It has taken Paul Keating to place on the record serious, national-interest reservations about how the too-ready embrace by Australia of America’s hostility towards China. Keating on ABC’s Lateline last night made the point that the American President – in the Australian Parliament – delivered himself of “basically hard rhetoric” against China. For that, read hostility.
Like me, the former Prime Minister does not object to a rotating troop presence on Australia’s north but is concerned about how it gets wrapped up in an unmistakable anti-China stance. Why is it remotely in Australia’s interest to take that course ?
Anyway, I can do no better than to share the Keating transcript:
Yes, well, I think what we saw this week was the president in Australia saying that – to the American audience, really; it was a speech for the American audience, “We’re getting out of the Middle East. We’re renewing our interest in the Asia-Pacific and we’re sticking it to China.”
Now, I think that was the context of the speech. Where we got wrapped up in the speech is of course in it was the announcement of a modest increase in troop movements through Australia. This would have been otherwise unexceptional had it been announced, say, after the AUSMIN meeting between Australian and US ministers in San Francisco six weeks ago, but it got wrapped up in the US kabuki show, and in a sense we’ve got brought into it, perhaps verballed to be part of what looks like the stringing out of a containment policy…
I think the Americans are quite ruthless about this. Of course that’s what they were up to. But just – look, some of the things the president said – just remember this. He predicted that the model of a country ruled by a committee would fail. He said communism and a country ruled by committee would fail.
In other words, he’s saying that the Chinese model he’s predicting will fail. But he’s saying it in our Parliament House.
He goes on to say things like, “With every element of American power, our new focus is on this region.” Well I always thought they were there. I think it’s a good thing they’re there. I did everything in my political life to see them there. But he says, “With our new focus on this region …. We’re here to stay. … History’s on the side of the free. … By upholding core principles, we partner with democracies.”
I mean, this was a diamond-hard speech delivered by a master deliverer, you know, a very engaging person, able to deliver a message, but a rock-hard speech. And that speech was basically saying that the United States is back and you could be excused for thinking that the commentary in the week was about the old Soviet Union.
I mean, China is not the old Soviet Union. And we would make of course a huge mistake seeking to contain it…
This was a speech that really would have been better made in Washington or elsewhere. The fact that it was made here and wrapped around a small increase in troop movements, 2,500 through Darwin, just added the military spice to the big rhetorical speech.
Well here we are in our Parliament – not in the American Parliament, our Parliament. The American president gets up and says, “The Chinese model will fail. It is bound to fail.” And then all the speech’s basically hard rhetoric against China.