The US Alliance undermines Australia’s independence as a sovereign nation. Successive Australian Governments are under the illusion that we need to come under the umbrella of a strong military protector of the United States which in turn enjoys its junior partner’s strategic advantage as a gateway to the Indo-Pacific region. The interoperability of US and Australian defence systems both with weapons procurement and US bases on our soil is very convenient for the US objectives as a major power in the region. It makes it difficult to separate ourselves from US foreign policy. The 2,500 US marines stationed in Darwin was a decision made without the consultation of the Australian parliament or wider Australian community involvement. The illusory belief that the US will come to our defence if we are ever under attack is unproven. In fact the opposite is more likely to be the case. Due to our Alliance, countries which are enemies of the US are likely to regard us with hostility. With the exception of Japanese attack on our soil during WW2 for the purpose of intercepting telecommunications, Australia has been an accomplice with imperial powers of the British followed by the US in invading other countries yet the Australian public are fed a diet of fear by the Government. The corporate media mouthpiece amplifies the fearmongering. It was fear of the “yellow peril” invasion during the time of the Vietnam war, refugees since PM Howard’s “Tampa election” and currently the fear of China which has no history of invasions. The joint US Australian military exercises of Talisman Sabre as a war rehearsal for future invasion feed into this narrative of an imminent threat. Without War Powers Legislation, the PM can make the decision alone or with the Executive behind closed doors, to commit our troops to overseas wars without parliamentary approval. The wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have all been conducted this way and have all been catastrophic loss of innocent lives.
In the case of war in Afghanistan, our longest engagement of 20 years, the purpose has never been clearly articulated and the Australian people have been largely kept in the dark as to why we were there and what the exit strategy would look like. It has cost the lives of 21 Australian combat personnel, and on return home over 500 veterans suicides from psychological trauma, exacerbated by bureaucratic delay in getting urgently needed rehabilitation to rebuild their lives. Exposure of alleged war crimes committed by our special forces has resulted in the subsequent Brereton Report. The US and NATO allies recently withdrew their military personnel from Afghanistan, and Australia followed shortly after without Marise Payne offering any reasons as to the timing. With no rationale offered for our longest war, it is what Henry Reynolds would describe as another unnecessary war.
ASPI, the Government “independent think tank”
Following the money gives a better understanding as to the insidious influences on foreign policy. Huge amounts of public money is spent on harmful weapons. Our Government and its corporate media mouthpiece are beating up the drums of war for confrontation with China, a war which none of us want (except the war manufacture profiteers) and is very destabilising for our region. The Government’s “independent think tank” the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) behind this drive, is funded by multi billion dollar weapons manufacturers and foreign governments, mainly the US.
As Marcus Rubinstein pointed out, what is not widely known is the extent to which taxpayers are propping up ASPI, through dozens of small contracts not listed in its annual reports. Last year, these contracts amounted to more than $2 million and were signed by the chiefs of a small group of government departments which, say ASPI’s critics, have vested interests in promoting China as Australia’s No. 1 strategic threat.
It is not in Australia’s interest to have war with China and it wouldn’t end well for us while we harbour US bases and conduct joint US Australian war exercises on our soil. If Australia has something China wants, it is many times cheaper and easier to buy it than to send its army half way around the world to steal it. Historically, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have not extended their power through military invasions but more through soft power. A local example here in Tasmania is that of our former Liberal Premier Hodgman, who greeted with open arms, a delegation of the CCP headed by Xi Jingping in 2014. Trade opportunities were discussed and China is currently Tasmania’s biggest trading partner. CCP affiliated companies own 24% of prime agricultural land in Tasmania and presumably local farmers agreed the offers were too tempting to refuse. Currently there is a CCP associated mining company which wants to put a toxic tailings dam in a place which would impact on our treasured Tarkine old growth forest. The Gutwein Government is backing the wrong horse for a handful of local short term jobs instead of the protesters.
