“Just over the horizon is a cataclysm heading our way – it’s the sad and sorry march by land and sea of the climate-change refugees in their multi-millions,” writes The Gadfly columnist ROBERT MACKLIN
HUGH White is a pleasant chap. He works at the ANU and thinks a lot about the subject of his latest book, “How to Defend Australia”. And because that’s an issue that concerns us all, his views have been widely read and respected.
Unfortunately, they are just about as old-fashioned and defeatist as it is possible to be.
In a nutshell, Hugh says that since the advent of Donald Trump, we can no longer rely on the US to come to our aid. And you’ll get no argument from me on that score.
While Trump occupies the Oval Office, no one really knows which way America will jump.
But then Hugh’s Big Idea is that therefore we should double our own spending on the engines of war, up to and including a nuclear deterrent.
And why? Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it: we are “threatened” – if not now then sometime soon – by either China or Indonesia… that is, our biggest trading partner or our next door neighbour, both of whom have shown not the slightest interest in invading our big, dry continent.
In fact, our only “enemies” are those that have been willed to us through our association with America – their idiotic (failed) adventures in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and more recently their obsession with the challenge (as they see it) of the rising economic power of China.
Indonesia, of course, is the world’s biggest Muslim nation and China is run by its Communist Party, so in white American eyes both are totally untrustworthy. And Hugh White, whose working life has been conditioned by American Alliance perceptions, accepts the concept of both nations as “the other” to be feared as potential enemies.
Indeed, Hugh is part of a much larger legacy of the British invasion of the continent that attempted to wipe our Aboriginal forebears out of existence with their declaration of terra nullius.
Yet anyone who has travelled in both Indonesia and China will attest to one simple fact. Their inhabitants are human beings with very much the same desires and attitudes of people everywhere – they want to live in peace, raise their kids in their own home and enjoy life’s pleasures before the inevitable dying of the light.
They don’t want war, anymore than we do. But if the Hugh Whites of their worlds had their way, they too would be arming against “the other”… us!
The answer is not building bigger guns, and raising the fears of the populace, but expanding the circle of friendship, people to people, country to country. And it’s urgent, because just over the horizon is a cataclysm heading our way – it’s the sad and sorry march by land and sea of the climate-change refugees in their multi-millions.
It’s a movement that will challenge the very notion of territorial sovereignty. And we must be part of the full-hearted co-operation of regional powers – Indonesia and China chief among them – to handle the great struggle to come.
I have no idea how it will resolve itself. But I do know we must prepare: first with urgent policies to slow climate change; then with a treaty with our Aboriginal compatriots to give legal force to our ownership of the continent; and finally with a massive effort of aid and trade within the region, reintroducing Australia as an Asia-Pacific nation, not some colonial hangover of British notions of class and race.
We could even call it The Republic of Australia.