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.
Natassia Chrysanthos, ‘Subjects on US slavery and fascism slated for cuts at Sydney University’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.06.20
History subjects about the making of the US, American slavery, fascism and anti-fascism are nominated to be cut from the University of Sydney’s arts and social sciences faculty due to budget-saving measures. …
It comes as the statues of slave traders are torn down in Britain and thousands worldwide protest against police brutality in the Black Lives Matter movement, after the death of George Floyd in the United States.
History student Annabel Pettit said she was hoping to study American slavery next semester.
“It feels like a vital time to be thinking critically, and learning as much as we can about what has led us to this particular moment in history,” she said.
“It’s disappointing news to hear as a student, and deeply concerning given the current global anti-racist movement and the upcoming US election.”…
Seventy history students have written to the arts and social sciences dean, Annamarie Jagose, petitioning to save the subjects.
“These are vital subjects to study in a world where the mass Black Lives Matter movement has been threatened by the US President with military action to disperse protesters,” they wrote.
Senior history lecturer David Brophy said students felt they were being denied the opportunity to study topics that were “really important at this point”.
“It’s not a good time for Sydney to be weakening its offerings in these areas,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a global uprising against racism centred in America, and we’re stripping away these units that speak directly to the current context.
“There’s also an intense discussion that’s sparked up again about the way we speak about history, the debate about the commemoration of figures involved in slavery. They would normally be expected to attract significant interest in a time like this.” …
‘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
Brian Toohey, ‘A star-spangled spanner in the works: how US secrecy controls Australian weapons’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25.05.20
The loss of Australian sovereignty within the American alliance is rarely raised amid the current alarm about whether the US is a reliable ally. Successive prime ministers have given the US a de facto veto over whether Australia can use its own weapons systems to defend itself.
At the same time, they have allowed Australian forces to become so tightly integrated into the Pentagon’s that it presumes Australia will automatically participate in a horrendous new American war, even when it’s an illegal act of aggression like the invasion of Iraq.
The erosion of our national sovereignty has not occurred suddenly. A Parliamentary Library research paper warned back in 2001 that American restrictions meant Australia could only use its advanced weapons for a short time before they became inoperable. Since then, Australia has become more reliant on complex weapons systems whose sensitive components have to be sent back to America for maintenance and repairs. Perversely, American secrecy prevents Australian personnel from learning how to perform these tasks.
The US also denies Australia access to the computer source code essential to operate key electronic components in its ships, planes, missiles, sensors and so on. Israel is the only country allowed even a partial role in repairing the electronic systems at the heart of the troubled-plagued F-35 fighter planes Australia is also acquiring.
Although there is nothing new about the possibility the US won’t always come riding to Australia’s rescue, President Donald Trump’s erratic behaviour has sparked a growing awareness that nothing is guaranteed.
Even more conventional US presidents will act in what they see as their own political interest and some version of the national interest rather than always committing American blood and treasure to defend Australia. Many otherwise hard-headed Australian politicians and commentators reject this reality, despite the lessons of history.
In 1963, Bob Menzies’ coalition government was keen to commit Australian forces to a cross-border war against Indonesia in Borneo. Menzies wanted an assurance from then US president John F. Kennedy that the ANZUS treaty meant the US would supply troops to support Australian forces. Archival records show Kennedy told Menzies that the American people had “forgotten” about ANZUS and no troops would be supplied.
In 1999, John Howard wanted president Bill Clinton to provide “boots on the ground” to help an Australian-led force quell violence sponsored by Indonesia in East Timor. Clinton refused.
Drawing on these lessons, an official National Security Update in 2007 stated it was the Howard government’s policy that we must be the “sole guarantor of our own security” and that it was “not healthy for a country to become dependent on another for its basic defence”. Although the defence minister Brendan Nelson wrote a supportive introduction to the update, no subsequent government has attempted to implement this policy.
