Sunday 25th of September 2022

slave to an american decrepit and deceitful empire…..

When people talk about Asia, they do not generally mean Australia. After all, it is the largest part of a theoretically separate continent, Oceania, and its people are white and British in origin for the most part.

However Oceania is a cultural term as much as anything. It refers to places where there a mix of native Polynesians and white European settlers, and English is the language of the educated, and more prestigious than native languages. As a functioning entity, it has no meaning, so Australia, which should be taking the lead as the largest country in that continent, has to be part of something else to serve any purpose.


BY Seth Ferris

The Australian national flag, like that of neighbouring New Zealand, famously includes the British Union Jack in one corner, and an astronomical feature, the Southern Cross, which is visible in that hemisphere but not from the British Isles. Regardless of what it officially represents the message is clear: this is both a southern outpost of the British race, and a place which takes its lead from the Old Country, rather than those nearer to it in the Asian continent.

Brexiteers have been routinely maligned for turning their backs on the European Union, a few miles away, and trying to forge new trading partnerships with countries much further afield, despite the higher costs and lower volumes involved. Australia has always operated this way, and not done badly out of the arrangement.

But as years have gone by, Australians have grown tired of being treated as inferior forms of British – eternal colonials – on the international stage. With reluctance they have looked towards Asia, and peoples either linguistically different or “coloured”, in an attempt to gain any credence for themselves and their needs in an increasingly globalised marketplace.


Coven of сolonies

This shift has taken various forms. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating maintained when he was in office that the flag needed to be changed if Australia was to be a serious nation. The response of cartoonists was to show Keating hoisting a new flag with the Japanese flag in the top corner, leading the country away from its colonial past to its new colonial future.

But all of these attempts have floundered in the same way the campaign to make Australia a republic failed in 1999. On that occasion, Australians of all backgrounds chose to retain the Queen of the United Kingdom, who lives tens of thousands of miles away, as the Head of State rather than elect one of their own, who lived there, to rule their country.

The slogan of the No campaign was not “No Republic Ever” but “No to THIS Republic”. The British monarchy is something Australians know and understand, even if they dislike it. Any alternative model would leave Australians not knowing who they are, and who their natural friends and enemies should be, and thus diminish both their international standing and their aspirations to become a major nation.

All this has left Australia in a position where it is never happier than when it is being exploited. Not by others, but by itself. If others do it, the local spirit rises and the country strikes back, though temporarily. But if it exploits itself, it doesn’t have to resolve its identity crisis and play the major world role it should, because it can always cry about the consequences of this lack of real character.


Red in tooth and bore

Last month Australia held a parliamentary election which resulted in a surprise win for the Labor Party. This is one of the two traditional parties of government, so the win didn’t represent a great change. But Labor doesn’t win majorities too often, and doing so now has reopened a lot of debates the politicians assumed the public didn’t want to engage with.

The key to Labor is the way it spells its name. It used to be called the Australian Labour Party, using the English spelling of the word, although both spellings were used interchangeably for a long time. The American version eventually prevailed because it was used alongside the word Australian: Labor was very traditional and nationalistic, like labour parties anywhere, but saw its nationalism as progressive rather than a sentimental attachment to the past.

Labor is still in the old mould of a trade union based, industrial working class party, focusing on the usually ultraconservative concerns of the working man rather than the theoretical radicalism of the intellectual left. This fact has often been used against the party, most famously in a photo of another former Prime minister, Gough Whitlam, peering through the doors of a party caucus meeting from the outside waiting to be told by the union men, not elected MPs, what his policy was.

But it also means that wherever Labor goes, so does the losing side of the argument. When that side wins, all the shibboleths get dragged up again: republicanism, relations with the indigenous peoples, how a party of the left should behave, and above all, who Australia’s friends should be.

New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a man of the system, who has spent all his working life within the party, generating favours and calling them in. Yet he is also one of the more leftist members, and despite his history of promoting party unity is already getting every dismissed radical idea stuck to his name, the assumption being that a new broom must want whatever most Australians don’t want.

Albanese is a man who can’t even decide who to pronounce his own name, just like Georgia’s Salome Zurabishvili can’t decide how to spell hers. He is whatever it suits him to be to effect the change he is looking for. But he has as much chance of changing Australia as Zurabishvili has of being taken as anything other than a rich foreign spy.

Every nice idea Albanese might have will vanish into thin air because he cannot lead Australia to a better relationship with its Asian neighbours, where its future lies. It is too different a place, and the most progressive ideas won’t solve that. But his main problem is that Australia will never be a major country because it isn’t even a fully sovereign state.

