Category Archives: Australian shame
How an authoritarian culture controls and exploits ‘decency’
A convict culture
The fundamental social structure in Australia today is basically the same as what was disgorged from the first fleet in 1788 and after onto the shores of Botany Bay – the mass and their guards (‘experts’, ‘authorities’, those with power…school prefects…). A scabrous, thoroughly-connected crust of brittle ‘decency’ on a ‘decent’ society, before which the mass is to defer, and willingly defers, unquestioningly.
Before the Puritan colonists embarked for Boston, John Winthrop gave a lecture in which he said that they shall be ‘as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us’ (words aped by Ben Chifley – of the American titled ‘Labor Party’ – near the end of his term as Prime Minister in 1949).
Vision (and its abuses) has always been at the heart of American culture. In a now ever-more deeply fractured country, it is still there in parts, such as NASA.
National vision now lies with the Chinese – they know their time to lead the world is coming, just as the Americans knew their time to lead was near in the nineteenth century.
I heard ex-Prime Minister Keating’s speech writer Don Watson say on Late Night Live some years ago that Captain Arthur Phillip gave a speech when he landed (I don’t know how Watson knew this, since I understand there was no written record of this speech) which included the words ‘Men are not to go into the women’s tents at night’.
Whether Phillip said these words or not, they are entirely plausible, exemplifying the vast gulf between vision (the same vision Jorn Utzon had before he was driven from these shores never to return) and its necessity for a healthy society and authoritarian ‘practicality’.
Australians have shown vision – federation and the Snowy Mountains scheme are examples of it – but, as Donald Horne wrote in his ironically titled The Lucky Country (a title deliberately misunderstood by the bulk of Australians), they are, in general, deeply suspicious of it. It threatens their drive to acquisition, mortgage payments and holidays in Thailand.
Horne exemplified this dichotomous world view between America and Australia when he paraphrased a diary entry by the socialite Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere – chairman of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963 – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’
To anyone who reads this post – particularly any Australian – and thinks it unjustified: read this post and view the video with it.
Reply to Jason
the expression ‘arse-end of the world’ was attributed to a previous Australian prime minister – Paul Keating. I used it because it well expresses how the dominant white majority – particularly those of British heritage – feel about their position in the world – that they are a white outpost not only far from Europe and Britain but that directly above them are billions of Asians who could easily attempt to do and succeed at doing what the whites did to the first Australians.
This fear runs right through Australia’s history since 1788. It is, e.g., the reason Australia went to war in 1914 – because of Australians’ fear of the Japanese and to keep Australia white (the prime minister of the day urged Australians to go to war on this basis – can you believe it?!).
This issue is at the heart of Australian culture and Australia’s relations with the world, no matter how much whites lie about it – e.g. the 2 main reasons why Ozzies yap so loudly (the Chinese are 100% correct when they refer to Australia as the running dog of the US) about the Chinese treatment of the Uighurs are
i) a doomed attempt to drown out their knowledge of what they themselves did and continue to do to the first Australians (including exterminating them from an entire state – Tasmania) and
ii) to jump at the opportunity to display their servility to the US, in the hope that the US will save them from Armageddon.
In my view, the only way this issue will be resolved, because white Australians are so resistant to behave fairly to the first Australians and more broadly, to refugees, will be when millions of people of Asian heritage settle here.
Reply to John
Two points to illustrate the sickness and the degree of sickness at the heart of Australian culture:
i) ‘Australia Day’ is held on Jan. 26. That was the date in 1788 when the British claimed and stole 1/2 the continent from Australia’s indigenous (a crime they have never properly compensated the first Australians for, not even coming to a treaty with them as they did with the Maoris) and, at the same time, established a penal colony with the 1st lot of convicts. When (white) Australians celebrate this date, that is what they celebrate – and the majority (of whites) couldn’t care less – its a fun day.
ii) The Australian de facto national anthem is ‘Waltzing Matilda’. That song ‘celebrates’ prostitution (‘waltzing Matilda’), product placement (Billy Tea), theft, cowardice and suicide. Again, white Ozzies couldn’t care less – its a catchy tune over which they get all teary-eyed (it was sung at the 2000 Olympics).
