Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Book review: China Panic by David Brophy


 Written by: Nick G. on 29 June 2021

The release of David Brophy’s book on the developing paranoia about China’s interference in Australia comes at a time when the very thing about which he is complaining featured for over a fortnight in the US and Australian media.

On June 4 (a coincidental date?), a tweet in the US claimed that the US had a senior defector from China who had Covid-19 “Wuhan info”.

Over the next couple of days, the “defector” was identified as China’s vice-Minister of State Security Dong Jingwei, who had provided the Biden administration with “proof” that the virus had been man-made at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a program managed by the People’s Liberation Army.

This locally-transmitted case of disinformation remained live until June 22, when it was admitted to have been a lie.

The claim was all too reminiscent of the claims made by another “defector”, Wang Liqiang, who claimed in 2019 to have explosive inside information on Chinese interference in Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  Wang was a fraudster and no-one now takes his claims seriously, but at the time, his story was widely believed, or portrayed as credible, in the mainstream media and anti-Chinese political circles.

We do not agree with everything in Brophy’s book. Nor would he endorse our view of China, that it is a country that committed itself to the expansion and restoration of capitalism through the reforms that began with the era of Deng Xiaoping, and that its challenge to US domination is not that of an anti-imperialism based on real Marxism-Leninism and the theories of Mao Zedong, but of a rival for the capture of resources and markets, to be exploited for the profit of a Chinese capitalist class.

Brophy is not a communist, and his views do no stand or fall according to how they align with our own. He is a specialist on the Uyghur nationality and supports the “democracy movement” in Hong Kong.

The value of Brophy’s book lies in its uncompromising criticism of Australia’s security laws and the current obsession with “foreign interference”. He says on p. 210, that ASIO “simply cannot be seen as an ally in the defence of democratic rights.” 

As an example of the threats to our democratic rights that have arisen from the panic over China’s influence in Australia, he cites the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill 2017.  He writes (p. 111) that “conduct that may ‘advantage the national security of a foreign country’ (for example, by opposing a war against it) is also criminalised.”

Brophy does not just blame the usual suspects in the feral media (Andrew Bolt, Sky News) or the Liberal Party (Andrew Hastie, Eric Abetz et al). He quite correctly points to the pro-US cartel in the Labor Party for their contributions to the panic, reminding us that “in July 2016, when the UNCLOS tribunal in The Hague decided that China’s artificial islands in the South China Seas were not land features...right-wing defence spokesperson Stephen Conroy went off-message by urging Australia to follow the United States in carrying out ‘freedom of navigation exercises’. Speaking from Washington, where he was on a paid trip for a meeting of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, Conroy criticised the Liberals for their reluctance to authorise the Australian Navy and Air Force to enter the twelve-nautical-mile zone around Chinese-claimed reefs and islands” (p. 108).

He is scathing about the real threat to Australia’s sovereignty from the US military alliance. Writing with particular reference to US intelligence and military facilities here, he says “This state of affairs represents a serious compromise of Australia’s sovereignty, one far more serious than anything China is said to have been responsible for in recent times” (p. 77). A few pages on (p. 92), he writes that “American military hardware and intelligence facilities on Australian soil, along with Australian ships and fighter jets embedded in US command structures across the Pacific, all but take the question that is most basic to any society- whether or not to go to war – out of Australian hands.” And he is certainly not wrong to raise the question of whose sovereignty is being continually referenced: “Indigenous sovereignty, as activists remind us, was never ceded. Whose sovereignty is at stake, then when we rush to defend ‘Australian sovereignty’ in the face of China? As an external enemy par excellence, China normalises White Australia’s claim to this land, and voids that of Indigenous Australians” (p. 195).

If there is any weakness in his references to sovereignty, it is his confusion over the call for a more independent Australia.  He agrees that the country is best defined as “sub-imperial”, describing Australia on p. 85 as a “great power writ small, whose ability to act in such a way, is enabled by, indeed dependent on, its relationship with an actual great power. “Sub-imperial” is the term some use to describe this situation. A sub-imperial Australia effectively asks America to underwrite its ambitions for its own mini-empire, which extends well beyond the boundaries of the island continent and into the Pacific.”

