Wednesday, 8 August 2018

“Who Are You Calling ‘Mate’, Mate?”

Newspeak? It is Washington’s new “Indo-Pacific” strategy, that is driving the current “Century of Mateship” propaganda exercise out of Canberra. Australia’s foundation and development as a collection of British colonies is being barefacedly elided in favour of the Orwellian contention that: “Australia and the United States are mates. Australia and the United States have been mates for 100 years. Australia and the United States will always be mates.”

NEW ZEALAND’S RELATIONSHIP with Australia is under considerable strain. Though they have yet to state their position openly, Australia’s leaders are clearly less than enthusiastic about the tradition of “automatic entry” for New Zealand’s economic migrants. It is certainly difficult to read the Australian Government’s denial of non-emergency health care, higher education and social welfare benefits to Kiwi citizens as anything other than a pretty strong signal of Australia’s rising impatience with the ANZAC myth of eternal “mateship”.

Indeed, if the programmes currently featuring on Sky TV’s “History Channel” are anything to go by, there is a concerted effort underway to attach the “mateship” label to Australia’s relationship with the United States. Under the rubric of “One Hundred Years of Mateship” Australian documentary-makers are advancing the far-from-convincing argument that the Commonwealth of Australia – one of the British Empire’s most important economic and strategic “dominions across the seas” – and the United States of America have been bosom buddies from the moment they clapped eyes on each other across the battlefields of the Western Front in 1918.

It is rare in the English-speaking nations of the twenty-first century to witness such a blatant attempt to re-write history. Up until the Second World War, elite Australia’s attachment to British imperialism was as fervent as it was unquestioning. The Aussie working-class, much of it Irish and Catholic, may have had little cause to love the English and the Scots-Irish Orangemen from Ulster, but its dangerously radical opinions were vigorously rejected by the “respectable” settlers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. For these sons and daughters of the Empire, “Mother England” was the source of all economic, military and cultural power. The USA and its teeming millions were impertinent upstarts – not “mates”.

That all changed, of course, when a squadron of Japanese navy bombers, almost nonchalantly, sank the two great British battleships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, off the Malaysian coast on 10 December 1941 – just three days after Japan’s surprise attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. The fall of “impregnable” Singapore, which followed soon after, on 15 February 1942, brought home to Australians just how far away Mother England really was and forced them to shift their strategic gaze eastward to the United States. Every Australian understood that if the Japanese were going to be defeated, it would not be by the British, who had proved to be a busted-flush, but by the Americans. For most Aussies, therefore, the Yanks were more than their “mates” – they were Australia’s bloody saviours!

Post-World War II, however, the case for US-Australian “mateship” grows progressively stronger. The two countries have fought alongside each other in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The view from Canberra is unequivocally that of a steadfast ally upon whom Washington can rely without the slightest hesitation or doubt. The Liberal Party Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, confirmed this subaltern status by describing his country as America’s “deputy-sheriff”.

Howard’s Liberal successor, Malcolm Turnbull, has developed this relationship to the point where Australia now sees itself as a geostrategic bridge between the Pacific and Indian oceans. The Australian landmass is thus being presented to Washington as not only an unassailable thoroughfare for American power, but also as a barrier against the further extension of Chinese influence into either ocean.

It is this, Washington’s new “Indo-Pacific” strategy, that is, almost certainly, driving Foxtel’s “100 Years of Mateship” propaganda exercise on the History Channel. Australia’s foundation and development as a collection of British colonies is being barefacedly elided in favour of the Orwellian contention that: “Australia and the United States are mates. Australia and the United States have been mates for 100 years. Australia and the United States will always be mates.”

Which just leaves New Zealand, Australia’s former “mate”, positioned strategically off the lucky country’s eastern seaboard like an unsinkable aircraft carrier which has, unaccountably, pushed all its fighter aircraft into the sea. An unreliable aircraft carrier, whose unreliable crew has, for more than 30 years, been bloody rude to Australia’s best mates – the Americans. A crew which insists on taking shore leave in Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne where it spreads its downright subversive views about the rights of indigenous people and nuclear disarmament and practical feminism and need to do something big and meaningful about climate change among Australia’s dangerously persuadable citizens.

Right-wing Australia would like nothing more than to close its borders to these damned annoying Kiwis. Unfortunately, that would involve tearing up the Australian-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship and toppling New Zealand into a full-scale economic and social crisis.

Now, there are some Aussies who’d like to say “tough luck, Kiwi” and walk away. Fortunately for New Zealand, however, there are wiser heads in the discussion who warn that a New Zealand in the grip of a life-or-death struggle for survival might feel it had no choice but to extend the hand of “mateship” to its largest remaining trading partner. That if Australia goes on mistreating Kiwis, then it just might wake up one morning to discover that unsinkable aircraft carrier across the Tasman Sea bristling with Chinese bombers.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 3 August 2018.

9 comments:

greywarbler said...

t's not impatience that Australia feels towards NZ, it is disdain and sour amusement. They can wipe their feet on us and often do. They own nmost of our boots and our government departments often act in sync with them and have signed up for common standards. They deny our interests in their country and we have had to take them to the WTO.

They view us as the USA views Mexico which it overshadows and has built into a client state, that is degraded from its relationship, and yet to which the people whose economy is depressed by corruption, feel forced to flee. It's a case of Mexico can't beat them, so to survive we had better join them.

Australia has the Ditch to prevent us crossing easily. They refuse us services and refuse us citizenship, except for a few rich or required professionals. It might be better if we faced up to the destructive effects of trying to have an economic relationship with them.

