Wikileaks devastates democratic credentials of Labor Right. Liberals next?

Author: Peter Murphy – SEARCH FOUNDATION Coordinator/Secretary

Peter Murphy has been the Coordinator and Secretary of the SEARCH Foundation since mid-1995. He became active in politics as a student at Macquarie University in the 1970s, joining the Communist Party of Australia in early 1975 and working as a NSW Organiser for the Australian Union of Students in 1977. He was one of the 78ers of the Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras. He worked as a volunteer researcher for the TransNational Cooperative, before moving to Adelaide and becoming a seafarer. In 1986 he returned to Sydney and worked as the Coordinator of the communist weekly paperTribune and as a Sydney organiser for the CPA. After Tribune and the CPA stopped operating in 1991, he was active in the New Left Party and helped launch an independent paper Broadside Weekly. In 1993 he began working as a research and media officer for the Rail Tram & Bus Union, and continued in that work part-time until 2005. In 1995 he started working part-time at SEARCH as the coordinator. He has extensive experience in international solidarity.

DECEMBER 20, 2010 – 11:52 AM

The Wikileaks exposure of US Canberra Embassy cables dealing with the Rudd Labor government, and in particular a core group of ALP Right leaders, shows that the dominant Labor faction can’t distinguish between Australian and US national interests, and that the US government is a close-quarters ‘player’ in decisions about who will be the Australian Prime Minister. In fact, the US tries to exercise a veto over any ALP Left contender for Leader.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd may state to the public that Australia is a ‘proud independent nation’ but in private, his government delivers for the US State Department. Worse, Rudd urged the USA to consider war on China if ‘engagement’ didn’t work. In other words, Rudd contemplated nuclear war in private, but calls for nuclear disarmament in public.

Wikileaks has already exposed that ALP Policy on the US missile defence shield was manipulated to neutralize long-standing majority sentiment against nuclear war-fighting strategies, and that Australian soldiers and Afghan civilians are being killed in the ‘unwinnable’ Afghan War, because of the US Alliance.
Cables dealing with the Howard period should soon expose the Liberal and National Parties to the same unforgiving criticism.

Of particular interest should be cables dealing with the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiated in 2003-04, and in the end supported with minor amendments by the Latham Labor Opposition just prior to the 2004 federal election. We know now that both the Australian negotiating team and the US negotiating teams told their respective leaders to abandon the deal at the last moment, because it didn’t deliver enough. Yet Howard and Bush personally overruled them.

What were the Labor Right doing in this phase, and what were the key Liberals and Nationals saying to the US Embassy?

Another important set of cables will be dealing with the real objectives of the Rudd government at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009.

The pattern of Labor Right leaders working closely with the US Embassy and with the US Central Intelligence Agency goes back to the Cold War in the 1950s. Before the US Australia Leadership Dialogue there was the Harvard Trade Union School and more secret cooperation between the Labor Right and the CIA. The objective of both the US and the Labor Right was to defeat communist influence in the trade unions and to weaken the Left in the Labor Party, enabling Menzies to engage in wars in Korea, Malaya and Viet Nam, and enabling US corporations to have tame-cat or restrained unions in their Australian operations.

Cables dealing with the 2009 Defence White Paper plan to buy $37 billion worth of submarines, Aegis-class anti-missile destroyers and 100 Joint Strike Fighters have also appeared on Wikileaks. This spending is about a possible war with China and even the US Embassy doubted that Australia’s Defence Department could manage it.

Once upon a time, a Labor Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister struck out in the international community for the rights of small countries, for legal restraint on the imperial powers to wage war, and for democracy and social justice to be the underpinning of global peace. They were Curtin and then Chifley, and Evatt, and they weren’t abstract theoreticians, but political leaders hardened in the experience of the Great Depression and World War II.

Evatt in particular succeeded in expressing an independent foreign policy by supporting Indonesian independence, and opposing the Cold War mentality being applied against everything done by the Soviet Union, for example the stationing of Soviet troops in Iran after the end of the war. Evatt also strove for international control of nuclear weapons. Curtin, Chifley and Evatt were not from the Left, but were true to the sentiments of the vast majority of Australian working people.

It is 60 years later, and look at what is happening!

The replacement of Rudd by Gillard is now linked to Gillard’s unusual support for the Israeli military attack on Gaza in early 2009 – the kind of signal the US Embassy needed to assent to Gillard being a possible replacement for the inept Mr Rudd. Australian soldiers are sacrificed in hopeless, wrong-headed wars.
What will become of Senator Arbib, now that no one will be sure whose interests he represents?

Does the current NSW Labor Party Secretary routinely coordinate with the US Embassy? Does UnionsNSW routinely meet with the US Labor Attaché? For what purpose?

The leaks demonstrate that the US State Department has cultivated a network of ‘agents of influence’ within the ALP. Justice Hope in the 1983 Combe Royal Commission into Soviet espionage described ‘agents of influence’ as “The most insidious and sometimes most dangerous … sorts of agents”. Combe was a former ALP Federal Secretary who had meetings with Soviet diplomat Valery Ivanov about developing Australian wine exports to the Soviet Union. ASIO alleged that Combe was a spy, and Hope found that the relationship between Combe and Ivanov was a danger to national security. What Arbib and others have been doing puts Combe in the shade. Labor should properly require that all those named either deny their role or be expelled from the party, if Labor wishes to again to be taken seriously as a genuine representative of the Australian people.

How will the Australian Greens manage their relationship with the Gillard minority government when it comes to perceptions of US influence on climate policy or on the war in Afghanistan?

The shock collapse of support for Labor in August 2010 compared to the November 2007 election victory over Howard’s Coalition has already provoked an admission on both Left and Right that Labor doesn’t stand for anything, and an awkward effort by some leaders to articulate what Labor stands for.

The Wikileaks exposure shows how profound the lack of principle, the lack of democracy is in the Labor Party. It is an opportunity for the Labor Left to far more forcefully articulate a democratic vision, an independent development path for Australian society, and in particular a grassroots people’s power to sharply rein in the arrogance of the big corporations, who are largely led by US corporations.

The Global Capitalist Crisis of 2008 continues to unfold in North America and Europe, causing huge damage to jobs, public services and social welfare, setting back the urgent tasks of addressing global warming. Wikileaks has exposed the insidious secret relationships which are behind this catastrophe.
Yes, our sense of liberal democratic values must make us rebel against what Wikileaks has exposed, they must motivate our defence of Julian Assange’s basic rights. But our sense of social rights and collective humanity must also impel us to change our very system to enable democratic and inclusive responses to the global economic and ecological crisis, before it is too late.

– Peter Murphy




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