Australia has chosen to put itself in a situation in which its old alliances create an improbable dependency, but the only answer is to replace this with even greater dependency. It may not want to be seen as the rude, boorish, slang-speaking bastard cousin of the still-prestigious British and Americans, but it will never be anything else, however unfair the stereotype, unless it can develop an Australian identity and then put it into practice.


Very old kid on the block 

Australia has made several attempts to become a real country. None of them have worked because they don’t know what that means. It is difficult building relations with your neighbours when your every move tells them you are too scared to know who you are.

The aforementioned Gough Whitlam was removed from power by the Governor-General, the Queen’s representative in Australia, for embarking on a collision course with parliament which resulted in him being unable to guarantee supply, i.e. that the government would have the money it needed to run. At least that was the official version.

The unspoken truth was later revealed by the legendary John Pilger – that the US and UK wanted him out because he was withdrawing Australian troops from Vietnam and trying to gain control of Australia’s defence facilities, which were effectively under US and UK control.

Other countries with US bases in them are effectively controlled by the US, but they are not mature democracies of long standing, led by English speakers with deep ties to the homeland. Only Australia had put itself in this position voluntarily, because it was desperate to prove it belonged with its old friends, regardless of the rhetoric about Australia being the last domino expected to fall to Communism, an ideology which has no meaning or relevance there.

Australians themselves failed to re-elect Whitlam in the subsequent election, preferring to be dependents. Now they have brought in a new government which is supposedly in the radical mould of Whitlam’s, but has achieved power in strangely similar circumstances to those which removed Whitlam.

Outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison became seen as boorish and out of touch partly because he reneged on a submarine deal with France, preferring instead to develop a new arrangement with – you’ve guessed it – the US and UK to provide nuclear submarines. Emmanuel Macron claims Morrison negotiated secretly to dump his deal and join the new Aukus Pact, Morrison denies this and the other parties say they don’t know who’s telling the truth.

But the end result is that Australia has ended up further tied to its old friends, but able to say it is more open to the French, who were particularly congratulatory of Albanese, seen as their man. This puts Australia in an exact replica of the US position towards the UK and EU at the present time.

Maybe it would have come to this position as a fully independent state, with a mind and purpose of its own. But the similarity of these events, fifty years apart, suggests no one wants us to ever know.

There are many other examples of Australia selling itself down the river because it doesn’t know which river it should be sailing on. The country is famous for its wool industry, and is the world’s leading exporter of this commodity. The sheep shearer is as iconic to Australia as the cowboy is to the US, and unlike cowboys, many of the shearers remain natives.

If Australians want this high quality wool, they have to import it back again, paying a premium to obtain what only exists through their labour. These are the economics of a banana republic, even though they have produced First World levels of development.

Many Asian countries can tell you what happens when you have one resource to rely on and sell it all to the rich countries. Australia cannot provide leadership regionally or domestically if it does what Third World countries do to dig themselves an ever deeper hole.

Australia has an on-going problem with police corruption. There have been a number of cases of senior officers working hand in hand with criminals, effectively running their own crime empires from behind their badges. These in themselves are distractions from well documented police involvement in drugs, prostitution and other forms of exploitative crime which can only exist if the authorities turn a blind eye.

This again is considered a Third World characteristic, and derives from the same problem: people don’t respect or believe in the state they live in. As an institution of the state, the police should represent a higher value than the general population, not a lower one. If the police themselves don’t care about values, no one else will, and a country which cannot resolve such problems is in no position to join regional forums whose purpose is to improve things in their neighbourhood.


Loud noises non can understand

Due to its origins, the white British former colony of Australia has a perspective it can offer other nations. But it is not one most are interested in, because they can get the same from the US and UK, in both its positive and negative dimensions.

The new Australia expected of Anthony Albanese will have to be a country which offers a positive difference to these countries, enhancing the good elements and eschewing the bad. The good elements include its democratic traditions, economic stability, English (therefore global) cultural roots and the outward looking nature of the population, great travellers due to the country’s relative isolation. But these will not add up to anything unless they create something different which others can’t get elsewhere, not a begging bowl version of the same.

Australia will only do this by creating deeper integration with its regional neighbours from very different cultural traditions, as the UK once thought it should with Europe. The one thing above all which Asian and Pacific countries have in common is having overthrown foreign domination. But most of them have made significantly more progress in doing so than Australia, for whom the UK is only nominally foreign and the US is the preferred colonial master, and they know this.

