that the man who had a secret family holiday in Hawaii during the height of the bushfire catastrophe, couldn’t protect aged care residents in federally-run facilities, couldn’t accept his constitutional responsibility for quarantine and couldn’t organise vaccine supplies has any capacity to put together a clean energy supply chain?
Who will he handball that operation to? He won’t be undertaking any leadership role at home on the matter. Australia under his administration has opposed all avenues to developing clean energy and meeting net-emission targets.
Morrison’s rhetoric about his position and plans in relation to climate change are designed to cloak evasion from responsibility, just another smokescreen of the moment, a performance and a promise without substance.
Back home from Washington Morrison glowed about giving Australians a Christmas present, an emergence from lockdown. But he and his Government won’t be doing any heavy lifting to make that happen.
That will be the responsibility of others. The states will be responsible and Morrison will seek the credit. That is guaranteed.
Where will Morrison have his secret holidays this year? At home or somewhere abroad where the pandemic would prevent most other Australians from going? It won’t be France.
How about Puerto Rico? A good place to go to investigate the benefits of being an unincorporated territory of the U.S.
Peter Henning is a Tasmanian historian and author.
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