Sunday, November 29, 2020

Singapore and the changing balance of regional power

 Written by: (Contributed) on 30 November 2020

A recent major diplomatic statement from the Singapore Government of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has revealed serious disquiet about United States foreign policy toward the region in recent years.

The development, which rests upon a changing balance of forces and structural changes across the wider region, has already created problems for those supportive of US domination in the region, including Australia.

In mid-November, the Singapore government issued a major diplomatic statement about the predicament the country faced within the context of the wider Indo-Pacific: US-led regional foreign policy had included counter-productive elements, which PM Lee Hsien Loong warned were likely to 'have long-term repercussions'. (1) He noted that problems had arisen with the US attempting to create 'a Cold War-style alliance against China'. (2)

RCEP to further weaken US influence

The recent creation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade body which has included all ten ASEAN countries, together with others including Australia, has been noted as 'tipped to further diminish America's influence in the region'. (3) It has provided further evidence that the rapid rise of China has led to structural changes taking place in economies across the Indo-Pacific.

China was a major diplomatic player in the drive to establish the RCEP, which runs counter to recent US-led diplomatic initiatives and political rhetoric to build Cold War alliances centred on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) around Australia, Japan and India linked directly into US-led regional foreign policy. The RCEP has already been regarded as likely to strengthen trade links between China and ASEAN and their supporters, despite both the US and India not even being part of the trade body. (4)

The Singapore government diplomatic statement also drew attention to the fact that previous US presidential administrations before Trump 'have seen America as having broad interest in the stability of the region and the well-being of its partners'. (5) The Trump administration had largely been responsible, however, for pushing regional foreign policy agendas which included joining 'a coalition against those who have been excluded, chief of whom will be China'. (6) The creation of the RCEP had shown just how counter-productive the policies of the Trump administration had been.

The developments would also tend to add further weight to the findings of a US congressional commission in November, 2018, that 'the US is no longer clearly superior to the threats its faces around the world'. (7)

There would appear to have been a parting of the ways in recent times: the development has created a serious problem whereby those associated with US-led initiatives had included military and security provision alongside trade considerations; China's main concern has been primarily economic, military considerations being pursued through other channels.

These developments have far-reaching implications for Singapore: its dramatic rise was based largely upon US-led initiatives dating from the previous Cold War. It has been noted, furthermore, that recent developments have seen Singapore failing to become 'a major shaper of the ASEAN agenda', and 'out of synch with the rest of the region', together with the problem that despite the strong Chinese ancestry of their population, Singapore has failed to have much influence inside China itself. (8)

Implications for Australia

These developments also have implications for Australia, where sycophantic governments slavishly follow US-led regional foreign policy directives despite China being the country's biggest trading partner.

When focussing upon links between Australia and Singapore, it is, therefore, possible to establish the very distinct likelihood of just how fraught the diplomatic relationship may eventually become in future decades.

There are two very important considerations: rotations of military personnel and intelligence-gathering.

A new joint military training agreement has rested upon longer-term planning where Australia and Singapore entered into a 'comprehensive partnership' in 2013, which was updated three years later. The recent further update has included provision for joint training together with all three services of the Singapore Armed Forces having rotations through Australia for upwards of eighteen months for 14,000 personnel. (9)

Secondly, Singapore lies just below the arc from Diego Garcia to Guam from Pine Gap in central Australia and has a long history of involvement between the corporate sector and intelligence services. (10) Singtel, the main national mobile telephone company, for example, has provided a vitally important opportunity for 'the US and Australia to expand eavesdropping capabilities in the region', together with 'signals interception facilities within the South China Seas area'. (11)

It is also linked to several other mobile telephone companies and is known to have links into PACOM, the main US Command in Hawaii. (12)

The strategic significance of Singapore being approximately halfway between the two US military hubs for the vast Indo-Pacific region, has become more important following an announcement that China was thought to be planning a naval base on Cambodia's small coastline. (13) The proposed naval base would provide China with support facilities for the South China Seas.

Singapore, however, while remaining a strategic asset for US-led regional foreign policy, is faced with a reduction in viable options as traditional US domination continually declines.

Part of the problem arising with US decline, furthermore, has been greater responsibilities thrust upon Australia for regional military and security considerations.

The strong links Australia has established with Singapore, therefore, are likely to become problematic over the next few decades, as China increases its regional influence and dislodges the US as the world's biggest economy. The Pentagon is unlikely to take such developments willingly, and we are already witnessing their military planning for real-war scenarios.
                                           We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Asia's perception of America may never recover: Lee, Australian, 18 November 2020.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Beijing trade win as Asia signs on, The Weekend Australian, 14-15 November 2020.
4.     Regional partnership forms world's largest trading bloc, Australian, 16 November 2020.
5.     Australian, op.cit., 18 November 2020.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
8.     Is Singapore western intelligence's sixth eye? The Asia Sentinel, 10 December 2013.
9.     Australia-Singapore defence relations, The Diplomat, 23 March 2020.
10.   Sentinel, op.cit., 10 December 2013.
11.   Ibid.
12.   Ibid.
13.   Strategic alliance in north enthuses visiting US chiefs, Australian, 22 August 2019.