He takes this point up again towards the end of the book, saying on p. 223 that “…we’d be mistaken to put Australia’s conflict with China down to a lack of independence and to imagine a more ‘independent’ foreign policy serving us better. Australia already has an independent foreign policy: its foreign policy establishment has independently decided that siding with the United States is in Australia’s interests…a more ‘independent’ foreign policy is simply a prescription to transform Australia from a sub-imperial associate of the United States into a regional hegemon in its own right.”

Here Brophy ignores the objective of a genuinely anti-imperialist independence, and confuses independence with the exercise of those limited options for regional power and influence allowed to the Australian ruling class by the power that controls the Australian state and economic lifelines – US imperialism. He is on much firmer ground when he says on p. 221 that “Australians should tell America that we are not interested in participating in a new cold war or providing a platform for one. We should do so not with apologies or regret, but fully conscious of the way the American alliance has implicated Australia in war crimes and violations of international law, and will risk doing so again for as long as it lasts.”

It is unlikely that Brophy’s book will garner the media interest that made Clive Hamilton’s Silent Invasion so influential back in 2018. The two works are polar opposites and it is in the interests of the US overlords to make Brophy’s work disappear.

Seek it out at your local library – it’s worth the read.

Support the strike demands of the Iranian oil and gas workers


 A group of Iranian oil and gas workers have sent us the following account of their current struggle for improved wages and conditions. The workers of the world will always unite behind one another in their common struggles. We wish the Iranian workers success in their fight – eds.

The proclamation of the temporary hiring contract workers of the oil and gas refineries, petrochemical projects and power-plants

To continue and express our core economic demands, we shall enter into a nationwide strike, along with other workers across the country.

We, the workers of the temporary hiring contract, from the oil and gas refineries, petrochemical projects and other power-plant sectors, will continue our protest and strike to express against our present unbearable economic poor conditions, such as minimum unpaid wages, daily reduction of our household purchasing power and the empty promise and we demand for a better increase and higher wages and salaries, adequate social security and better living conditions. With the false pretenses and bleak promises, as we have already stated, we will continue our struggle to press our economic demands for a widespread and nation-wide strike, with our fellow workers of different public and private sectors – in front of the places of work.

We strongly demand our worker’s rights and in accordance to the previous demand, as stated in the 29 Khordad (3rd month in the Persian calendar), with our technical and project colleagues from the Farab Bid Khoon power-plants will enter and continue to support our demands for higher wages, better living conditions, twenty days of work and ten days of rest which is known as 20-10 Plan, that the workers have already left their homes and they strongly declare that unless the responsible authorities do not meet their demands, we shall not return to our power-plants and other petro-chemical projects.

The worker’s genuine protests and strikes are regarded as an alert to the responsible authorities in charge and this will continue and shall remain for a one week period and if our demands have not been met by such authorities, we will combine and participate with other cliques who are already on strike. At this week, our strike and gathering with other workers from different power plants and generations will commence in front of our places of work and we will serve to raise our voices to the public and private sectors in an attempt to declare our legitimate demands.

Our genuine and core demands and rights are as follows:

• No wages of any worker in the oil company should be less than 12, Million Toman( Iranian Currancy) and immediately there must be increase of wages in accordance to the present living conditions met with daily increases of household commodities and their purchasing power. In the same manner the wages of other workers in various sectors should be increased with the agreement of their choosing representatives. 

• The worker’s wages and salaries must be paid on time every month and any delayed in payment is regarded as crime and stealing. 

• We strongly object to the casual and temporary hiring workers contract and vehemently demand to the end of temporary contract, hands off the contractors in interfering to the working agreement, reduced working hours and all workers should have their job securities in tact with their permanent worker agreement and no worker must be fired from his or her job.