Asia represents the future for Australia, but only if it can develop sufficient identity to stand alongside the nations of that continent, however poor and obscure some of those may be. The Albanese government will be expected to provide that, but only for as long as is comfortable. When it goes too far along that road, and finds nothing, it will sell itself to the devil once again – and will remain too scared of that lack of identity to admit there is a price.



Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.





save koalas, save julian…….

Australia's koalas may be doomed unless the new Labor Government implements strong policies to save them, writes Sue Arnold.


A WAVE OF RELIEF swept over the environmental movement with the Labor Party's victory. The appointment of Tanya Plibersek as Environmental Minister gives cause for hope.


Many distressingly urgent environmental crises are the legacy of the Morrison Government and his inept Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, now Deputy Liberal Leader.

Koala survival remains a key issue, with the species now downgraded to endangered statusfederally and in NSW and Queensland. Given the overwhelming evidence of Ley’s koala conservation failures, Plibersek needs to request the Auditor-General undertake an audit of taxpayer-funded grants for koalas by the Morrison Government.

Millions have been allocated with no visible results ensuring ongoing survival. Little if any information informs the success or otherwise of grants given. 

In November 2020, Sussan Ley announced an $18 million koala package to include a “landmark census”:

‘A national audit of koala populations will be a key component of an $18 million package to help protect Australia’s iconic species.



Annual reporting on koala populations and conservation strategies will become a mandatory agenda item at meetings of national environment ministers [known as EMM].’

No details were provided on the national audit or census.

By April 2021, no visible progress had been made demonstrated by a Meeting of Environment Ministers’ communiqué:

Annual reporting on koala population and conservation strategies


Ministers agreed to support and collaborate on the National Koala Monitoring Program, providing data and other information to establish a national-level monitoring framework.

As part of an $18 million Commonwealth koala conservation package, the monitoring program will help states better understand the trends in koala populations across the country and more effectively target conservation efforts.

Building upon the outcomes of a national koala monitoring workshop in February 2021, the design of the program is underway, with implementation to commence in mid-2021.


No further EMM meeting has been held.


In January 2022, the Morrison Government announced an additional $50 million over four years to ‘maintain and support the recovery and conservation of the koala through monitoring, the protection of koala habitats and improvements of koala health and care in response to natural disasters such as bushfires and diseases such as chlamydia’.

Only $2 million was allocated to a national koala monitoring program to ‘produce a robust estimate of the national koala population and fill key data gaps identified through the koala re-assessment and recovery plan development process’.

The CSIRO has been funded to co-design and facilitate the rollout of the program but the website only details three studies that have no relationship to a national census.

There’s no semblance of an accurate or current population estimate in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Desktop studies have taken priority over any attempt to undertake field studies.

Given the lack of data, any government spokesperson, mainstream media, political parties and conservation organisations claiming 2050 as a goal to “double the population” is, in reality, supporting the ongoing failures to provide this rapidly disappearing species with any protection.

The time is now. 

However, in the political framework of major parties, it would appear the koala is useful for promotion and propaganda purposes but a significant barrier to urban development and the ongoing wipe-out of native forests and coastal forest ecosystems to supply the timber, building and woodchip industries.

Taking drastic steps to halt the collapse of the species in the wild is the only possible response. Emergency actions including protection of key habitats, inserting provisions in forestry acts allowing legal challenges over breaches of approvals and removing the quarantining of wildlife protection under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999which gives the forestry industry open slather are critical to the species survival.

NSW’s L-NP Government is a prime example of the policies of death by a thousand cuts.

The recent failure of legislation to create a great koala national park in NSW’s mid-north coast, in spite of the State and Federal Governments’ downgrading of koalas to endangered status, may well be an indication of what the koala conservation-conscious public can expect under a Labor government.

The creation of the park would potentially ensure the survival of koalas in NSW with a 315,000 hectare protected area providing shelter and a future for approximately 20 per cent of the state’s koala population.

Both the L-NP and Labor voted against the creation of the park. The vote was 30-7. A complete reversal of Labor’s policy. In 2015, NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley promised to establish the park,  saying his party had a clear plan to protect koalas.

The only Liberal to support the park was Catherine Cusack MLC. She has consistently supported koalas and spoken out over the failure of the Government to protect the species.

Critically important koala hubs are being systematically destroyed with no attempt by governments to ensure habitat remaining after the Black Summer bushfires is protected. Koalas lost at least 25 per cent of their primary habitat in NSW according to the Government’s own record.   

Industrial logging of remaining native forests in the state is the death knell for primary koala hubs. Communities in the south and north coast forests have exhaustively campaigned in an Olympic effort to stop the slaughter.