Just One of Many Reasons Why US Finance Capital Dumps Trump.

 Written by: Ned K. on 29 November 2020

For many decades the US dollar has been the reserve currency of the capitalist world.

This has enabled the US Treasury to fund US deficits and debts by just printing more US Treasury Bills and relying on other major countries to buy the Bills in order to gain US dollars for trade purposes.

In 2012 a British Bank, Standard Chartered, was fined $340 million for using US dollars in a trade deal with Iran, in defiance of American laws but not breaking any British laws!

When Trump came to power, he tried to stem the tide of other countries moving against the US dollar as the world reserve currency. He withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) which comprised six countries - USA, UK, Russia, China, Germany and France.

Then, beating his chest, Trump announced sanctions against any country trading with Iran. 

This was like lifting a rock and dropping it on his own feet. European imperialist countries, France, UK and Germany set up the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). 

This was a non-US dollar mechanism for trade with Iran to avert US sanctions.

In symbolic terms this represented a major shift in the international financial/monetary system, sending off alarm bells to finance capital in the USA. It was the first time major allies of the USA had created an alternative to the US dollar payment system.

Imagine if Russia and China followed. Voices started to be raised questioning the whole dependence of the capitalist world on the US dollar system for trade purposes.

Far from "making America great again", Trump was making his own ruling class vulnerable.

Time, they thought, to "dump Trump"!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Environment and capitalism: New book released

 Written by: CPA (M-L) on 27 November 2020

The CPA (M-L) has released a new book titled “Fight capitalism’s destructive impact on nature”.

The book is a 120-page compilation of 29 articles relating to contemporary environmental issues taken from our Party’s website from 2017 to 2020.

Although the content of some articles will have dated, what is more important is the analysis of these events and issues from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.

That perspective differs from some environmental writings in clearly foregrounding some of the basic contradictions inherent in environmental issues:
The contradiction between capital and labour
The contradiction between capital and nature
The contradiction between imperialism and the Australian people.
Our perspective also differs in clearly foregrounding the rights of the working class, the environment, and the broader Australian people against capitalism and imperialism.
Our perspective is that the workers can and must exercise leadership in resolving the three contradictions above, that their right to struggle and win is entirely just and bound to succeed.
While it is likely that readers will learn details of some of the struggles covered in this book, we hope that a more substantial learning will be from the approach taken towards the issues covered in the content.  
In this way, environmental activists will be better placed to analyse and form responses to new and unforeseen issues and thus strengthen the connections between the struggle for socialism, for anti-imperialist independence and for a healthy, clean and sustainable living planet.
The book is available in pdf format from the Media and Archives section of our website. 
For residents of Australia, hard copies can be obtained by sending a $10 note with a return postal address to PO Box 196 Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia 3065.



Monday, November 23, 2020

Raid on CFMEU, just coincidence or police protecting profits?

 Louisa L. 

When CFMEU’s NSW Construction Division Assistant Secretary Michael Greenfield was ambushed in his driveway by men calling his name early last Monday, he ran inside for safety. Then they tried to kick down his front door. Only when that failed did they announce they were police. He immediately opened the door. His wife and three-year-old child were also inside.

Construction has always been a tough industry.

When unions shut worksites, as they have recently, things can get nasty.

At dawn, fifteen NSW and Federal police with dogs also arrived at Secretary Darren Greenfield’s family home. Police spent six hours turning things over.

Then the union was raided. Workers on trade union courses were ejected.

Elections, safety and industrial manslaughter

The day before the raid, the union’s elections opened. Just coincidence?

Nothing to do with a union blitz on sites targeting builders operating unsafely?

No link to another critical CFMEU campaign for a law against industrial manslaughter, which is already on the books in Queensland, Victoria and WA?

When 18-year-old Christopher Cassaniti died under collapsed scaffolding last year, construction workers erupted in grief and outrage. More dangerously for the boss class, Christopher’s death provoked fury against police who threatened workers trying to rescue those underneath the mangled scaffold, and strikes against corporate culpability and inaction.

Three days after the raid, SafeWork NSW settled a case against a construction company over Christopher’s death, in the words of Darren Greenfield, “effectively the cost of the company’s insurance excess”.

“They are putting corporate greed ahead of workers’ lives” Greenfield said.

Who knows what action workers would have taken if the union hadn’t been dealing with the raids?

Bleeding workers 24/7

But above all, union insiders believe the key reason is a union demand for a new RDO (Rostered Day Off) calendar with a nine-day-fortnight and a 15 per cent pay rise. These demands eat into profit. For corporations, money is the bottom line, not human life.

Big meetings were due to take place that week to finalise agreements.

Some big construction companies have been pressuring workers to accept non-union agreements. Workers at other sites have been loud in support for those resisting this pressure.

Construction sites are working flat out, finishing two to four months before schedule but are whingeing about two weeks lost to RDOs.

