Australia Needs Independence

It’s a monumental time for democracy. On this side of the Pacific, China is extinguishing the vestiges of British colonial rule in Hong Kong. On the other side, the US showed that its security forces are killing its own citizens.

The White House not only failed to express contrition, but in fact sought to escalate the situation. Even Twitter ruled that the President violated the platform’s rules by “glorifying violence,”  and blocked users from liking or commenting.

In another alarming development, journalists from a prestigious mainstream news source were openly arrested at the scene of protests in Minneapolis. In the words of the flabbergasted CNN studio host on air, “That is an American television reporter, Omar Jiménez, being led away.”

The Hong Kong crack-down and the military repression of anti-racism protests in the US bring the question of moral leadership into clear focus. It is often said that Australia has to stand up to Chinese influence, with the presumption that that implies a ride-or-die “pro-democracy” alliance with the US.

It should now be clear that an ethical Australian foreign-policy is no longer a lesser-of-two-evils question between China or the US. We need to look to the future by preparing for greater strategic independence.

Some of the answers are to be found in Professor Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia, published mid-last year. In it, White savages the decisions taken by successive governments, Liberal and Labor, to invest billions in warships, long-range aircraft and infantry designed for participating as a junior partner in imperial expeditions.

Sending troops overseas is our history, not our future, says Prof White

According to White, Australia can prevent a hostile power approaching its shores with two dozen submarines, an extra 100 fighter-jets and state-of-the-art reconnaissance and surveillance. This would in fact cost less than current spending on the missile destroyers, troop transports and infantry that are held in the service of overseas aggression at the beck and call of untruthful US commanders-in-chief.

Australia can and should prepare to defend itself independent of support from any major power. Until we see a strategic pivot along these lines, Australians’ opinions about events overseas are as meaningful as a Facebook argument.

Of course, America may recover its democratic credentials and moral leadership. But a multicultural Australia also needs to prepare for a future where America’s downward political spiral – from Reagan to Bush and now Trump – may continue on to something that is somehow even more objectionable.