• We demand the immediate abolition of slavery workers laws and regulations which are visibly and vividly seen and practiced at the certain and specific poor economic areas that are very much an obstacle between our colleagues from various working class sectors in public and private at the national and state level in the country and on the bases of such unfair and unjust workers laws and regulations and as a result of such regulations workers are experiencing a tremendous poor working conditions and we demand the hands off and stop interfering of those greediest contractors and employers from both sectors in clear violations and abuses of our living economic conditions and we strongly ask for the implementations of job safety and security classification.

• We demand for safety and security of our working environment. Our working environment is like a bomb explosion waiting to happen – there are a number of hazards involved including: falling from high levels, air and noise pollution, and chemical inhalation. Indeed, these working conditions are highly unsuitable and far below safe working standards. There are poor hygiene and safety regulations in working places, lack of job security and unbearable difficult conditions. We become daily victims to these destructive hazards and thus, have our mental and physical health impacted. The lack of ventilation and air quality within our working environment induces high pressure and stress which affects the way we work.

• The oil companies and other petrochemical project and power plants have enough assets and capital; they must make relevant and appropriate changes to the already poor working conditions. This includes public transportation, on site clinics, toiletries and other working facilities. We the workers of the oil company are fed up with our poor working conditions that we have been made to endure and it is these conditions that prompt the need for swift rectification. We demand and have the rights to a better working and living conditions. 

• Ultimately, we support our workers from oil companies and other petrochemical and power-plants colleagues in their demands for such fair working rights and if such demands are not met by the involved and responsible authorities from state and national level, we will commence and continue our protest and strike in full-swing, on the 9th of Tir (4th month in the Persian calendar). 

• Our legitimate demands are the same demands of the oil company’s workers including the permanent workers. In addition, these colleagues on the bases of their minor pay increase in the current Year of 1400, (Iranian Calendar), as a matter of fact, it is a pure violation to their already unbearable poor living conditions. Huge taxable pressure on their salaries and the denial of the article ten and omission of various items on their already under-paid wages and salaries, have resulted in  such  core demands for continuous protest and strike.

Council of protest and striking temporary contract oil company workers 30th Khordad 1400

Geelong maritime workers fight for jobs


 Written by: Duncan B. on 28 June 2021

Recently over 100 maritime workers and their supporters in Geelong (Vic) held a protest against international maritime company Svitzer. They marched behind a banner which said “Svitzer Snakes.”

Svitzer was the operator of tug boats in the Port of Geelong until late last year. On the 22nd of December last year Svitzer made 18 full time masters, engineers and deck hands redundant, claiming that the operation was no longer viable. Svitzer claimed that it had suffered significant financial losses due to changed market factors and its inability to respond effectively to those changes.

This followed a breakdown in negotiations with the Maritime Union on wages and conditions. The MUA was close to finalising a new agreement with Svitzer when, using COVID as an excuse, Svitzer introduced 30 new claims which attacked workers’ rights, conditions and job security.

Now, surprise, surprise, Svitzer is back, seeking to resume operations in Geelong, with the use of contract crews supplied by a maritime labour hire company.

The sacked workers are campaigning to get their jobs back.  A Maritime Union spokesman described the company’s behaviour as appalling. He said, “We’re open to all negotiations with Svitzer to get these blokes back on the job. We’d love to get to the table and negotiate an outcome that suits everyone.” Not surprisingly, Svitzer is sticking to its position.

Founded in 1833, Svitzer is based in Denmark and is owned by Maersk, which is the largest container ship and supply vessel company in the world. World-wide, Svitzer employs over 4000 workers with 405 vessels working in 118 ports and 28 terminals. In Australia, Svitzer employs over 1000 workers with 100 vessels operating in 28 ports and terminals in Australia and Papua-New Guinea.

 

No celebrations for this anniversary!