Workers aren’t having it. Long hours play havoc with health and family. Their comparatively big pay packets are peanuts compared to corporate profits made off their sweat.

“We deserve a break!” is their battle cry. 

Some corporations, like giants Lend Lease, Crown and Multiplex, used Covid-19 as an excuse to begin continuous shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The federal government assisted by pressuring councils to relax Development Application rules.

To give an idea of the size of these corporations, Multiplex is now owned by Canadian-headquartered Brookfield Asset Management which has $US510.6 billion under management.

AFP Canberra raids unlawful

Workers see these raids for what they are, attempts to threaten a union that organises its members to fight for their collective rights. Not one member has contacted the union to question its so-called law breaking.

According to CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan, “The warrant relates to investigations under the Fair Work Act and related matters.

“The AFP have been taking an increasingly active role in industrial relations matters, and have previously raided CFMEU Offices in Canberra and Brisbane.

“Neither of those raids resulted in any charges being laid against any union official.

“In the case of Canberra, the AFP actions were found to be unlawful by the ACT Supreme Court,” Mr Noonan stated.

No arrests have been made, nor any charges laid in the latest raids.

Militarisation of police with military in reserve

For the NSW Construction Division, it’s business as usual. But the raid highlights another dangerous trend.

We are being prepared for a significantly increased police and military presence in all our lives. Police and army are regularly fronting the cameras instead of public officials. Witness the recent Covid scare in South Australia.

Militarised police are more often attacking everyday Australians exercising hard won collective rights. Riot squads attack peaceful student protests. Black deaths in custody escalate.

As unemployment and underemployment rise in many sectors and everyday people see their “Australian dream” trashed, dissatisfaction will grow.

A law in the Senate right now allows the Defence Minister, not parliament or even prime minister, to call the army to unspecified “emergencies” which could easily apply to striking workers or farmers or unemployed. It even allows foreign military forces to attack our people. If someone is killed or injured, the military and police – foreign or local – will have immunity from prosecution.

Corporations run capitalism. Police are increasingly used against those who don’t comply, who refuse to be crushed. The military waits in the wings.

Unity is the only answer.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Goans protest coal rail line expansion

 Written by: Nick G. on 23 November 2020

Australia is not the only place where Indian coal giant Adani is facing opposition to its coal and railway expansion projects.

In the small former Portuguese colony of Goa, on India’s south western coastline, tens of thousands of Goans are fighting to stop an increase in coal imports, and their subsequent 350-kilometre transportation by train to steel plants in the neighbouring state of Karnakata (below).

Each day, an average of nine trains carrying 3800 tonnes of coal each, make the journey, the coal inadequately covered by blue tarpaulins. Coal dust settles on nearby villages and farm lands and contributes to acid rainfalls.

Currently, three importers – Jindal, Adani and Vedanta – bring in some 12 million tonnes of coal from South Africa and Australia. Now they want new infrastructure to enable them to handle up to 51 million tonnes by 2025.

Specifically, they want a new double-track rail line, new highways and the opening up of six rivers for coal-carrying barges.

Citizens and activists in Goa have for long protested against the increased coal movement and the pollution caused by coal dust. They have now banded together under two movements – Goa Against Coal, and Our River, Our Rights – to stop these projects. “We promise to continue and escalate our efforts until we defeat this attempt by a few corporations to destroy our rivers, lands and environment for transient profits,” the groups said. 

In early November, South Western Railway started laying tracks at a village in Goa. The anti-coal movement called for a midnight blockade of the rail line, and up to ten thousand people responded, sitting on the tracks and causing the cancellation of train movements. 

Christabelle Gomes, 22, stood with her friends. “I want to sit home and study. But so much disturbing information on social media that we are going to lose our biodiversity makes me angry. The government thinks we are foolish. I want to stand here. They need to take my consent, our consent.” When asked if she is scared of catching the Covid-19 virus, she replies, “I am not scared of the virus, I am scared of Coal. Why else will I be out at midnight by a railway track?”

Threats to biodiversity

Gomes’s concerns about biodiversity are widely shared. 

Goa, which is well known for its idyllic sandy beaches on the shores of the Arabian sea, is bound to its east by the densely wooded and biodiverse ranges called the Western Ghats. For coal to reach the steel factories from the coal port, it would have to traverse the Ghats.  This would entail takeover of 113.86 hectares of forest land and the felling of 18,451 trees. It would disrupt sensitive habitats, including the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. The expansion of the highway connecting the port to the steel belt will cost another 12,000 trees. Also on the cards is an electrical transmission corridor along the same alignment.

Opposition growing

In Goa, the people’s movement is picking up pace.

Several of Goa’s parliamentary parties including the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), took part in the rail protest on November 3.

Another joined on November 18 when the opposition Nationalist Congress Party formally announced its opposition to the double tracking of the South Western Railway.

"We oppose the coal corridor 100 per cent. All people are against it. NCP is also against it," state president of the NCP Jose Phillip D'Souza told a press conference in Panaji.

Over the past few weeks, the panchayats or village councils in 54 of Goa’s 183 villages have passed resolutions opposing the movement of coal through their areas.

