April 15, 2004


The Melbourne Age’s Greg Hywood writes:

There remains in this country a deep misunderstanding of the underlying obligations that makes the alliance with the US work for both sides. For more than 50 years the US has effectively cross-subsidised Australia's defence spending and provided us with a security guarantee that is extraordinary in its sweep.

Few nations in the world live in such an unstable region yet spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on defence and enjoy the permanent protection of the world's only superpower. It is a privilege that has enabled Australia to develop a world-class economy, and education, health and welfare services of a high order ...

Hywood continues: “The arrangement has never sat well with parts of the foreign policy establishment or substantial sections of the ALP. Why? Because it effectively abrogates a portion of Australian foreign policy control to Washington.” A situation Mark Latham wishes to change:

He claims to support the alliance but intends to break free, embark on a new engagement of Asia and have Australia "shape events".

But more independence from the US does not come free. You do not shape events when you spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

Latham wants Australia to shape events the same way New Zealand shapes events: not at all.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 15, 2004 02:53 AM

I have to disagree with the first 2/3rds of the article, (easily summerized as "Everything's going to Hell in a handbasket!") but the remaining third is spot-on.

Posted by: Cybrludite at April 15, 2004 at 03:53 AM

Mark Latham would make an unexceptional and probably insightful NSW Minister for Sport. No more responsibility than that. Please.

Posted by: currencylad at April 15, 2004 at 04:39 AM

The same could be said of Europe. Unlike some nations in Europe, however, most Australians are stand-up enough to realize it's a two-way street.

Posted by: Dave S. at April 15, 2004 at 04:41 AM

Australia must not be allowed to rearm!!! Look what happened in 1933 Germany when an Australian came to power!!!



Posted by: JDB at April 15, 2004 at 08:14 AM

I want some Foreign Affairs Experts to pop in and give us a lesson on the physics of tails wagging dogs (all in the wrist action I'll bet).

But you just don't understand, 'Australia's future lies with Asia' We need to build a defence alliance which is more appropriate to our neighbours.

Hey it's so simple: just convert Australia to Islam, then we'll have a united Islamic force in SE Asia, the ASEAN Ummah...(Ummm...ahhhh). What's more, we won't need defence forces, except to enforce shariah...

Posted by: brian at April 15, 2004 at 11:27 AM

Tim, you and your fellow Aussies are some of the few left in this world who understand the true meaning of friendship. It's not about treaties, it's not about defense spending, it's not about common goals or ideologies, or even which President personally likes which Prime Minister. In the end, it's the support one can provide to another when it's needed. Not bought, not traded for, not even asked for. Australia has been there with the US, and the US has been there with Australia since WWI and before. Your support of our country, and our support of your country, whenever needed, may never be equivalent in dollars spent, manhours worked, or any other objective measure. Who gives a flying flip? It has been, and hopefully always will be, the full measure of what each can provide at the time. That is what friends do for one another.
PS, only spending 2% of your GDP on defense doesn't seem to have affected the warrior spirit at all in the Australian soldiers I've seen over here.

Posted by: Diggs at April 15, 2004 at 11:51 AM

Diggs, you're 100% spot-on.

Just a Missourian who likes Aussies that can:

A) Put up with the pain and suffering that goes with being a friend of America.

B) Form a complete thought that leads to the simple fact that we are really all in this together.

Posted by: Brent at April 15, 2004 at 02:31 PM

Judging by the reaction of Age readers to the article, the New Zealand approach seems quite popular. Sad, but not really suprising.

Posted by: gaz at April 15, 2004 at 04:41 PM

You guys and the Koreans should get along really well. And we're supposed to be "nationalistic."

Posted by: Sandy P. at April 15, 2004 at 05:36 PM

Piers' piece in today's Tele makes a great point:


The thing is, as I've been implying, that intelligence and policy failures can be blamed on the lefty pro-Jakarta factions in the defence and foreign affairs bureaucracy: all the legacy of dear old Gough! (and the Peace Studies lefty academia etc...). This is what Lance Collins is on about.

So if Latham insists on an inquiry, he'll be shooting himself in the foot!

Won't all the journos hoping for our own Clarkefest be disappointed?

By God, let's have an inquiry all right! To reveal how the lefty bureaucracy has sold the country to Islamofascism and terrorists!

Posted by: brian at April 15, 2004 at 05:54 PM

A choice quote from the Piers' piece cited above:

"The pro-Jakarta lobby was still running things when Gough Whitlam came to power, and calling the shots when Indonesia annexed East Timor, an act to which the Whitlam government shamefully acquiesced.

Any royal commission will find that it was the bureaucrats pushing Labor's pro-Jakarta ideology who attempted to thwart the emergence of intelligence which portrayed the Indonesians in a poor light over East Timor. The same bureaucrats defend their position today, although the East Timorese are now enjoying independence (thanks to the Howard Government).

Pushed in the right direction, a royal commission could also reveal more of the cover-up which took place when it was discovered that a number of known paedophiles were being protected within the Foreign Affairs Department, again during Labor's period in office.

If the Government wished to get really nasty it could broaden any inquiry to include a review of complaints handling in both foreign affairs and the intelligence agencies, a broad interpretation of which would enable a very public examination of the service record of Labor apparatchik Richard Butler, the controversial Governor of Tasmania, focussing perhaps on his term as Australia's ambassador to Thailand and during his years at the UN."

Butler in Thailand? What's that all about?

Posted by: brian at April 15, 2004 at 06:07 PM

The US would probably save our butt even if we hadn't done anything for it. I doubt that those opposed to Australia contributing to the alliance would like to acknowledge this though...

Posted by: Andjam at April 15, 2004 at 07:04 PM