 


Written by: Louisa L on

June 22 this year is the 14th anniversary of the Northern Territory Intervention which has blighted the lives of First Peoples in the Territory; opened it to even further exploitation by the mining and gas multinationals; and been a testing ground for corporate backed attacks on peoples across the continent and its islands.

First Peoples have survived the first waves of invasion, and they are determined to survive the Intervention.

On Sunday 20th, an online conference brought together sixteen mostly First Peoples' presenters who have lived experience of the Intervention, or who have stood against it since its inception. It concluded with a session last night (June 21).

It was moderated by ABC's Larissa Behrendt, an outstanding Kamilaroi-Euahlayi journalist, film maker, academic and activist. The ABC will use some of the material in Larissa's radio program Speaking Out in coming weeks.

The Alice Springs based Intervention Rollback Action Group, Victoria's Concerned Citizens and Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney combined forces to organise this powerful conference.

In the coming days, we will put some of this material together in an article for Vanguard readers.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Farm land prices hit record highs


 Written by: Duncan B. on 14 June 2021

Reflecting what is happening in the housing market in Australia, the prices paid for farming land in Australia have hit record heights. For example, in Victoria’s Wimmera district, land prices have more than doubled in the last year. Prices paid for properties in Victoria’s North-East and Western districts also set new records this year.

Farmers are expressing concerns that these high prices will make it impossible for young people wanting to become farmers to buy a property. They are also warning that it would be difficult to earn a sufficient return from a property bought at a high price to cover the loan repayments, let alone make a living from the property.

Good seasons, high commodity prices and the relative cheapness of Australian farm land compared to other countries, are making Australian farm properties attractive to investors in recent years. Vanguard has reported the massive purchase of Australian rural properties by overseas corporate investors, especially the Canadian superannuation fund, PSP Investments.

There are also a number of wealthy individuals both foreign and Australian, who have large stakes in Australian rural real estate. Topping the list is Sir Li Ka-Shing (Hong Kong), who has about $1 billion invested in a wide variety of enterprises. 

Other overseas investors include Ray Dalo (US), the Rausing Family (UK), Hui Wing Mau and Feng Hailiang (both China). They all have extensive investments in cattle stations, forestry and other types of farming.

The three richest Australian investors in agriculture need no introduction to Vanguard readers. They are mining tycoons Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest and Channel Seven owner Kerry Stokes. Their interests are mainly in beef cattle farming. 

Ms Rinehart, whose net worth is over $30 billion, controls one of Australia’s biggest pastoral empires with about 10 million hectares of land. She has about 1.9 million hectares on the market with a view to raising capital to buy out her Chinese partner in the legendary Kidman and Co. pastoral company they bought in 2016.

Placed against investors with this sort of money at their command, small farmers and would-be farmers don’t stand much of a chance of buying farm properties. Australia’s farm land must be run for the benefit of all Australians, not wealthy companies and individuals.

 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Message to the Masters of War


 Written by: Ross Gwyther on 12 June 2012

Tanks, guns, drones, AI goggles – all these and more were on display in Brisbane Convention Centre last week for the bi-annual arms expo, this year entitled “Land Force 2021”.

This arms fair is aimed at connecting business, government, security contractors and the armed forces with large and small weapons manufacturers.  It is dominated by large corporate multinational weapons companies, for example Thales (weaponised vehicles), Rheinmetall (battle tanks and heavy and light munitions), Boeing (military helicopters, troop carriers, counter-insurgency jets), EOS (missile fire systems), Israeli company Elbit (military drones) as well as Australian companies such as NIOA munitions.    The expo was organised by a high level defence and security organisation called the Maritime and Defence Foundation of Australia – AMDA, which not only is Federal Government funded but has charitable status.  AMDA has previously organised the Avalon weapons expo, and is set to run an Indo-Pacific Expo of maritime warfare in May 2022, according to Michael West reports. The Land Forces 2021expo was financially supported by the Queensland Government.