Abhijit Prabhudesai, founder of an environmental advocacy group called Rainbow Warriors, predicted that “If the government does not relent, the agitation is going to grow and take bolder steps.”


Biodiversity security requires independence and socialism

 Written by: Nick G. on 23 November 2020

Biosecurity, in its broadest sense (incorporating the inter-related human, agriculture, environment and marine health and referred to as One Health) is under serious threat in Australia.

Of course, we are not alone. Globally, protections in place around biosecurity are failing to keep up with the increasing threats. Throughout the entire capitalist world, resistance to regulations by private corporations seeking growth in profits, and demands by finance capital for ongoing reductions in government expenditure, have seen the risks intensify. 

The crisis in Australia has been made clear in a new CSIRO publication, Australia’s Biosecurity Future: Unlocking the next decade of resilience (2020-2030). It is an impassioned plea by scientists to the federal and state governments for a change in direction – from business-as-usual to what it calls a “transformational trajectory”. 

In relation to the former, it notes that “Between 2012 and 2017, the annual number of interceptions of biosecurity risk materials at Australian borders rose by almost 50%, to 37,014.”

Current funding and staffing levels are deemed inadequate to deal with this.  Even a three-fold increase in funding will not help us get ahead of risks already in the system: “Scaling the current system through additional funding allocation will not be enough. Modelling shows that even almost tripling investment in interventions out to 2025 will still result in increased residual biosecurity risk compared to 2014–2015 levels.”

The authors make it clear that they are not only referring to introduced weed and pest species. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they explain that “environmental biosecurity in the context of One Health should involve understanding the increasing risks and likelihoods of infectious zoonotic diseases due to environmental destruction, urbanisation, encroachment on natural habitats, increased global trade and travel, and the increased resistance of pathogens to new antimicrobial drugs.” Zoonotic diseases are those transferred to humans from animals. 

The CSIRO lists a number of emerging challenges to Australia’s biosecurity including urbanisation, growing trade and travel, anti-microbial resistance, biodiversity loss, climate change and agricultural intensification. It points to problems with resourcing: “The biosecurity system is challenged by eroding budgets and declining and uneven biosecurity capability, coordination and expertise across jurisdictions. Examples of declining capabilities include taxonomists, plant pathologists and entomologists. A lack of biosecurity specialists and investment could limit Australia’s ability to prevent and respond to shocks.”

Among the different directions promoted by the CSIRO are greater community and Indigenous engagement and changing the focus from a reactive “response and recovery” model to one of “prevention and detection”.

These and other suggestions are all to the good, but the CSIRO fails to adequately address the political issues embedded in a system which, as we said earlier, is characterised by “resistance to regulations by private corporations seeking growth in profits, and demands by finance capital for ongoing reductions in government expenditure.”

It notes in relation to reporting of biosecurity risks that “some lack incentive to report detections where this may have a detrimental impact on their livelihood.” It adds, “From large industry through to smallholders and hobby farmers, there are portions of these groups who are not complying with biosecurity standards.” It is really saying that capitalism is in conflict with the protection of biodiversity. The report goes as far as it can in pointing out that governments need stronger non-negotiable standards to ensure greater private sector biosecurity responsibility.  The CSIRO calls for greater incentives for compliance – we call for heavy penalties up to and including jail time for non-compliance.

It is not for nothing that at our last Party Congress in June 2019, we wrote into our Program that “Biodiversity matters to the working class. The planet is facing an alarming rate of species extinctions. Habitats of other species must be rehabilitated and expanded. Research into the biology of other species must be ramped up in order to create programs for the restoration of their numbers.”

Our view is that biodiversity risks will only be seriously addressed when we take the power of the great corporations over society away from them and vest all economic, political and social control in the people.

That requires nothing short of genuine national independence and socialism.

Further reading: No cuts to biodiversity staff! (4 May 2018)

Galea Conviction: The Far-Right and Class and State Power

 Written by: (Contributed) on 23 November 2020

The conviction and sentencing of a fascist to twelve years imprisonment in Melbourne for terrorist-related offences may appear to some as evidence that the Australian state has finally taken the problem of the far-right seriously.

There is, however, a great deal more to the problem which has not been addressed. It remains questionable whether the political will even exists to deal with the matter, for a variety of reasons; the far-right/fascists continue to serve the agendas of others hiding behind respectability inside the corridors of power, in Australia and elsewhere.

The sentencing of Phillip Galea to twelve years imprisonment in November for planning violent attacks on Trades Hall in Melbourne and other targets was the first time the Australian judiciary had found a fascist guilty of terrorist-related offences.  

Galea was closely associated with the Reclaim Australia and True Blue Crew far-right/fascist organisations, together with associations with other similar groups. It was noted he had specifically targeted a central trade-union organisation, people associated with left-wing political opinions and Muslims, which he regarded as 'sub-humans'. (1)

The carefully-worded summing up by Supreme Court Justice Hollingworth and subsequent media release, however, did not place the criminal activity into a meaningful historical context, whereby it would implicate other people, some of whom reside behind masks of respectability, using 'useful idiots' to carry out their nefarious agendas. The fact Galea had been arrested in 2016 and has already spent four years behind bars on remand, had shown how slow the Australian judiciary has been to deal with the matter.

