The reappearance on 10 November 2021 of Paul Keating at the National Press Club after an absence of 26 years does demonstrate one thing, at least: that each new prime minister of Australia is worse than the one previous. Put it another way, Keating is streets ahead of Morrison. Keating correctly points out that Australia cannot go to war with China over Taiwan. It certainly cannot go into battle with the Chinese navy using American attack class nuclear submarines designed in Virginia in the 1990s. Keating should know, as PM he had his own disaster with the Collins class submarines. The Collins submarines hardly ever left the docks and did not have sufficient trained personnel to put the entire fleet to sea at the same time.
US coercion of China: ‘It would make a cat laugh‘ – Keating
Despite Keating’s attempt to dispel the confusion over China, the Australian media chose to attack him; the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and even the ABC’s Q& A program compered by Stan Grant. This is not helpful when you have Ministers like Peter Dutton in government saying things like “it would be inconceivable that Australia as a US alliance partner, would not join in military action”. Is he serious? Does Dutton want another Vietnam?
This is what Keating had to say about United States’ attempt at coercion of China:
“The United States says, well, that’s all very interesting. ‘But look, if you behave yourself, you Chinese. You can be a stakeholder in our system’. And look, you wouldn’t have to be Xi Jinping (President of the People’s Republic of China) or anybody, to take the view of your Chinese Nationalist say, ‘Well, hang on, let me get this right. We are already one and a quarter times bigger than you will soon be twice as big as you and we may be two and a half times as big as you. But we can be a stakeholder in your system, is that it?’ I mean, it’d make a cat laugh.” – Paul Keating , National Press Club, Wednesday, 10 November 2021.
The Collins class boats built by Keating and Admiral Kim Beazely (sic) are best retired to a children’s playground in some remote town for all the good they have done. Sending young people to sea in a long tube submerged for several months is pretty mad especially given the high death rate among submariners during World War II.
Keating is right to criticise the government’s hypocrisy over Kashmir. Australian government’s would rather sell coal and tertiary education to India than criticise that government’s appalling human rights record in the independent state of Kashmir. On that score India is nearly as bad as Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
But you never hear Keating criticise Israel nor did he criticise Indonesia’s genocidal occupation of East Timor. Keating was the Minister for Northern development in the Whitlam government when it made its last mistaken in office giving the OK to Indonesia to invade East Timor in late 1975. That was Whitlam’s last mistake and Fraser’s. Fancy turning a blind eye to the killing of Timorese by the Indonesian military.
Ignoring Indonesia military abuses of human rights in East Timor, Keating put together a treaty with Suharto in 1995.
Keating was right to say that USA cannot control three oceans, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific. Especially when the Chinese economy is bigger and is growing at a faster rate the United States. This what Keating had to say at the National Press Club:
“Until not many years ago, the US Pacific Fleet drove 12 miles off the edge of the Chinese territorial sea, on the Chinese continental shelf, you know. Could you imagine the attitude of the United States if the Chinese Bluewater Navy was sailing 12 miles off the territorial sea of California? I mean, there’d be outrage everywhere. So what the Chinese have been doing is, is getting what’s called in the trade Sea Denial, pushing the American fleet off their coast.” – – Paul Keating , National Press Club, Wednesday, 10 November 2021.
China is a big sea trading nation, so what it wants is for its goods to be transported unfettered through the South China sea. The US navy is trying to challenge that; given the importance of trade with China for many countries including Australia, the US government should reconsider this challenge to Chinese sovereignty.
However you never heard Keating criticise US imperialism or hearing himcriticise Henry Kissinger when the Secreatary of State gave the Indonesian government the okay to invade East Timor. Keating even quoted Kissinger on China:
“Henry Kissinger said something which is worth repeating here, which is pretty much my own view if I can find it. I wrote this down a meeting I had with him. He said he did not believe China has a military base policy designed to achieve military domination. Nor is it policy about annexing contiguous territories. In other words, the country’s around it. He thought his overarching policy objective was to keep the U.S. away from Chinese borders. He said he did not believe China wants a confrontation with the United States. He said being Chinese, the Chinese will develop a concept of coexistence.” – Paul Keating , National Press Club, Wednesday 10 Nov 2021
But he left out that the US government had threatened war with China over the Taiwan Straits as long ago is 1958. The truth is United States has left its run too late. Keating is right, there will be no war over Taiwan. And if there were, Australia should keep well clear of it.