The Australian Government has demonstrated that it will commit $270 billion over the next 10 years to purchasing offensive military equipment (jets, ships and submarines) that are designed for “interoperability” with US military forces – in other words to be used in US wars, not for the defence of Australia.  The Government also aims for Australia to be in the 10 largest arms exporters in the world, and has budgeted $billions for a loan fund to assist multinational arms companies manufacture weapons in Australia for export around the world.   Already some of these weapons are being sold to the Indonesian Government for its war on the West Papuan independence movement, to the Saudi government for its war on the people of Yemen.

This year some 200 to 300 people demonstrated their opposition to this arms bazaar.  Hundreds of local Brisbane people turned up over three days to hold noisy demonstrations outside the entrance, as some of the 12,000 attendees entered the expo.  People travelled from other Australian States, and were welcomed by local Indigenous Jagera peoples to camp on their traditional land at Musgrave Park close by the Convention Centre.  A wide range of grass roots activities were held – including concerts, teach-ins, workshops,  protests outside weapons manufacturing factories, and a 24 hour fast by local Quaker activists.

The protest brought together the quite different parts of the Australian peace movement.   Some people were opposed to all weapons and arms, and committed to non-violence as the only way to resolve international disputes.  Others were focussed on the use the weapons sold at the Expo in violently suppressing people’s struggles in West Papua, Yemen, Palestine.   Still others were highlighting the fundamental nature of capitalism in promoting violent suppression of peoples’ rights.   

Some young people were able to courageously and creatively enter the exhibition hall, distribute leaflets, and take over one the largest exhibits – a Rheinmetall battle tank – by chaining themselves to it, and streaming video of their protest to social media.   The video can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/disruptlandforces

The protest this year was significantly larger and more militant than protests at previous arms expos held in other Australian cities. However the nature of the protest was such that there was little organised working class involvement.  This is a lesson which can be used to build even larger protests at future arms expos.  The working class movement has a long and proud history of involvement in struggles for peace.  A campaign aimed at building sustainable and socially useful industries (instead of war-related industry) will resonate strongly with workers and their unions.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Collective efforts provide relief for forgotten victims of disasters

 


Written by: Louisa L on 5 June 2021

Australia is beset by disaster, but you wouldn’t know it without scratching the surface of laid-back Dunbogan village on Birrpai Country beside the Camden Haven River, just south of Port Macquarie. 

‘Been there Dunbogan’ T shirts once sold from Dunbogan Boatshed. Even the riverbank’s civic artworks don’t impose – life-size corten steel silhouettes include a dog taking a dump. 

Not all are so light-hearted. An artwork by Rick Reynolds, one of three in the wider area, marks the height of historical floods. 

The whole of Dunbogan and much of nearby Laurieton was one of the worst hit in last March’s catastrophic floods. Now a rusted old man silhouette wears a life jacket, snorkel and mask. 

Survival has many mechanisms, including laughter. 

Easy to forget

Across from the taped-off Boatshed which was boat hire, cafĂ©, fishing shop combined, every house went under. The single employee of the fish and chip shop lived next door. She awoke to knee deep rising water, and spent the night on the shop’s counter. A long-term worker, she lost everything in her rental and will not return to work. Caravan park residents, even those built on second storeys to protect from flood, saw their community smashed. 

Much of neighbouring Laurieton was deluged, not only from below as waters rose, but as drains were overwhelmed and water cascaded down Dooragen, or North Brother mountain.  

From 1898 huge break walls began to tame the once deadly river entrance. The Camden Haven area became a quiet backwater, so far barely touched by the deluge of rapacious over-development swamping the east coast. 

It became easier to forget the deadly power of nature, to ignore generally unpoliced building regulations banning ground floor living areas.

It was front page news for a week or so, with occasional media flood-flashbacks. The clean-up seemed to be over, though half of the two local newspapers deal with flood aftermath, overwhelmingly voluntary. For many, forgetting is not so easy.

Banking bad and insurance

To get reasonably priced flood or fire insurance, you need to live where it doesn’t flood or burn.  