A policy of greater self-reliance requires full access to all relevant computer source code. Resources would need to be devoted to beefing up Australia’s electronics industry to allow the defence forces to operate far more independently than presently. But this doesn’t mean all defence equipment has to be built in Australia – that would be prohibitively costly. Funds could be freed up by greater use of relatively low-cost drones and by scrapping mega projects such as the ludicrously expensive French/Australian submarine relying on US electronics. When eventually delivered sometime after 2035, the submarine will almost certainly be a financial and military disaster.
Meanwhile, there is no need to overreact to China’s imposition of an 80 per cent tariff on imported Australian barley. China began action in the World Trade Organisation in 2018 against Australia’s alleged dumping of barley.
The University of Adelaide’s Simon Lacey points out that currently Australia has anti-dumping action under way or proposed against Chinese wind towers, glass, electric cables, chemicals, herbicides, A4 copy paper and aluminium products, as well as steel.
China has now pointedly switched to buying more barley from the US to meet Trump’s demand that it imports a lot more from America.
‘Big W shopper tasered by police in toilet paper fight’, Ash Cant, Yahoo News Australia, 05.03.20
A man has been tasered by police after an argument at a Big W over toilet paper.
The 50-year-old man was arrested over the alleged assault, which happened at the retailer in Tamworth, in northeast NSW, on Thursday afternoon.
“Police have been told a 50-year-old man began to argue with a staff member and another customer before he assaulted them at a department store in Bridge Street,” a NSW Police spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia.
Officers from Oxley Police District arrested the man just after 10am (local time) on Thursday.
He was tasered by police when they arrived at the scene.
Yahoo News Australia understands the confrontation was about toilet paper.
The man was taken to Tamworth Police Station, where he is assisting police with their inquiries.
The incident comes after shoppers have left toilet paper aisles empty in recent days as they scramble to stockpile the grocery staple amid coronavirus fears.
Videos have emerged of people clearing the shelves and now both Coles and Woolworths have imposed limits on how many packs of toilet rolls each customer can buy at one time.
On Wednesday, police were called to a Woolworths in Sydney’s west after reports of a person being threatened with a knife also allegedly over toilet paper.
Charlotte Grieve, ‘Behind every number is a student’: survey finds widespread racism in schools’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.08.19
One in five African students has been threatened by another student and almost half of East Asian students have been called names, according to a survey of 4600 state school pupils across Victoria and NSW.
Racism and religious intolerance remain widespread in Australia’s primary and secondary schools, researchers from Australian National University have found, with discrimination coming from both students and teachers.
Tanzanian Year 11 student Emmanuel Asante was threatened on the grounds of his south Sydney school by another student, who called him a “black monkey” and ordered him to get off the soccer pitch.
“I felt sad and I felt that I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t play soccer again. Never again,” he says now, one year after finishing high school.
Mr Asante became depressed during school, and said that while family and relationship issues were the main causes, “being racist to me added oil to the flames”.
This form of bullying can have serious lifelong consequences, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Naomi Priest, contributing to mental and physical health problems and even undermining future employment opportunities as students become discouraged and disengaged.
“We talk about the numbers of students who experience racism and we look at the percentages. But it’s important to remember that behind every number is a student, a family, a community.”
The researchers found that one third of students had been subjected to racism from other students – from teasing to physical violence – and six in 10 witnessed it. Professor Priest said she was not surprised by the results.
“Schools are a microcosm of wider society,” she said. “We know racism is a major issue in our community, we’re seeing the rise of the far right and white nationalism around the globe.”
Religious intolerance was also found to be rife, with one in four students surveyed reporting they’d been bullied because of their faith.
While only 2.35 per cent of the students surveyed said they were Muslim, more than half of them said they’d been bullied for their faith.
Throughout her schooling in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Sundus Ibrahim was bullied for wearing the hijab – other children yanked at her head scarf, asked why she wore it or screamed “I hate you” while pointing at her head.
Ms Ibrahim, who graduated two years ago, describes herself as having a “big personality” but “at school I felt small”.
She tried to brush it off but grew so anxious she now feels afraid when alone in public.