Once on remand, likewise, Australian authorities and correctional services allowed him a high level of freedom of action. An official media release noted he 'had no intention of acting alone and tried to recruit people using his Patriots Cookbook, a document Galea continued to work on after his arrest'. (2) While it was further noted the document was designed to 'facilitate a terrorist attack', no reference, was made to whom he was actually colluding with or naming their organisations as possible and likely conspirators. Justice Hollingworth, nevertheless, acknowledged that his 'extremist political views and information' was directed toward 'like-minded people to arm themselves for violent battle'.(3)

Australian fascism has a long history; it is important it is understood how their chosen method of operation has changed little in nearly a century.

New fascist groups follow an old pattern of behaviour
The New Guard organisation was established in 1931, quickly followed by the so-called Centre Party in 1933. The Australia First Movement was established in the Second World War. During the previous Cold War National Socialist Parties and National Action were formed in the 1960s to 1980s period. In recent years a large number of splinter fragment-type groupings have emerged, lurking on websites and the 'dark net' to avoid detection. They emerge, peddle endless conspiracy theories, then quickly submerge, before repeating a similar pattern of operation elsewhere on the internet.

Their agendas, nevertheless, remain remarkably similar and consistent.

The fascists/far-right are associated with the most reactionary section of the business-classes and their motives are primarily economic: their groups seek to destroy collective working-class organisations, trade-unions and their associated political organisations, to atomise/isolate workers, thereby making them more vulnerable to exploitation by the business-classes and capital.  

It is, therefore, significant to note the main target for Galea was Trades Hall, the centre of the Victorian trade union movement and their political associates.

Far-right/fascist groups also seek to divide working-class organisations using race and religion and the age-old method of creating a scapegoat. Modern-day fascists target non-white people, including immigrants and Muslims as a matter of course, with their White Supremacist ideologies. Galea was noted as seeing himself as a 'patriot … waging war against Muslims and lefties'. (4)

Previously, similar far-right groups targeted other ethnic minorities and religions with the same agenda as patterns of immigration from different regions of the world have taken place.

Other significant links between older far-right/fascist groups and their present -day counterparts can also be seen with strategies of tension.

Documents detailing Our Political Activity by far-right/fascist Aginter Press based in Lisbon, were revealed following the Portuguese military coup in April, 1974. (5) The pseudo press agency had a long history of operation inside intelligence services both in Portugal and their overseas colonies.

Our Political Activity revealed how the far-right/fascists operated: their first phase of their actions included creating chaos inside political systems, to destroy the structure of democratic organisation under a false flag activity; it was noted they sought to implicate left-wing groups as responsible for the chaos through infiltration of their organisations and use of agent provocateurs to conduct covert operations on their behalf.

Secondly, the far-right/fascists then stepped in to provide stability through systematic repression of those associated with the previous order.

Chosen methods of operation included strategies of tension, beginning with rumours and innuendo, escalated to assassinations and bombings.

In what the Australian judiciary called 'amateurish plans' Galea sought to use bombing techniques accessed from an anarchist organisation, thereby implicating another political group. Whether those around Galea had actually infiltrated anarchist groupings was not divulged in the open court case.   

It is important to situate the far-right/fascist political ideology alongside other, mainstream right-wing agendas, particularly in Australia.

The recent summing up of the case against Galea included the statement that he was not being punished for holding right-wing views or making statements others found deeply offensive and discriminatory, despite equal opportunity and discrimination regulations being violated, for obvious reasons.  

There are those in the midst of seemingly mainstream Australian society responsible for the creation of a climate of opinion, creating opportunities for the far-right/fascists to push agendas still further.

Fascism not confined to shadow organisations or individuals

The present-day Coalition government in Canberra and their supporters in big business including the Australia Industry Group (AIG), for example, have continually sought to sideline and demonise trade-union organisations. The so-called Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) agenda of wholesale spying on trade-union activists and their organisations is evidence, in itself, of hidden agendas to enable the business-classes to heighten exploitation of working class people by systematically weakening trade-unions, particularly in the building trades. ASIC is a shadowy intelligence-type organisation used extensively for investigating the CFMEU and other unions. It continually seeks to establish a money trail to then lodge corruption cases.

While the AIG and ASIC fall well short of attempting to kill those they regard as adversaries and bombing their premises, their criticism of those who have advocated and planned such terrorist action has been non-existent. They have remained remarkably silent about terrorism being planned and conducted in their midst.

Australia has also been subject to so-called respectable elected political figures, including Pauline Hanson and her One Nation outfit, targeting Asians and Muslims from inside the four walls of Australian democratic institutions in Canberra and in other provincial capitals. Such people, once again, have not criticised people such as Galea in Australia, or Anders Brevik in Norway or Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand. They, clearly, do not want to alienate some of their supporters.