While the Morrison Government and ASPI are manufacturing fear in preparation for war with China, a recent survey has found 73 percent of Australians regard the United States as an aggressive nation, while only six in ten Australians believe the US would come to our aid in the event of war with China. Given Australia has followed the United States into 100 percent of its wars, and that Australians would only rate America a 60 percent chance of leaping to our defence is a sobering statistic. This is a signal to reset this relationship to a friendship with no strings attached to become a more Independent Australia.
CULTIVATING A CULTURE OF PEACE AT HOME
Justice for First Nations People
Peace is a long way off without truth, justice and healing for Aboriginal Australians. Their community has put a tremendous amount of work into the Uluru Statement of the Heart but this was dismissed so disrespectfully by the previous Coalition Government. In order to right past wrongs we need to acknowledge we are living on unceded land and the need for a Treaty with Aboriginal Australians. To progress with peace we need to acknowledge our colonial settler history, the massacres of the Frontier Wars, white colonial invasion of the land of the people with longest living rich cultural tradition going back 60,000 years; and the hugely damaging practices and policies of assimilation, forced removal of children from their families and the environmental damage to their land and food sources much of which still go unaddressed today. There is much to learn from Aboriginal Australians about how to live sustainably with their long history of land, water and fire management. However, Aboriginal deaths in custody continue and so too, child removals. Despite the perfunctory “welcome to country” introductions to speeches we hear so often, even from mining companies spokespersons, we see the blowing up of ancient spiritual artefacts like the Juukan Gorge in the name of profit, and a lack of commitment to walking the talk. With the catastrophic fires of NSW 2019 summer bushfires many people are starting to look for guidance from Aboriginals with their traditional methods of fire management. We see aboriginals being employed more as national park rangers too with their deep knowledge of country.
Uphold international laws
Justice for refugees.
Despite Australia being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, and it being legal to seek asylum, successive Governments commit more to overseas wars than to protecting refugees who flee from these wars. Some who have fled persecution are still in offshore detention 8 years later and still have no idea when it will end. Living a life in limbo without hope has led to suicides, stress and mental health illness. They have been demonised and stigmatised for too long. They are human and have skills and initiative, and could make a valuable contribution to our country. There needs to be an amnesty for them and to put this shameful stain on our history behind us.
Ratify the UN Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
The Australian Government, in line with the US, has not signed the UN Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons because it believes in the illusory nuclear deterrent provided by US. The stockpile of nuclear armed countries sends the wrong signal to the rest of the world and makes the chance of a nuclear accident more likely. There are no winners in the event of a nuclear war and it poses an existential threat to all life on earth.
Justice for Women
All women have the right to feel safe, respected and heard whether in families, schools, workplaces and public spaces. However, with patriarchy and a culture of toxic masculinity is infecting all levels of society this is not the case. It has been highlighted lately by the Brittany Higgins rape case in Parliament House and all the efforts made by the PM to conceal it and victim blame. This is just one example of so many violations against women in Parliament House. There are ongoing investigations but it will be a long haul to see culture change across the country when boys and young men have such a sense of entitlement and impunity with their bad behaviour.
Violence against women must stop. An alarming one woman per week is killed by a violent partner or someone they know. Young men are still taught to blame others for violence, while young women internalise the experience and blame themselves. One in four women have experienced physical violence from a partner since the age of 15. Women who want to leave abusive relationships but fear reprisals, poverty and homelessness should be given information and access to shelters and services to get back on their feet. It speaks volumes about warped priorities when half a billion dollars is spent on the Australian War Memorial to glorify past wars and display military hardware sponsored by arms manufacturers while domestic violence support services for women are being cut to the bone.
Jess Hill, who studied why men abuse women in her book, “See what you made me do”, suggested we need to talk about patriarchy’s role in driving humiliation and how it shames men into rejecting their own so-called ‘feminine’ traits, like empathy, compassion, intuition and emotional intelligence. She further suggested we need to talk about the ways this system is upheld and policed by other men. She says there is no conclusive evidence that the one size fits all in men’s behaviour-change programs works but that there are some successful community driven ones that foster deep collaboration. Results of the latter approach between 2015 and 2017 showed that violent-related assaults reduced by 39% in addition to significant decreases in other crimes.