To get a better sense of how utterly sick this song is, compare it with the inspiring John Brown’s Body from the US Civil War.
What I am most critical about regarding Australian culture (which, for a number of reasons, I call convict culture) is not only its servility but the degree of it. Australians go out of their way to display it. First to the British, then, after their defeat at Singapore in WW2 by the Japanese (the thought of such military defeat has always terrified white Australians – consider the relentless racist tripe towards the Chinese with which the Australian media is daily awash) to the new dominant white, English-speaking, English derivative power, the US – now in decline.
I could give you countless examples of this servility, many of which I have posted on over the years on my blog, as well as quoting the thoughts of intelligent and principled Australians on this subject (e.g. Donald Horne who wrote The Lucky Country [too true, cobber – we’re lucky alright!]).
The dominant white Australians still see themselves as a white outpost at the arse-end of the world, with billions – yes, gulp!, billions – of faceless Asians just to the north, just waiting to take ‘our‘ land from us (haven’t I read that before?) and the fear this perception causes is a key driver of their servility.
One day, quite possibly long in the future, when the majority of Australia’s population is non-white Asian in origin, this country will find the confidence to get off its knees and get its own flag and Australia Day – and flush Waltzing Matilda into the sewer where it belongs.
Certainly, visit Australia and the first Australians – they would welcome you and would enlighten you regarding their experience and struggles for justice.
Servile Australia – the ‘perfectly behaved alliance partner’
The 1975 British-American coup in Australia
John Pilger, ‘The British-American coup that ended Australian independence’, The Guardian, 23.10.14
In 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam dared to try to assert his country’s autonomy. The CIA and MI6 made sure he paid the price.
Across the media and political establishment in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.
Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.
Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor (mw: note the American spelling) party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.
Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.
Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, Asio – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”
Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.
Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”
Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were decoded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the decoders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.
Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, The Crimes of Patriots, as “an elite, invitation-only group … exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.
When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as “the coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia, to the Australian Institute of Directors, was described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.
The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”
On 10 November 1975, Whitlam was shown a top-secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.
Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.
On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.
•John Pilger’s investigation into the coup against Whitlam is described in full in his book, A Secret Country (Vintage), and in his documentary film, Other People’s Wars, which can be viewed on johnpilger.com.
Slavery in Australia – in the laid back n’ easy goin’ ‘land of the fair go’
Thalia Anthony, Stephen Gray, ‘Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate’, The Conversation, 11.06.20
Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview that “there was no slavery in Australia”.
This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.
Morrison followed up with “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history”. Unfortunately, his statement is at odds with the historical record.
This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.
What is slavery?
Australia was not a “slave state” like the American South. However, slavery is a broader concept. As Article 1 of the United Nations Slavery Convention says:
Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.
These powers might include non-payment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, controls over freedom of movement, or selling a person like a piece of property. In the words of slavery historian Orlando Patterson, slavery is a form of “social death”.
Slavery has been illegal in the (former) British Empire since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807, and certainly since 1833.
Slavery practices emerged in Australia in the 19th century and in some places endured until the 1950s.
Early coverage of slavery in Australia
As early as the 1860s, anti-slavery campaigners began to invoke “charges of chattel bondage and slavery” to describe north Australian conditions for Aboriginal labour.
In 1891 a “Slave Map of Modern Australia” was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter, a journal that documented slavery around the world and campaigned against it.
Reprinted from English journalist Arthur Vogan’s account of frontier relations in Queensland, it showed large areas where:
… the traffic in Aboriginal labour, both children and adults, had descended into slavery conditions.
Seeds of slavery in Australia
Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery, originally in the pearling industry in Western Australia and the Torres Strait and then in the cattle industry.
In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they “went with” the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.
A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled:
… whitefellas would pull their gun out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!
Aboriginal woman Ruby de Satge, who worked on a Queensland station, described the Queensland Protection Act as meaning:
if you are sitting down minding your own business, a station manager can come up to you and say, “I want a couple of blackfellows” … Just like picking up a cat or a dog.
Through their roles under the legislation, police, Aboriginal protectors and pastoral managers were complicit in this force.