It is also important to study some of the international connections Australian far-right/fascist organisations have established which provide direct links to class and state power, both in Australia and elsewhere.

The so-called World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD) was established in 1990 from a previous body, the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which itself evolved from far-right groups in the 1950s. 

The WLFD acts as a central body for co-ordinating far-right/fascist activity with affiliated groups in over a hundred countries, including Australia. It was noted in one previous study of the organisation the Australian section 'was represented largely by conservative members of parliament, interspersed with neo-nazis, racists and Eastern European immigrants whose roots lay in the fascist collaborationist armies of World War Two'. (6)

A well-known supporter of the WACL/WLFD is John Howard, a man who has always maintained his central position in the modern day Australian Liberal Party despite some past acquaintances who he later kept at arm’s length, after attending their 21st  Conference in Brisbane in 1989, together with 120 other delegates representing fifty countries. (7)

No doubt the same man who later led the Australian Liberal Party and became Prime Minister for the Coalition in Canberra felt comfortable amongst such far-right/fascists, although chose to play down his connections to them and their organisations. Throughout his entire political career, spanning decades, it should be noted, Howard never once denounced the far-right/fascists.

In fact, one study of the shadowy nether world of the far-right/fascists, intelligence organisations and their support for Apartheid in South Africa and White Supremacist views, established a common pattern of subtle manoeuvring whereby 'a front staffed with mainstream conservatives … were used … who did not necessarily know who was pulling the strings'. (8)

It is by their actions that such people, and their faceless supporters lurking in Liberal voting suburbia can be judged. They actively distance themselves from controversy although they do not openly criticise those whom they secretly support.

In conclusion, it is significant Galea regarded himself as holding 'mainstream views'. (9)
When studying Australian far-right/fascist organisations and their histories it is not particularly difficult to establish why he held such views.

1.     Far-right terrorist jailed for 12 years, The Weekend Australian, 21-22 November 2020.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Wikipedia: Aginter Press, 19 May 2019.
6.     Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, (New York, 1986), page 59.
7.     Website: WACL, 9 January 1990.

8.     IFF was an intelligence front, Dele Olojede and Timothy Phelps, Newsday, 16 July 1995.

9.   Weekend Australian, op.cit., 21-22 November 2020.

Friday, November 20, 2020

US to revive First Fleet – or the behaviour of misfits awaiting eviction?

 Written by: (Contributed) on 20 November 2020

The announcement from a senior military figure in the Trump administration that there are plans afoot to re-establish the US First Fleet was given a mixed reception in the Indo-Pacific region. Taking place at the same time as the annual US-led Malabar joint military exercise, the announcement appeared more as a statement of intention than as a serious military plan.

The area of demarcation for the US First Fleet has also raised the prospect of increased use of Australian-based military facilities, drawing Canberra ever closer to hawkish, aggressive diplomatic positions in the dying days of the Trump administration.

The announcement in mid-November from US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, while addressing the annual symposium of the US naval submarine league, that the Pentagon was planning to re-establish the First Fleet is but another example of the wave of US-led militarism sweeping the Indo-Pacific region. (1) It has followed the re-establishment of the Second Fleet which became fully operational last December, with a demarcation area of the US east coast and the north Atlantic.

The US First Fleet was taken out of operation in 1973, following re-organisation of naval facilities; its demarcation area, historically, from its formation in 1947, was the western Pacific.

If the new military planning is approved, the US First Fleet will cover parts of the Indian Ocean and Pacific alongside the Seventh Fleet which is presently based at Yokosuka, in Japan. The Seventh Fleet, composed of 80 ships, 140 aircraft and submarines, has the largest demarcation area covering 77 million square kms of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific, from the international time line, the Kuril Islands in the north and Antarctica in the south.

The announcement, curiously however, took place without the usual military protocol; Braithwaite admitted he had not sought approval for the plan from Acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller who replaced Mark Esper, sacked by President Trump last week. While Esper had apparently discussed the matter in Pentagon circles, nothing was officially approved. Whether anything was even officially minuted, remains to be established. Braithwaite, therefore, might be regarded as little other than a political upstart, displaying behaviour typically associated with the misfits of the Trump administration who have problems distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

Elsewhere, in other regional media outlets, the Braithwaite announcement was diplomatically downgraded to the position that he had 'suggested' the re-establishment of the First Fleet, although nothing further had been resolved. (2)

Singapore not happy

It is, nevertheless, interesting to note the Braithwaite announcement had been accompanied two days earlier with an official diplomatic statement from Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, that the foreign policy of the Trump administration had alienated countries across the region with serious repercussions. He stated, 'most Asian countries will resist any US attempt to create a Cold War-style alliance against China', whereby, 'smaller countries such as Singapore could be forced to choose sides between them'. (3) Most countries across the region have, historically, lived with Chinese diplomacy and trade for centuries.