However the few high flyers in this country who have benefited from it, have influenced all the would-bes if they could-bes who want all the toys that they have in Oz. We borrow from Australian banks to buy them, and 'We owe our soul to the company store'. Johnny Cash sings about coal miners, but the words "Another day older and deeper in debt" is our country and a large majority who have high private debt levels. whether beneficiaries, working poor, or micro business operators.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfp2O9ADwGk

greywarbler said...


Right-wing Australia would like nothing more than to close its borders to these damned annoying Kiwis. Unfortunately, that would involve tearing up the Australian-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship and toppling New Zealand into a full-scale economic and social crisis.


And that would have a flow-on effect to Jestar trading heavily here, Oz banks who have recently made money from NZ and lowered profit from their own country.

And we would think about other ways to put the boot in, with no reason to keep smiling and hiding the anger we feel against the bunch of ill-bred dingoes that eat helpless NZs, that breed in Canberra.

peter petterson said...

Close the borders to Kiwis if you wish you bunch of racists. The way they have been treating Kiwis is because Pacific Islanders, mainly Tongans have allegedly used NZ as a backdoor to Australia. Bit simplistic? Probably.Thousands of Kiwis of Maori descent have been moving to Australia in recent years, especially Queensland, taking jobs and houses off Australians. They didn't realise how much they have been resented? I wouldn't go there if you paid me - full of poisonous spiders, snakes, and toxic Aussies.

I think it is time we moved closer to the north.

Kat said...

"That if Australia goes on mistreating Kiwis, then it just might wake up one morning to discover that unsinkable aircraft carrier across the Tasman Sea bristling with Chinese bombers...."

Chris, you have been watching too many movies. There are "right-wing" nutjobs on both sides of the Tasman, Australia has more of course given its larger population. I am finding it increasingly alarming just how easily hysteria can be whipped up these days with large numbers of people being taken in by highly provocative yet superficial commentary paraded throughout the media.

greywarbler said...

From wikipedia:
Warm and fuzzy two countries at a time of real crisis in WW2.
At the start of that Pacific campaign in December 1941, Curtin declared that "Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Australian_Labor_Party

Labor unions and the USA spelling of labour.
This goes back 100 years and may be part of the background to hang the century on, although USA and their unions aren't friendly.
The ALP adopted the formal name "Australian Labour Party" in 1908, but changed the spelling to "Labor" in 1912. While it is standard practice in Australian English both today and at the time to spell the word labour with a "u", the party was influenced by the United States labor movement, and a prominent figure in the early history of the party, the American-born King O'Malley, was successful in having the spelling "modernised".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Labor_Party#Name_changes

Perhaps reducing unionism is another reason that a Conservative government might wish to play on the friendly USA theme for their more personal and Party advantage. (2001 report). (I think in the initial paragraphs that Australian unionism stood at 26% and USA at 12%.)
https://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/archives/2001/australia-and-america-a-comparison-of-industrial-relations-cultures
Introduction of American Ideas into Australian Industrial Relations
Employer Sponsored De-Unionisation
Having stated that the Australian system has been characterised by a consensus between labour and capital it needs to be pointed out that this consensus in now under threat. And, it is under threat from a move by many people in business to import an American culture of industrial relations into Australia....

This move started in the late 80's when CRA - Rio Tinto, a major Australian resources company, imported this American culture into an Australia setting. They ran a strategy of individual contracts and fairly successfully managed to de-unionise a large part of their workforce....

Since 1996 the Australian government has actively sought to break down the consensus between labour and capital. They understand that from a political point of view if the conservative forces are to get rid of unions which they see as underpinning the Australian Labor Party then the consensus between labour and capital has to be broken down....


j4d3 goat said...

The NZ-Australia relationship sure as heck has not been helped by Princess Jacinda sticking her oar in at every opportunity - the prime example being the Manus Island "refugees" and her criticism of Australia's refugee-intake policy.

It would do the Princess (and New Zealand) an awful lot of good if she "kept her powder dry" and shut up for a year or two - listening instead of mouthing off at every opportunity.

thesorrowandthepity said...

"bristling with Chinese bombers".......Remind me again of China's human rights record

Geoff Fischer said...

Our people have a proud history of resistance to the occupation of our lands by foreign military forces, including British and Australian forces. We are not about to depart from that policy by allowing the Peoples Republic of China to base troops, ships or aircraft within our territory. The PRC understands that, as do the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia. No one can bully us, and few are silly enough to try. The US, Australia and Britain can of course bully the colonial regime, but they do that to their own cost, because every pressure exerted on the regime restricts its room to manoeuvre and brings the colonial system closer to its final demise. President Trump can order the colonial regime to cease trading with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and he can dictate an end its policy of normal relations with the PRC, but whatever the effect in Iran and China (not a lot I suspect) it will do nothing to secure US influence here. The same applies to Australia. In the end everything that Canberra does to harm us will only harm itself.

Wayne Mapp said...

The current fashion of attacking Australia on a wide variety of issues is unlikely to end well. If we want Australia to put New Zealanders on the same immigration rules as the rest of the world, we are going the right way about it.

At the moment New Zealanders have the right to live in Australia for their entire lives. There are no visa time limits. Of course the New Zealanders don't get many welfare entitlements and can be deported if they commit a serious crime (or join a criminal gang). But no other people on earth get the right to permanently live and work in Australia, basically without a visa.

If we make it clear enough to Australia that we don't like them and their foreign policy choices, this right could easily be further restricted.

The reality is that Australians are still our mates, though perhaps not as generous as they used to be.