Slavery was sanctioned by Australian law
Legislation facilitated the enslavement of Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Under the South Australian Aborigines Act 1911, the government empowered police to “inspect workers and their conditions” but not to uphold basic working conditions or enforce payment. The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) allowed the forced recruitment of Indigenous workers in the Northern Territory, and legalised the non-payment of wages.
In Queensland, the licence system was effectively a blank cheque to recruit Aboriginal people into employment without their consent. Amendments to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave powers to the Protector or police officer to “expend” their wages or invest them in a trust fund – which was never paid out.
Officials were well aware that “slavery” was a public relations problem. The Chief Protector in the Northern Territory noted in 1927 that pastoral workers:
… are kept in a servitude that is nothing short of slavery.
In the early 1930s, Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook pointed out Australia was in breach of its obligations under the League of Nations Slavery Convention.
‘… it certainly exists here in its worst form’
Accusations of slavery continued into the 1930s, including through the British Commonwealth League.
In 1932 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) characterised Aboriginal workers as “slaves”. Unionist Owen Rowe argued:
If there is no slavery in the British Empire then the NT is not part of the British Empire; for it certainly exists here in its worst form.
In the 1940s, anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt surveyed conditions on cattle stations owned by Lord Vestey, commenting that Aboriginal people:
… owned neither the huts in which they lived nor the land on which these were built, they had no rights of tenure, and in some cases have been sold or transferred with the property.
In 1958, counsel for the well-known Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira argued that the Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) was unconstitutional, because the enacting legislation was:
… a law for the enslavement of part of the population of the Northern Territory.
Profits from slaves
Australia has unfinished business in repaying wages to Aboriginal and South Sea Islander slaves. First Nations slave work allowed big businesses to reap substantial profits, and helped maintain the Australian economy through the Great Depression. Aboriginal people are proud of their work on stations even though the historical narrative is enshrined in silence and denial.
As Bundjalung woman Valerie Linow has said of her experiences of slavery in the 1950s:
What if your wages got stolen? Honestly, wouldn’t you like to have your wages back? Honestly. I think it should be owed to the ones who were slave labour. We got up and worked from dawn to dusk … We lost everything – family, everything. You cannot go stealing our lousy little sixpence. We have got to have money back. You have got to give something back after all this country did to the Aboriginal people. You cannot keep stealing off us.
Addendum: the above addresses only part of the story – e.g. convicts were also used as slave labour.
A Greek, a Chinese, an Australian and truth
‘falsity is the assertion that that which is is not or that that which is not is and truth is the assertion that that which is is and that that which is not is not.’
Aristotle, The Metaphysics, Trans and Introduction by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin, London, 2004, 107 (Gamma 7 1011b)
Austllink chairwoman Amy Mo, a Beijing education agent who has operated in the Australian market for 15 years, said the deteriorating relationship (between Australia and China) will bring “immeasurable economic losses to Australia”.
“If Australian politicians don’t regret and keep being the running-dog of the United States in the name of so-called values, Chinese tourists and students will not go there,” she said.
“I hope Australia can change its attitude toward China. If a country loves Chinese money but doesn’t like Chinese people, China surely is not willing to do business with it.”…
Luke Sheehy, executive director of the Australian Technology Network of universities, which include RMIT and UTS, said the sector had prioritised welfare of students during the COVID-19 crisis and campuses were “vibrant, safe and welcoming places”. …
Eryk Bagshaw, Fergus Hunter, Sanghee Liu, ‘Students “to be steered to UK instead”‘ The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.06.20
A pair of helping hands
- Philip Dorling, ‘Arbib revealed as secret US source’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 09.12.10
Federal minister and right-wing Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib has been revealed as a confidential contact of the United States embassy in Canberra, providing inside information and commentary for Washington on the workings of the Australian government and the Labor Party.
Secret US embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available exclusively to The Age reveal that Senator Arbib, one of the architects of Kevin Rudd’s removal as prime minister, has been in regular contact with US embassy officers.
His candid comments have been incorporated into reports to Washington with repeated requests that his identity as a ”protected” source be guarded.
Embassy cables reporting on the Labor Party and national political developments, frequently classified “No Forn” – meaning no distribution to non-US personnel – refer to Senator Arbib as a strong supporter of Australia’s alliance with the US.