At least this time insurance companies didn’t inform residents, as they did in northern NSW in 2017, that the sad stinking piles of their belongings, often everything people owned, had to remain inside houses until assessors arrived. Instead, they were removed by a goodwill volunteer army. 

Walls were scrubbed and repainted. Then checks uncovered dangerous black mould. In June, houses remain empty.

The brief royal commission into banks and insurance companies mean people won’t have to face such awful treatment as in the past, but only if they have the strength to fight back.

In ‘Banking Bad’, journalist Adele Ferguson gave public voice to those who stood up – sometimes for decades before having outrageous injustices dealt with by the banking and insurance industry. She meticulously and powerfully documented how corporations, their compliant governments and tame state “enforcement” agencies conspired against corporate victims, to threats of bankrupting legal action rather than medals for heroism. 

Insurance companies are now settling even (very rare) vexatious claims. Pay up to shut up is the modus operandi. Settling with those who might spearhead negative publicity and inspire others to claim is top priority. They bank on most people being too devastated and isolated to fight back. A few dollars here and there can save a whole lot more on the bottom line. 

Passing commentary

Delay also benefits insurance giants. Years after the 2017 floods, a single mother still living in a caravan spoke of her shame at being homelessness. 

Why wasn’t it front page news instead of passing commentary? And all the other stories? Why are the oppressed made to feel shame? How many Australians remember the viciousness of the banks and insurance companies, the compliance of governments which bleat that they represent the people? The royal commission lasted only two months in payment of lifetimes of damage.

During the 2019 fires this writer was in Laurieton evacuation centre and wrote, “As the emergency unfolded on Friday, local radio announced Victoria’s Kinglake residents were finally receiving compensation, eight years after bushfires destroyed their homes. The announcement provided no comfort in this new disaster zone.” 

Nor this one, unless collective power again shakes the corporate profit machine.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Australia’s Triton acquisition serves US imperialism’s war preparations


 Written by: (Contributed) on 4 June 2021

The changing balance of forces across the Indo-Pacific is having a dramatic effect upon US-led traditional hegemonic positions. Long standing defence and security provision is hurriedly being adapted to counter China.

A major drama is subsequently being played out in Australia as the closest US regional ally. Elsewhere, in other areas of the world similar developments are also taking place with similar outcomes. The developments will have far-reaching implications for Australian people as US-led diplomatic tensions continue to escalate, and look set to enter the domain of real-war scenarios in the future.

A recent statement from the Australian Defence Department announced they were continuing to pursue technological advantage with remotely piloted maritime surveillance capability, scheduled to be operational by 2025-26. (1) The facilities, in the form of six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude and long-endurance aircraft, are planned for arrival in Australia in 2024, as part of the Air 7000 Phase 1B program.

The announcement also included information that the Triton aircraft have an air-borne capability of up to 24 hours flying time, which is intended for use with concurrent surveillance orbits over the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans.

While the Tritons will operate from the northern Australian RAAF Base Tindal, the ground facilities will be based in South Australia, at RAAF Edinburgh. Planned construction work will include working accommodation, operating facilities and supporting engineering services.

What is particularly relevant about the military planning, however, is that it would appear to have been thrust upon Australia from the Pentagon at relatively short notice; part of a 'co-operation' program involving the US Navy and the 'adapting' of Triton capabilities to include multi-intelligence, codenamed IFC4, which operates through additional sensors and electronically-scanned radar for signals-intelligence (SIGINT). (2)

The US Navy deployed two Tritons to Guam in 2020, to work in conjunction with the 7th fleet and provide continuous surveillance facilities. (3) A recent announcement that China had developed a D-26 missile with a range of about 4,000 kms, placing US military facilities on Guam in range, has sent shock-waves into the Pentagon. (4) It has been accompanied by a study conducted by a US congress commission which issued an official statement in 2019, that, 'the US is no longer clearly superior to the threats it faces around the world … and … the US is no longer the dominant power in the western Pacific'. (5)   

It was, therefore, recommended the US made greater use of traditional allies, including Australia for defence and security provision. (6)

It is, furthermore, important to note recent developments with the Tritons coincided with an Australian government announcement they were allocating a $747 million upgrade to four military facilities in the Northern Territory and that 'Australia would work with the US to exert a positive influence on regional security'. (7) Such statements leave little to the imagination about the role of Australia in US-led global military planning.
 