Legal action over industrial logging is extraordinarily difficult as the governments involved in the timber industry have ensured no public interest challenges.

Mainstream media, politicians and conservation groups continue to repeat the same old mantra focused on “numbers to be doubled by 2050”.


No one asks the essential question — doubled from what figure? No one knows. 

According to the state’s EPA in 2007:

‘...the species has a poor recovery potential (low breeding rate) and is subject to many on-going threats.’

In 2020, a review commissioned by the EPA on timber harvesting in burnt landscapes estimated koala recovery could take up to 45 years, making a mockery of any 2050 prediction.

Growth and greed are killing this iconic species. 

Labor’s saving native species program does not give much cause for hope.

Its policy promises an investment of $224.5 million over forward estimates to:

  • work with states and territories on a national koala conservation strategy;
  • expand koala hospitals and services and invest in koala chlamydia vaccines and fertility projects; and
  • boost protection for native species and combat invasive species including by investing:
    • $24.8 million to fight Yellow Crazy Ants in Cairns and Townsville; and
    • $24.5 million for koala conservation programs.


Given the millions of dollars in grants by the previous Federal Government and Labor’s policy proposals, not only is an audit of taxpayer funds overdue, but specific details of what Labor’s “koala conservation programs” actually mean are critical.

Without emergency intervention and real policies, the koala is doomed. 



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secret politics.......


By John McEvoy and Peter Cronau 

Declassified Australia


In the early 1970s, officials from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) visited Britain for propaganda training. This culminated in the creation of an Australian propaganda unit in 1971, whose operations were focused on preserving Western power across Asia.

The unit was modelled on the Information Research Department (IRD), which was Britain’s covert Cold War propaganda arm between 1948 and 1977. It was also staffed with two former IRD officials.

The IRD covertly collected and disseminated material to the media to discredit human rights figures, undermine political opponents overseas, help overthrow governments, and promote U.K. influence and commercial interests around the world.   

Details of Australia’s propaganda unit have remained secret until revealed in newly declassified U.K. Foreign Office files, and shine a renewed light on Anglo-Australian security co-operation during the Cold War.


‘Off With It Like a Racehorse’

In late 1970, U.K. Foreign Office official Norman Reddaway visited Canberra for a Four Power Information Meeting on defence and security strategy in South-East Asia, involving Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

Reddaway was a seasoned British propagandist. After serving in the Second World War, he joined the Foreign Office and played a key role in setting up the IRD. In the 1960s, he was assigned as the “coordinator of political warfare” in Indonesia, where Britain was inciting massacres in its effort to overthrow President Sukarno.

By 1970, Reddaway was concerned about a “diminution of British interest” in Asia. Two years earlier, the Harold Wilson government had announced the withdrawal of British troops from major military bases in South East Asia, notably Singapore and Malaysia. Meanwhile, the IRD was undergoing a structural reorganization and facing funding and staff losses.

Reddaway thus wanted to plug a gap of declining Western influence in the Asia-Pacific, and recommended that Australia boost its propaganda effort in the region.


In Canberra, Reddaway asked the Australian foreign affairs chief Keith Waller whether Australia “should contemplate doing some information policy work” of its own — “information policy” being a gentleman’s euphemism for “covert propaganda.” He proposed that Australia “send someone to London to look at the work and functions” of the IRD.

In February 1971, the head of the information and cultural affairs branch of DFA, Michael Wilson, was dispatched from Canberra to the U.K. for two weeks. In London, he held “several long talks” with IRD officials about “setting up an IRD organisation for Australia.” 

He was also given “a comprehensive picture of IRD’s present structure, the work of Asia and editorial sections, and IRD activities in SE Asia.”

Wilson was impressed by “the bipartisan nature of the support for IRD” in Britain, as well as “the lack of any political controversy surrounding it.” In Australia, however, he expressed fears that a similar propaganda unit would be used domestically by rival Australian politicians.

In early 1971, in the face of the disastrous Vietnam war and a resurgent Labor Party, head of the Treasury Billy McMahon and Defence Minister Malcolm Fraser were plotters in an internal party coup against their sitting Liberal Party Prime Minister John Gorton, with McMahon emerging as the new prime minister.

“If we let Billy loose with an outfit like this,” Wilson told British IRD official K.R. Crook, “he’d be off with it like a racehorse, using it against Fraser and Gorton.” Crook privately noted: “One has an awful fear that he could be right!” (Indeed, the IRD was frequently used by the British government to produce propaganda against perceived domestic opponents).