Teachers can also be racist, the students told researchers: one in 10 said their teachers was racist towards them and nearly half said they had seen teachers racially discriminating against other students.
Braybrook VCE student Praise Morris said her friend was barred from her economics class because there were “too many black students” and they would “turn the class into a party”.
The students wrote a letter to the principal complaining about the incident but Ms Morris said the teachers tried to downplay the event, rather than deal with it.
“Instead of just taking ownership of what happened, they said you might have perceived it wrong…It really discourages you from even trying in school. What’s the point of trying to prove something if they already have the perception that I’m going to fail?”
The researchers hope to repeat the survey so they can track changing attitudes in schools.
Suelette Dreyfus, ‘EU hails Assange while Australia does nothing’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18.04.19
The European Parliament passed a law this week to protect whistleblowers across 28 countries, with support from 591 MEPs to just 29 against, while some abstained and some were absent. This new EU “directive” may have been inspired in part by WikiLeaks’ reporting, but it will not help its founder, Julian Assange, who is already sitting in a British high-security prison, Belmarsh, under harsh conditions.
Assange faces a UK charge of skipping bail. He always said he skipped bail because the US government wanted to put him in a US prison. He was correct.
Now the US is attempting to extradite Assange to face criminal proceedings. Its single charge against him is about an event that happened nearly a decade ago – and it is a serious threat to media freedom.
This was the view of many in the meeting rooms at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week. On Monday night the Parliament’s plenary passed a motion to discuss Assange’s plight. A stream of MEPs from different countries told the chamber of their worry for his safety, proposed giving him asylum in Europe, and insisted he not be extradited to the US.
A few journalists have claimed US criminal proceedings are not a threat to press freedom because “Assange isn’t a journalist”. Why? Because he “just dumped” US military documents, the “War Logs”, in an unredacted form. This is inaccurate.
When WikiLeaks published the Afghanistan War Logs, it withheld more than 15,000 records. Its next major publication, the Iraq War Logs, was more heavily redacted – so much so that other media outlets complained.
Assange is both a journalist and a publisher; he has led fearless news reporting over more than a decade. His digital media outlet has worked like a wire service: it publishes straight, fact-based news pieces, supported by data sets of redacted original material. Media around the globe have taken these news pieces and expanded them by enhancing the stories with local content, as they might with an AP news story.
Traditional media outlets have now copied many innovations by Assange. These include installing anonymous digital drop boxes, publishing large redacted data sets in support of investigative news stories, hiring data science journalists, and encouraging reporters to improve their cybersecurity to protect sources.
I previously worked with Assange, writing the book Underground, and other journalism. What I witnessed was an investigative journalist at work. He had a strong news sense, sought to report the facts accurately, was a good writer, and believed in reporting news in the public interest. Since 2007, he has been a member of the journalists’ trade union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
That the EU Parliament is moving to protect whistleblowers, and many of its members are so concerned about Assange, begs the question: why isn’t the Australian government using its special relationship with Britain to ask for its own citizen to be sent safely home? Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s throw-away lines about Assange’s case raises questions about whether he is a leader who will look after Australians in strife overseas. This is one of the roles of a government.
Labor leader Bill Shorten could easily follow the lead of his British Labour counterpart, Jeremy Corbin, who stated he does not think Assange should be extradited to the US. But he hasn’t yet.
The US criminal charge puts at risk the public interest chain of investigative journalism: the information path of whistleblower from journalist to publisher to the public. This chain depends on technology, particularly for security and anonymity protections. An attack on any part of this chain will weaken this corrective mechanism that exposes corruption in our society.
Whether you agree or disagree with Assange, he has transformed journalism, and turned whistleblowing from a corruption issue into a freedom-of-expression issue. If this extradition goes forward, expect the chill of a coming winter in media freedom.
Two letters to the editor, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.03.19
Memorial a sham that glorifies wars fought for other countries
I’m looking for a letter which says “don’t extend the Australian War Memorial, demolish it”.
