“I hope that somebody, somewhere in the federal ministry or foreign service has let someone in a position of power and influence in the US know that Australia is appalled by Donald Trump and that our relationship will not survive another four years of this madness,” writes columnist JON STANHOPE.
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison was challenged by Leigh Sales at the conclusion of her “7.30” program’s post-Budget interview with him to bag Donald Trump.
Morrison declined and attempted (in the face of multiple aggressive interjections by Sales) to explain that he did not intend to offer commentary on either of the two candidates for the American presidency, Trump or Biden, in the weeks leading up to the US election.
He referenced the importance of the US-Australia alliance and of maintaining international relationships irrespective of the politics and I think, by inference, the personality and character of respective leaders.
I thought Morrison handled the questions and indeed the interview, as a whole, quite well. He certainly had Sales’ measure and by the end of the interview her aggression, interruptions as well as multiple attempted “gotcha” questions had become not just tiresome but rather silly.
While Morrison’s decision to decline to publicly criticise Trump was appropriate, I do hope that somebody, somewhere in the federal ministry or our armed forces or foreign service has let some person, at an appropriate level and in a position of power and influence in the US, know that Australia and Australians are appalled by Donald Trump and the US government and that the US should not assume that our relationship will survive another four years of this madness.
While Trump is clearly a deeply troubled individual he is dangerous to boot. I have no doubt he would not hesitate to start a war if he thought there were votes in it. I also fear, because of our alliance with the US and Australia’s past willingness to follow it into any unwinnable war it is wont to wage, anywhere in the world, that when Trump, if he is re-elected, does inevitably declare war on Iran, that Australia will be first in line to rejoin the coalition of the willing.
I should acknowledge that my dread at the prospect of Australia being again seduced to join a pointless war, as a willing handmaiden to the US, is heightened by the fact that I have grandchildren of military age.
While it may not yet be clear, it was the question of the nature and importance of “alliances” that prompted me to write this column.
One of the treasured pieces of correspondence that I have filed away in the multiple filing cabinets and boxes of “treasured” papers and documents in my garage is a letter I received from the then NZ Labour Party Prime Minister, David Lange, in 1987.
The letter was in response to one I had written congratulating him on the principled and courageous stand he had taken, despite the obvious risk it posed to the ANZUS alliance, to ban the entry of nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships into NZ’s territorial waters and to declare the land and airspace of NZ nuclear-free zones.
The bans were affected by the NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987.
After the passage of the Act, the US government duly suspended its obligations to NZ under the ANZUS treaty. Thirty three years later and, as far as I am aware, there is no appetite in NZ to reverse the nuclear ban in order to resurrect ANZUS and once again enjoy the warm embrace of Uncle Sam.
I recently asked a Kiwi friend if there was a concern within NZ that it might one day rue the decision to fracture its alliance with the US. He answered, forcefully, that New Zealanders were a principled, proud, tough and independent peoples, but if NZ was seriously threatened and friends such as Australia and the US did not come to its aid, as NZ would surely go to theirs because it had dared to assert its sovereign right to ban nuclear arms, then it was moot for Australians to reflect on what you get when you remove the Z from ANZUS.
I thought the point well made and it disappoints me that it doesn’t reflect Australia’s attitude to our relationship with the US.
Our mendicant status was defined in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War by then Australian PM Harold Holt when he committed us as prepared to go “All the way with LBJ”. PM John Howard later confirmed our subservience when he committed Australia, as one of only three nations worldwide prepared to join the US in the coalition of the willing, in the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
Which brings us back to Donald Trump. The Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars were a disaster for Australia and the world and they were pursued at a time when the US was led by reasonably capable, sane and able presidents. Just imagine the chaos that Trump is capable of.
Australia needs a David Lange; a prime minister prepared to say “no” to the US.