The announcement also took place during the Malabar US-led naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal and the northern Arabian Sea, with India, Japan and Australia. It was noted in military media releases to form part of 'a second phase of a combined war game to counter China's influence in the region', amid a wave of US-led Cold War swashbuckling bellicosity. (4)

It was not only the announcement about the proposed US First Fleet which appeared questionable.

The proposed base facilities for the new First Fleet also appear to be a matter of some controversy; Braithwaite stated that 'the headquarters … is likely to be Singapore'. (5)

The Trump administration, however, appear to not to have followed usual diplomatic protocol and consulted the Singapore government with their proposals, nor requested high-level talks to implement the proposals. Diplomacy, for the Trump administration, would appear to be conducted more along the lines of directives which other governments are expected to accept.

An official media release from the Singapore government and Ministry of Defence, therefore, stated no official talks with the Trump administration had taken place about the matter. (6) They clarified the position of the Singapore government with the statement that 'it would be deemed unacceptable for the small island nation … among Washington's key strategic partners in south-east Asia … to host a permanent naval base', and that Singapore did not want 'a formal military alliance with Washington'. (7)    

The announcement, by Braithwaite, about the proposed Singapore First Fleet facilities, had paid no attention to the detail of a vital factor explaining the behaviour of their governments, past and present, for decades: Singapore has long pursued a regional foreign policy of maintaining friendly relations with all countries, including those, historically, which did not support the US. The Singapore government, for example, when positioning statues of former regional political leaders whom they had supported, around the surrounding gardens of the main parliamentary buildings, was proud to also include one of Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the northern part of the country from 1945-69 despite the war with the US.

It is, therefore, interesting to note the Braithwaite announcement about the First Fleet had already planned a fall-back position which gave reference to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as another additional command headquarters. (8) The US Naval Communication station on Diego Garcia is directly linked to similar facilities at Pine Gap, in central Australia. It forms the centre of US-led global intelligence provision, with the Pentagon. Operational in 1973, the US base has been continually upgraded, and now includes extensive military facilities.

It is significant to note the arc which swings from Diego Garcia in the east, from Pine Gap, also swings through Guam in Micronesia in the west, linking two important US military hubs for forward regional operations. The same arc also swings through Singapore, which already has sensitive military agreements with Australia.

The announcement about the new, proposed US First Fleet, can, therefore, perhaps be best viewed as a military game of smoke-and-mirrors which will hopefully never see the actual light of day before the demise of Trump and all that he is associated with.

Whatever the outcome of recent political instability surrounding the Trump administration in the US, Australia, nevertheless, is increasingly being drawn closer to the hawkish, anti-China view of the world, the origins of which lie in the Pentagon with military planners. Biden is probably closer to this group than was Trump. The myopic and intellectually limited vision of the world and regional foreign policy, characteristic of the imperialist system of the US, is dangerous.

We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     US to revive old fleet as curb against Beijing, Australian, 20 November 2020.
2.     US Navy Secretary proposes new Indo-Pacific fleet, The Diplomat, 18 November 2020.
3.     Asia's perceptions of America may never recover: Lee, Australian, 18 November 2020.
4.    Australian, op.cit., 20 November 2020.
5.     Diplomat, op.cit., 18 November 2020.
6.    US Navy First Fleet, This Week in Asia / Politics, 18 November 2020.
7.     Ibid.
8.     Australian, op.cit., 20 November 2020.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

RAA: Australia and Japan enter the “grey zone”

 Written by: (Contributed) on 19 November 2020

As Cold War US-led operations and diplomatic rivalries have escalated in the Indo-Pacific region, official military and diplomatic statements have acknowledged they have now reached a 'grey zone' noted as being situated just below the level of open conflict.

Far from being traditional defence and security provision, US-led military planners appear to be inching toward real-war scenarios in the immediate region.

These developments have far-reaching implications for Australia as a regional hub for 'US interests'.

Recent high-level diplomatic initiatives between Australia and Japan, for example, have to be seen in this context, with specific reference to the South and East China Seas.

A recent media release from within the corridors of power in Canberra by a former deputy secretary for strategy with the Department of Defence and now employed by a right-wing think-tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Paul Jennings, about the challenges facing the alliance with the US, noted Australia had entered the 'so-called grey zone operations just below the level of open conflict'. (1) In recent times military and diplomatic hostilities have soared across the Indo-Pacific region as US-led initiatives to challenge the rise of China have escalated in a common pattern.

The recent political instability and uncertainty inside the US system has also added to the general escalation of military and diplomatic tensions. The development is particularly worrying and any stabilisation is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA)

The recent period has also included high-level diplomatic meetings with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihie Suga, where Australia and Japan established a defence pact which will include 'an in-principle reciprocal access agreement to streamline each nation's use of the others military bases'. (2) The RAA agreement has effectively linked Australia and Japan in preparation for future military operations. 