The China Syndrome meets Dr Strangelove
Glenn Gibson asked if Paul Keating can help with diplomatic relations with China? Keating, when in power, followed a strategy of building up the Australian bourgeoisie, in order, in his terms ‘to break with the branch office mentality’ inside Australia and so strengthen it as a regional power.
So in the National Press cub Keating opposed the purchase of the nuclear subs and the AUKUS alliance. He prefers to build nationalist pride rather than dependence on the US and Britain. Predictably Paul Keating wants to build the ‘Son of Collins‘ here in Australia. Failing that he comes up with the crazy idea of buying ‘off the shelf’ nuclear subs from France. Neither Hawke nor Keating could ever see the stupidity of developing the nuclear industry when melt downs like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima were the result.
Keating questions buying US nuclear subs:
“What’s that got to do with the defence of Australia and what possible impact could we have militarily with eight submarines? These Virginia class submarines were designed in the 1990s. By the time we have half a dozen of them, it will be 2045 or 2050 – they will be 50 or 60 years old. In other words, our new submarines will be old tech, like buying an old 747. And here we are, we’re going to wait 20-odd years to get the first one and 35 or 40 years to get the lot for what will be then very old boats.”
On the ABC’s Q&A program the host Stan Grant suggested that China would be very concerned about the threat of the Australian Navy having eight nuclear submarines despite the fact that the are not yet built, may never be built, and their delivery date is not until 2040. By contrast China built its first nuclear-powered submarine in 1974. With the world’s largest armed forces, China has increasingly worked to advance its naval capabilities. Beijing has at least 59 operational submarines, 12 are nuclear-powered and half of those are SSBNs. An SSBN is a nuclear powered submarine that fires ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead and is very difficult to detect at sea. It makes ‘mutually assured destruction’ possible after a first strike.
Much of the public debate on commercial and public media is based on a premise of inflated importance of Australia both in the world and in respect of China.
Keating never gives up on the alliance with the United States even though China is a major trading partner for Australia.
Meanwhile experts from independent Australia Peace Network (IPAN) have called for an independent and peaceful Australia.
IPAN made the following press release and have included an interim report on the Australia-US Alliance. Part of this was prompted by Australia government pronouncing that it intends to buy nuclear submarines.
Kellie Tranter, Chair of the Inquiry, lawyer and human rights activist, said: “We have received a tremendous number of submissions, many of which point to the sidelining of the Australian public from defence and foreign policy decisions, particularly in relation to its alliance with the United States.”
“Foreign policy is rarely discussed publicly and almost never democratically decided. However, the reluctance of politicians to discuss foreign policy is by no means reflective of the Australian public’s own interest and engagement.”
Paul Keating at the at the National Press Club was in agreement with sentiments expressed by Ms Tranter . He said:
“If you go from Wuhan, a city where the rivers cross, and the railways cross; the Chinese will be the major influence between everything between Wuhan and Istanbul. Partly to increase their strategic power. And secondly, all of the old tech, which had been replaced by the new tech, that is steel, glass cement. People say ‘what are they gonna do with the big cement plants, their big steel plants, their glass plant?’ What are they going to do with it?’ The answer is what they’re going to do is push it down the road. They’re going to put it into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, you know, this is where Chinese interest right now. You don’t get this. You don’t get this in the Australian public debate. Because it’s informed by the spooks, our foreign policy debate, now in Canberra is informed by the security agencies, you know.” – Paul Keating , National Press Club, Wednesday, 10 November 2021.
IPAN correctly challenges Australia’s reliance on the United States given that our major trading partner is China.
16 Nov 2021
*The China Syndrome is a 1979 American disaster thriller film about a television reporter and her cameraman who discover safety coverups at a nuclear power plant.
*Dr Stragelove is a 1964 black comedy film that satirizes the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.