Older women are overrepresented in homelessness and in the low paid essential care work. Covid 19 has highlighted the importance of their work during pandemic lockdowns and measures taken like increased payments to ensure they work on site and not across work places.
Restoring trust in Democracy
I support the view that trust is the lifeblood of a functioning democracy. The public distrust in our ruling elites is creating enormous disharmony and division in our community. Big money, political donations, rorts, have corrupted our political processes and where once someone would be stood down or even imprisoned for corrupt behaviour now there is impunity. A Federal ICAC is urgently needed to keep our politicians accountable. Inequality is widening as the powerful elites ensure that nothing upsets the status quo of their privilege. A tax system is tailored to favour the wealthy and not distributed to where there is greatest need to protect everyone and provide equal opportunity and inclusivity. However, the existential threats of climate change and the global pandemic are forcing our leaders to think more collectively beyond their own interests only because it effects everyone regardless of socio-economic background. The delay in addressing both problems is creating a rising confusion and distrust in Government. In crises, we look for leadership and with the current PM, it has been absent both with last summer’s NSW wildfires exacerbated by climate change inaction, and now in the midst of a recurrence of Covid 19 and the very transmissible Delta variant and PM Morrison’s failure both on the quarantine system and the vaccine roll out. Without the protection of low paid essential workers no one is safe so they have had to grudgingly introduced income support to nearly all people and there is a growing recognition of the need for more equality.
Given that former PM, John Howard, committed our troops to the 2003 US-led war on Iraq based on the lie of the existence of their weapons of mass destruction, we need proper parliamentary debate and disclosure of information with the exceptions of a national emergency when we’re under attack.
Our Parliament House needs to be a safe place where women and people from diverse backgrounds are fearless in speaking up and representing their communities free of sexism and racism. We have been shocked to learn lately of the egregious abuses against women in our parliament and that the same rules, checks and balances of complaint processes that exist in Government Departments and Corporate workplaces are absent in our Parliament House. An independent complaints structure is urgently needed there in order to restore trust in Government.
Justice for whistleblowers Julian Assange, David McBride and Witness K
Justice for Julian Assange is needed if we claim to be a Democracy that values a free press. Julian acted in the public interest in exposing US war crimes in Iraq amongst other things. Our Government is putting US interests above our own and not acting on behalf of an Australian citizen in trouble abroad. The claims that he endangered lives is unsubstantiated. He is in danger of being extradited to the US where he will face a life prison term under their Espionage Act despite his findings being used by the NYT and the Guardian.
David McBride is threatened with life imprisonment for releasing embarrassing information to the media of alleged war crimes by our special forces in Afghanistan after he was unsuccessful bringing the findings up the military chain of command. More recently other reporters have released photo evidence of war crimes which has led to the Brereton Inquiry. The reporters this time were hailed as heroes.
Witness K, the whistleblower and his lawyer, Collaery also faced prosecution and imprisonment over exposing of the Australian Government bugging of a Timorese meeting for commercial advantage of Woodside Petroleum for gas.
The prosecutions of whistleblower Witness K and his solicitor should be dropped and Australian Government brought to account for its disgraceful use of spy agency, ASIS, to illegally bug an East Timor cabinet meeting to gain financial advantage for a private corporation, Woodside Petroleum.
All whistleblowers should be properly compensated for the unnecessary stress they have been put under for doing their jobs – and they have exposed critical information that should be in the public interest.
A redirection of taxes from War to Human needs
For a more peaceful Australia I would like to see everyone having access to affordable appropriate housing, community and hospital health services, free continuing education, food security, quality affordable child and aged care. Efforts must be made for everyone to feel included and valued, regardless of background, and able to contribute to our country, whether it be in paid employment or volunteering, caring for family or friends in need, raising a family. BS jobs which harm people and the planet should be abandoned.
A universal basic income would ensure everyone’s basic needs are met and we can look to the examples in other countries who have some measure of success (Finland?) in helping form a model to suit our circumstances. Taxes should be distributed more equitably so that no one goes without and the wealthy pay their fair share. The army should be repurposed to respond to climate change disasters both domestically and internationally.