None of the Australian personnel who served, suffered and died in World War I, and subsequent wars, made their sacrifice for Australia.
It was all for the Mother Country, or to keep sweet with the US.
Everybody remembers Menzies saying: “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”.
Everybody remembers Holt’s “all the way with LBJ”.
Everybody remembers Hasluck pressuring the Americans to request an Australian battalion to join US combat troops in South Vietnam.
I except the 624 regular army and Citizen Military Forces members killed on the Kokoda track while defending Australia against the Japanese.
I also except the tens of thousands of unknown partisans who were hunted and shot down defending their homeland in the bitter guerrilla war fought on Australian soil from 1788 to 1928.
The present war glorification park is a joke.
It is a sham hatched by John Howard and Professor Geoffrey Blainey and about to be brought to fruition by Dr Brendan Nelson.
Kenneth Griffiths, O’Connor
Face up to early conflict
Brendan Nelson (“Indigenous gargoyles to stay at Australian War Memorial”, canberratimes.com.au, June 4, 2015) said the AWM did not have the resources to deal with the armed conflict between Indigenous and white Australians.
However, $350 million was spent on the Anzac Centenary and $485 million allocated for memorial expansion.
There are still no plans to memorialise the Frontier Wars. The director’s argument is surely not sustainable.
The AWM, or the director, have also argued from time to time that war was never declared against Indigenous Australia, nor were the Frontier Wars fought overseas.
Once again these are weak arguments as we never declared war on North Vietnam but we rightly memorialise the conflict.
The AWM seems also to have overlooked that significant armed conflict occurred on Australian soil in Darwin in World War II. This is dealt with appropriately in the galleries.
One can conclude that our past is just too grim and we haven’t matured enough to acknowledge these wars.
But we must.
Germany has been able to face its Nazi past and emerged stronger as it faces the future.
We cannot grow as a nation until we have come to grips with the blood that was spilt in the Frontier Wars; wars that may have taken more Australian lives than World Wars I and II combined, and wars that shaped our nation.
Digby Habel, Cook
To illustrate the depth of Australian servility to their latest anglophone bully-boy-on-the-block-master, I add a quotation from the Australian War Memorial website which addresses the ‘award’ as a ‘battle honour’ of an American word to the name for the Track on which approximately 625 Australian soldiers died and on which no American soldiers fought (If you search the War Memorial website for ‘Kokoda Track’ up will come links to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Do you think the Americans would re-name any of their trails ‘track’, let alone one on which so many of their citizens had died fighting for their country?):
“Kokoda Trail” and “Kokoda Track” have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.
Jennifer Duke, ‘Huawei executive hits out at Turnbull’ The Sydney Morning Herald 14.03.19
‘A senior Australian Huawei executive has hit back at former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for urging the UK to ban the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant for its future mobile networks.
Last week, Mr Turnbull told prominent British MPs at a London think tank event that a recent hack of Australian political parties proved agile responses were need to counter growing cyber threats and urged them not to allow companies like Huawei to participate in building the ultra-fast 5G mobile networks.
The Australian government imposed a ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G in August on security grounds, shortly before Mr Turnbull was replaced as prime minister by Scott Morrison.
In a lengthy response provided to this masthead before publication on the Huawei website, the telco’s director of corporate affairs, Jeremy Mitchell, under the title “Australia pays for Malcolm’s 5G muddle”, criticised the former PM for swallowing “hook, line and sinker” a “myth” there was bigger security risk in a 5G network.
He said the “myth was born after [Mr Turnbull’s] visit to the US in February 2018” and said Huawei knew “more about 5G networks than any agency would, or could”.
Mr Mitchell argued Huawei was willing to share information and work with governments to ensure privacy and security but”[u]nfortunately, under Mr Turnbull’s watch this didn’t happen”.
“Now that Huawei is excluded from the Australian 5G mix, telco operators will be paying around 30 per cent more for the second-best technology,” he said.
…Mr Turnbull was approached for comment.’