Monday, November 04, 2002

Robert Manne is a Professor of Politics at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. Fortunately he is not a Professor of History. If he was, this article would see his tenure assured. Australian history departments being concerned with rewriting history as much as recording it, Manne’s ability to paint our relationship with the US as strictly a Conservative affair would see him the toast of the town.
the most fundamental foreign policy belief embedded in the Australian conservative tradition - namely that the only reliable safeguard for our security is to offer faithful and predictable support to the strategic policy of one or another of what Sir Robert Menzies famously called our "great and powerful friends".

Compare and contrast this to the words of Kim Beazley, an ALP favourite son:
Beazley highlighted [ALP wartime Prime Minister] John Curtin's efforts in creating self-reliance for Australia in international politics by looking to America as the foreign policy keystone, without breaking Australia's ties with Britain.
"He is in this regard the real founder of the US/Australia alliance, but he saw it operating within a framework of optimal self-reliance," Beazley said.

But I know you want more, so let’s hear from a former Labor Prime Minister:
Curtin issued a statement which I have previously described as perhaps the most significant ever uttered by an Australian Prime Minister: "Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom."

Churchill regarded the statements as "insulting" but while Curtin informed him that it did not indicate any break with Britain he was remorseless in following his words with action.

Manne wants us to think that following the US line is a bad deal, by linking Resistance with Labour secular saint, Gough Whitlam:
For the past 40 years - with the exception of the Whitlam years - we have probably been the most reliable ally of the US.

Remember all those US bases Gough closed? Me either. Troops out of Vietnam? They were all out by the time he took office. Normalising relations with China? He preceded US policy, something Howard is routinely condemned for.
Let’s take it that one unfortunate step too far:
Among true believers it is, moreover, precisely for its plucky independence from the US that the foreign policy of the Whitlam government is most highly praised.

“Plucky”? What's wrong with "doughty", or even "feisty"?.

Within the Labor tradition there are, however, even more solid historical grounds than the valorisation of independence for resistance to a unilateral US war against Iraq. Since 1945 the ALP has consistently balanced loyalty to its great power protector with enthusiasm for international organisations, most importantly the UN, and for the principles of multilateralism and the spread of international law.

No examples given of course. Perhaps he is thinking of that wonderful moment when Bob Hawke declined to give the US permission to test missiles in outback Australia. Probably not, since Hawke followed the real ALP tradition, by unilaterally offering Australian airspace for the tests, and only reversing himself after public outrage. It’s amazing how the ALP “balancing” act has always, always meant the ALP in office has hewed to the US line. In Opposition, like any Party, they spout the usual rubbish, but once in power they do what every Australian Government has done, and always will do.

When the UN went into Kuwait, Australia went in as well. If the UN had not sanctioned the war, the US would have gone in without approval, just as they did in Kosovo. The idea that Australia, then under an ALP government, would have refused a request for support by the US is absurd.

Manne has trouble with the difference between popular and populist.
As things stand, Labor opposition to a war against Iraq, without unambiguous UN mandate, would have the backing of a substantial section of Australia's former political and military elite. It would also have a solid chance of support from a majority of the Australian people, who are at present overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Keep in mind, this “overwhelming” opposition theory is based entirely on opinion polls of about 1500 people or so. But when it comes to a slightly larger sample size, that is, an election, the story is different:
Since the Tampa crisis, moreover, Labor has been mesmerised by fears of the populist conservatism unleashed by the Howard Government - by its capacity to destabilise the ALP by a crude appeal to the most bellicose sentiments of the Australian people.

So policy formation by reference to opinion polls is legitimate, but win an election, and you’re “crude”, “bellicose” and “populist”.
Manne is right in one thing, but not for the reasons he wants”
Only one thing seems clear. If it comes to a US war with Iraq, it is around the attitude of Crean Labor that the future of Australian party politics will be shaped.

Yes. The ALP will do as it has always done, and always will do. It will support the US in whatever they request. They will ignore the whining of their Hard Left, recognising that those voters will not desert the party, and that the US alliance is enormously popular on the ground.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?