There is little ambiguity with the status of the RAA; it has been noted that it has followed the Special Strategic Partnership Australia already has with Japan and is now 'just below a formal military alliance'. (3) These are early days, however, for the warmongers. An official media release stated that 'Tokyo and Canberra are … inching ever closer to a full military alliance … it's getting very close'. (4)

Both Australia and Japan are designated hubs for 'US interests' in the wider region; the strengthening of relations of the triangular diplomacy has already been defined as an 'Asian NATO', a definition which has revealed military intentions and planning, saying that 'our defence forces can operate in and around Japan and Japanese self-defence forces can operate in and around Australia'. (5)    

The triangular diplomacy has also increasingly made use of India to establish the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) which has been defined as 'the core of Chinese containment', a US-led diplomatic and military strategy conducted through allied partners which has included Australia returning to the Indian Malabar naval exercises in October. (6)   

It is highly significant, therefore, to note the recent RAA has also included provision for Japan 'to use force to protect Australian military assets', whereby the countries in alliance with the US are committed to defending the interests of other countries. (7) It has far-reaching implications for numerous countries and thousands of small, contested landmasses across the region.

Naval and maritime maps of the South and East China Seas, for example, reveal a myriad of small landmasses and reefs. (8)

Likely theatres of hostilities

Military and diplomatic media releases have already noted the South and East China Seas are likely theatres of hostilities with Australia and Japan increasing their joint operations. (9) The dangers Australia faces are clearly defined: the seas are areas where shipping-lanes have become increasingly congested, with diplomatic rivalries between various countries over small islands and atolls, historically used to mark access and egress with shipping-lanes.

When Japan nationalised about 280 small islands and atolls in 2014, the moves were accompanied by an official statement from Tokyo that the remote landmasses were 'important national territories'. (10)

It is not difficult to foresee future military conflict spiralling out of relatively trivial diplomatic matters between competing countries, with alliances then coming into play and leading to full-scale war.

Japan, for example, has long regarded the Senkaku Islands as part of their territory although China also has similar long-standing claims to what they call the Diaoyu Islands. (11) Elsewhere, the Takeshima islets remain at the centre of territorial claims between Japan and South Korea, two countries where diplomatic stand-offs have become commonplace. (12)

In the Philippines pro-US factions in the ruling presidential administration of Rodrigo Duterte have taken increasingly bolder positions toward China in recent times in relation to the South China Seas, even though the country occupies nine landmasses of the collectively named Kalayaan Island Group in the waterway. Seven of the landmasses are real islands while the remaining two are reefs. (13)

The escalation of diplomatic tension over the past decade has been both rapid and dramatic:     
 as China has challenged traditional US hegemonic positions across the region, Australian diplomacy has followed US leadership and shifted emphasis toward continual military assessments. What was once regarded as routine tasks for small numbers of military planners, would now appear to have become an obsession for thousands of analysts.

Australia, for example, has recently extended its regional network of defence advisors and military attaches to all South-east Asian countries. (14) The networks, however, remain US-led, and follow earlier Pentagon planning to transform the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) with an additional 1,600 'collectors' of military intelligence nearly a decade ago. (15)  

The program was closely associated with the US re-opening numerous military facilities across the Indo-Pacific region at the same time, usually as joint bases under host governments. (16)

The military intelligence assessments in the public domain leave little to the imagination: they regard China's occupation of artificially created landmasses in the South China Seas as altering the regional balance of forces. It was noted, for example, by US Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the Pacific Command that China 'will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power into Oceania'. (17) China is, therefore, regarded as an adversary although there is little evidence it has regional military ambitions beyond the usual defence and security considerations of its maritime fleet which are using sensitive shipping-lanes contested by other countries and therefore vulnerable.

It was noted twenty years ago by informed sources that 'the Pentagon is looking at Asia as the most likely arena for future military conflict'. (18) Today, the term 'most likely', has moved up several notches to become 'very likely'.

These are worrying developments for Australia; we are increasingly being drawn into US-led real-war scenarios.

                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     The alliance is safe … but real danger still lies ahead, The Weekend Australian, 14-15 November 2020.
2.     Boost to military ties with Japanese, Australian, 16 November 2020.
3.     Historic deal … and a climate boogie dance, Australian, 18 November 2020.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Ibid; and, Trip emphasis that we and Japan are natural partners, Australian, 18 November 2020.
6.     International alliances key to containing China, Australian, 12 November 2020.
7.     Australian, op.cit., 16 November 2020.     
8.     See: East Indies, Mercators Projection, which charts regional shipping routes, naval bases and international boundaries together with other fine detail information.
9.     Australian, op.cit., 16 November 2020; see also, Australian, op.cit., 18 November 2020.
10.   Suga sign-on crucial to security, Australian, 17 November 2020.
11.   Japan to nationalise 280 islands, The Age (Melbourne), 10 January 2014.
12.   Japan puts disputed islands on school curriculum, The Age (Melbourne), 13 January 2014.
13.   Manila to tap US if Beijing fires on its fleet, Australian, 27 August 2020; and, Roque: We're not behind our rivals in reef development, The Philippine Inquirer, 9 May 2018.  
14.   Australian, op.cit., 16 November 2020.
15.   Pentagon plays the spy game, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012.
16.   US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
17.   China, The Philippine Star, 4 May 2018.
18.    Asia moves to forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.