The US military facilities on Guam exist on an arc swinging from Pine Gap in Australia from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, westwards across Asia and into Micronesia in the Pacific. Pine Gap is regarded, by the Pentagon, as one of its most important overseas military facilities. (8) Military facilities on both Diego Garcia and Guam have been updated in recent years for US-led operations.

With Guam now in range of China's missiles, other locations, such as those in Australia, have now been identified. It has far-reaching implications for Australian people as the country becomes increasingly militarised by US-led war-mongering. A recent high-level diplomatic statement from the acting US Ambassador to Australia, for example, included reference to their military assessments requiring 'a more innovative defence partnership between Australia and the US, including co-production of precision-guided weapons on Australian soil'. (9)

The Australian Defence Department has already noted the Tritons will operate alongside US navy facilities in the Pacific region, nominally for twelve months. (10) It is much more likely, however, to become a permanent US-led working arrangement whereby the Tritons will make extensive use of Australian-based ground facilities with temporary arrangements elsewhere in the region for short-term visits, when required.  

Elsewhere, in the South Atlantic, a similar development is also taking place whereby the changing balance of forces is causing the US to panic. An announcement, in early May, from US General Stephen Townsend, that China was seeking a military base on the West African coastline, raised serious fears by the Pentagon. (11)

The South Atlantic region has long been a major defence and security consideration for the US; during the previous Cold War the US sought to strengthen their traditional hegemonic position by facilitating stronger links between South Africa and right-wing military regimes in Latin America. (12) A commonly held view from the period was that the UK and South Africa, in conjunction with the US, had military planning to transform the Malvinas Islands (Falklands) 'into a key strategic base for the South Atlantic Treaty Organisation', to maintain traditional US hegemonic positions across the wider region. (13)
  
With the present US-led Cold War with China, similar defence and security considerations have arisen, once again. The problem facing the US at the present time, however, is their dwindling numbers of allies regarded as 'reliable' with coastlines on both sides of the South Atlantic. It will, therefore, be interesting to monitor developments.

The US-led Cold War rantings are, nevertheless, continual; they carry all the hallmarks of war-mongering. Whether information is true or not, does not appear to be a serious consideration. Readers of the Australian, for example, were notified recently that 'Australia is in range of China's conventional warhead-equipped DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile … and ... there is no doubt the DF-26 rocket can reach northern Australia'. (14) The statement coincided with similar rhetoric from the Peter Dutton, Defence Minister, who announced in his usual bombastic manner, that, 'a war with China … should not be discounted'. (15)

And not to be outdone, the same media outlet the following day, published sycophantic praise about Peter Dutton accompanied with the statement that 'China's newer DF-41 has the range to hit Melbourne. We need anti-ballistic missile defences, long-range offensive missiles, as well as a new sub contract. Get on with it'. (16)

Such statements are not examples of quality journalism, designed to keep people informed; they are examples of war-mongering.

Those in control of class and state power, furthermore, are pursuing very clearly defined political agendas: these statements are strategies of tension clearly designed to raise fears amongst the civilian population, and channel popular opinion in the direction of war preparation in both the short and long-term. Taken in the context of current developments in Melbourne, with a full shut-down of the state of Victoria due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are truly living through another Cold War which might, in due course, become very hot indeed.

With these type of developments taking place:

                                            We need an independent foreign policy!

