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Canberra Today 2°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Lunacy rules in khaki-led campaign 

Cartoon: Paul Dorin

“Dutton banged the drums in the background until Anzac Day when he finally declared: “We must prepare for war”. And this against a foe who has never shown the slightest interest in breaching Australia’s territorial sovereignty,” writes “The Gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN.

AN air of lunacy has developed around the agreement between the Solomon Islands and our biggest and most lucrative trading partner during this surreal election campaign.

Robert Macklin.

At the outset, the Morrison/Dutton duumvirate made it very plain that they wanted a khaki election that played on the militarist-racist underpinnings of a former Anglo-Australia. The one that invented the White Australia policy that ended officially in the ’70s but lives on as the “Yellow Peril” like a dormant cancer of the blood.

It reappeared against Indonesia, in the year of living dangerously and the “Domino Theory” of Vietnam. Today it’s China and come what may, Morrison/Dutton were going to ramp it up. 

It didn’t matter that China was single-handedly keeping our trading balance of payments in the black; or that Chinese tourists and students could return post-covid to rescue our failing hospitality and tertiary industries. It was all about the election.

Morrison played a long game. He double-crossed the French on the submarine deal, which they saw as an opportunity to project a third, moderating force in the region. He went for the Anglo-American AUKUS with no sub at all for 20 years. He took the lead in implying – without any evidence – that covid escaped from a Chinese chemical lab in Wuhan. And once the deeply offended Chinese government responded with a few trade sanctions, he doubled down.

He even pretended that a list of grievances secured by a journalist from a Chinese diplomat was some kind of demand for Australia to abandon its “values”, whatever they might be. And when he learned – belatedly – of the friendship agreement between China and the Solomons it was like all his Christmases had come at once. 

Dutton played the supporting role in this “Dumb and Dumber” movie. He banged the drums in the background until Anzac Day when he finally declared: “We must prepare for war”. And this against a foe who has never shown the slightest interest in breaching Australia’s territorial sovereignty.

As it happens, in the last five years I have been commissioned by our Defence Department (though ASPI) to undertake three case studies of major defence procurements – two Naval, one Air Force – and have written a yet-to-be-published book on a Canberra defence contractor that has put Australia at least five years ahead of the rest of the world in radar development for all three services. 

The work has provided a valuable insight into our defence capability. And I have to tell you – if it wasn’t already blindingly obvious to everyone with a grasp on reality – that it is utterly insane to be provoking a war against China. 

Just as important, behind the scenes, China has deliberately sent a new ambassador to get the relationship back on an even keel. Ambassador Xiao Qian is one of their star performers. His earlier posts have been in India, the Philippines, Indonesia and the US. 

In Beijing he’s been director-general of Asian Affairs and he came to Australia in January with a potential roadmap for dealing with the problems between the two countries. Indeed, he publicly offered to meet with Morrison and begin the process to “meet halfway”.

The response was an oafish refusal. Nothing, in Morrison’s obsession with an election win, must deviate from the rage and fear of the yellow hordes of his perfervid imagination. 

Or maybe it’s just another marketing ploy.

Either way, it’s nuts. 

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Ian Meikle, editor

Robert Macklin

Robert Macklin

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