They identify him as a valuable source of information on Labor politics, including Mr Rudd’s hopes to forestall an eventual leadership challenge from then deputy prime minister Julia Gillard.
“He understands the importance of supporting a vibrant relationship with the US while not being too deferential. We have found him personable, confident and articulate,” an embassy profile on Senator Arbib written in July 2009 says. “He has met with us repeatedly throughout his political rise.’’
Other Labor politicians reported in US embassy cables as regular contacts include former federal MP and minister Bob McMullan and Michael Danby, the Labor member for Melbourne Ports.
A former secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party, Senator Arbib was a key backroom figure in the Labor ”coup” in June that resulted in Mr Rudd being replaced by Ms Gillard as PM.
He has been a senator since July 2008 and was made a parliamentary secretary in February 2009. Mr Rudd elevated him to the ministry in June 2009. He currently holds the ministerial portfolios of Sport, Indigenous Employment, and Social Housing and Homelessness.
Instructed to find out how decisions were made in the government, US diplomats were quick to focus on Senator Arbib as a “right-wing powerbroker and political rising star” who had made “a quick transition from the parliamentary backrooms into the ministry’’.
The US embassy noted that ”the New South Wales Labor party’s kingmaker” was integral in raising numbers for Mr Rudd to overthrow Kim Beazley as Labor leader in 2006, and that Senator Arbib was “a close adviser to Rudd and is his key conduit to the ALP factions’’.
“Arbib is an influential factional operator who has forged strong political connections with Rudd,” the embassy recorded. “We have been told that Rudd respects Arbib’s political expertise, and a contact noted that Arbib is brought into Rudd’s inner circle when politically important decisions are made.
“Arbib is said to be loyal to, but frank with, Rudd, and is one of Rudd’s closest advisers. Yet, publicly, Arbib has denied being part of Rudd’s inner circle.”
US diplomats also found that Arbib “is an astute observer and able conversant on the nuts and bolts of US politics’’.
Senator Arbib first appears as a contributor to US embassy political reporting while he was NSW Labor state secretary. In May 2006 he declared to US diplomats that Australia was at risk of becoming a ”quarry for the Chinese and a tourist destination for the Japanese’’.
He warned that it would be “a tough struggle for the Labor Party to win the federal elections in 2007”. But he thought Kim Beazley, because he was the opposite of the volatile Mark Latham, was ”the right man to lead the ALP at the present time’’.
However, he also told embassy officers that, unlike Mr Beazley, he supported Australia’s military commitment in Iraq “as well as the war on terrorism in general’’.
After the Rudd government’s election in 2007, Senator Arbib offered reassurance about then deputy prime minister Gillard’s political leanings, describing her as “one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP”.
He also confirmed Mr Rudd’s tendencies towards micromanagement and told the embassy that “Rudd’s staff would like to get their boss to spend less time on foreign policy and delegate more, but that they recognise that this is a hopeless task’’.
In October 2009, as Mr Rudd’s popular support began to sag, Senator Arbib openly canvassed emerging leadership tensions within the government, telling US envoys that Mr Rudd wanted “to ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge’’.
Senator Arbib added that Mr Rudd still appreciated Ms Gillard’s strengths, while an another unidentified adviser to the Labor prime minister told US diplomats that “while the PM respects Gillard, his reluctance to share power will eventually lead to a falling-out, while Gillard will not want to acquiesce in creating potential rivals”.
In June this year, Senator Arbib and other Labor Right figures moved to depose Mr Rudd from the leadership, precipitating the events that led to Ms Gillard’s becoming Prime Minister.
Senator Arbib last night declined to comment on the WikiLeaks disclosures.
2. Daniel Flitton, ‘Explosive Wiki Rudd cable’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 06.12.10
Kevin Rudd warned Hillary Clinton to be prepared to use force against China ”if everything goes wrong”, an explosive new Wikileaks cable has revealed.
Mr Rudd also told Mrs Clinton during a March 24, 2009, meeting in Washington that China was ”paranoid” about both Taiwan and Tibet and that his ambitious plan for an Asia-Pacific Community was intended to blunt Chinese influence in the region. …