 

1.     Trump budget cut responsibility for MQ-4C Triton arrival delay, Defence Special Report, The Weekend Australian, 22-23 May 2021.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Change now critical, Land Forces 2021 Special report,  Australian, 1 June 2021.
5.     Study: U.S. no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Peace and freedom the Scott Morrison way, Australian, 29 April 2021.
8.     See: Map of the World, Peters Projection, which represents countries and distances accurately.
9.     US eyes Top End military build-up to combat China threat, Australian, 26 May 2021.
10.   Defence Special Report, op.cit., 22-23 May 2021.
11.   Beijing wants Atlantic base: US, Australian, 10 May 2021.
12.   The military pact project in South Atlantic – Pretoria opts for Latin America, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1977.
13.   Ibid.
14.   China say's we're weak and they might be right, Australian, 2 June 2021.
15.   'We must get real on a possible China war', Australian, 26 April 2021.
16.   Defence needs overhaul, Australian, 3 June 2021

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Duterte - a Filipino sell-out


Written by: Nick G. on 2 June 2021

The reactionary Duterte regime, which has murdered thousands of Filipinos in the names of drug eradication and anti-Communism, is pushing ahead with the further opening up of the country’s economy and resources to foreign finance capital – mainly Chinese, but with some Australian as well.

The previous Aquino government had placed a temporary moratorium on new mineral agreements, pending a new tax law. 

Duterte signed Executive Order 130 on April 14 lifting the nine-year moratorium on mineral agreements in an attempt to spur economic growth halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the independent IBON Foundation questions the possibility of economic gain from mining, saying that “mining has delivered paltry gains. From 2001 to 2020 (available data is for January to September only), total exports of minerals and mineral products grew almost seven-fold from US$537 million to US$3.7 billion, but this contributed only 1.7% in 2001 and 8.3% in 2020 to total Philippine exports.”

Who is set to benefit?

According to IBON, “available data show that China is the top nationality with ownership in mining tenements in the Philippines and also accounts for a huge number of mining permits and pending applications.”

But there are some Australian companies sending capital to the Philippines. There are two gold processing plants operated by Australian firms, CGA Limited and Medusa Mining. The two companies account for half of the gold extracted in the Philippines. The largest shareholder in CGA is National Nominees with a 20.79% stake, followed by Peter Switzer’s Switzer Financial Group with 13.04%.  Medusa’s largest shareholders are also nominee companies headed by HSBC Custody Nominees with 31.83%. As the top five shareholders, these nominee companies (whose individual investors remain hidden from view) account for 70.36% of shares held in the company.

In another panicked response to the Philippine’s ailing economy, Duterte instructed the nation’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December to renew a long-delayed agreement with Australian-based miner OceanaGold governing the company’s Didipio gold-copper underground mine on the island of Luzon.

OceanaGold has been in dispute with local Indigenous people, the Bugkalot, and anti-mining environmentalists. Their 25-year mining agreement expired in June 2019. Many of its workforce had been sacked as a result. 

OceanaGold began operations in 1990 in New Zealand, at a small gold mine at Macraes. It moved into the Philippines in 2006 when it merged with Didipio’s owner, Climax Mining Co., based in New South Wales. According to its 2020 AGM, its two largest shareholders now are the BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Ltd., a subsidiary of the controversial US BlackRock company, the largest investor in US weapons manufacturing and a contributor to global warming. It has an 18.56% stake in OceanaGold.  The second largest shareholder is the US Van Eck Associates Corp with 9.02%. An Australian-based company, it is now largely a front for US capital.

Not only is OceanaGold being assisted by direct Presidential intervention to renew its mining agreement, but the Philippine government has also apparently certified that the OceanaGold’s agreement area is outside the ancestral domain of the Indigenous people.

While OceanaGold may have the backing of Duterte’s government, it has no social licence (community agreement) for its mine, and any attempt to restart operations will be met with spirited opposition.

Australian communists have long supported our Philippines comrades in their revolutionary struggle to free their country through people’s war.

As a country also dominated by US imperialism, we Australian communists will oppose Australia companies looking to exploit the people and the resources of other countries, at the same time as we fight for our own anti-imperialist independence and socialism.