Wilson returned home to Australia via Hong Kong, where he secretly met the U.K. regional information officer and “held several long talks on… setting up an IRD organisation for Australia.” The files note that the senior Australian diplomat in Hong Kong, Roy Barcham, was “not, repeat, not conscious of the purpose of Wilson’s visit to London.”

Whitehall noted after Wilson’s return, that the Australians were expected to set up “a very modest research-and-output section in the DFA to provide a supporting arm for their political interests, and influences, in South East Asia”.


‘Thieves Kitchen of CIA Stringers and Dubious Characters’

In May 1971, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Keith Waller, informed Whitehall that Australia would “embark on a limited amount of information policy activity” — or propaganda — and said he was “interested in the possibility of recruiting a small number of IRD research and journalist staff.”


By October 1971, DFA official Noel Ross Smith was selected to be the principal research officer heading up the new secret propaganda unit. Ross Smith had been a journalist with the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald, before joining the Australian News and Information Bureau (ANIB) inside the Department of the Interior and later served in several Australian embassies.

Ross Smith had been Information Attaché in the Australian embassy in Djakarta from 1962 to 1965, providing contacts and information to Australian reporters and media outlets. His time there had coincided with the period IRD was very active in Indonesia producing propaganda designed to undermine left-leaning Sukarno. 

In November 1971, Ross Smith visited the U.K. for a six-week attachment to the IRD, based in the Foreign Office at Whitehall in London. The purpose was for him “to learn as much as possible the detail of the [IRD] operations”, covering “projects, sources of information, contacts, production and distribution”. 

Ross Smith was thus able to study “how IRD works as an all-purpose unattributable information arm.”

“As it is as much in our interest as in that of the Australians to get their organisation off the ground, we have given Ross Smith all the help we can,” wrote one IRD official, although details of some of the IRD’s covert operations were not handed over.

After his six-week attachment with the IRD, Ross Smith flew to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore for additional guidance on Britain’s propaganda operations across Asia. In Bangkok, he met with British embassy official David McBain, senior Hong Kong Government Information Service journalist Peter Moss and Australian embassy press attaché Eric Sparke. 

They met at the Foreign Correspondents Club at the Oriental Hotel, which McBain described in a file note as “that thieves kitchen of CIA stringers and other dubious characters.”


Australia’s Own Secret IRD

Australia’s propaganda unit commenced operations in late 1971, and was situated within the Political and Social Research Section (PSR) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). 

In June 1973, IRD chief Thomas Barker wrote that “the Australians have for the last two years had a modest counterpart to IRD. Their organisation… was set up in 1971 on the basis of advice requested from, and provided by, IRD.” Its staff included “two former members of IRD.”

“There is an exchange of output, and consultation about this, between the two Departments,” Barker continued.


“The two efforts are largely complementary, as theirs concentrate on the South West Pacific area where our coverage is comparatively modest. The Australians are working up distribution of their material in South-East Asia, and beginning to cultivate potential recipients in the U.K. through Australia House, who have sought our advice.”

With the Australian propaganda unit modelled on the IRD, the “material” distributed would likely have been unattributed research briefs and articles written for newspapers and journals, and the “potential recipients” would have been cooperative journalists writing on the region.

According to Barker, ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and ASIS, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, “appeared to be aware of Mr Ross Smith’s activities…, and I believe [the unit] has access to classified material in the same way as IRD has; but I rather doubt if he yet gets the full range of Australian intelligence output.”


Familiar Model

The unit was in operation for at least three years and it remains unclear from the files when it was eventually shut down. 

In October 1974, the British embassy in Canberra reported that Ross Smith had “left the Political and Social Research Section” to take up a position as consul-general in Lae, Papua New Guinea, as the Australian territory prepared for independence in 1975. 

Ross Smith later went on to serve as Australia’s high commissioner to Nauru and Malta and is now deceased.

After Ross Smith’s departure from the secret unit, the British embassy in Australia asked that future correspondence from the IRD be addressed to Australian DFA official, Richard Butler, who was at the time acting head of the PSR.

Butler told Declassified he had been appointed to the PSR section in 1974 by the department’s then Head of Public Affairs Richard Woolcott, who later served as Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia during its brutal invasion of East Timor in 1975.


Butler said he had been briefed by Woolcott to prepare press materials explaining the government position on East Timor both for other diplomats and for the domestic public. Australia supported Jakarta’s invasion and occupation of East Timor, during which over 180,000 people were killed. 

Woolcott, now aged 95, told Declassified he could not recall the unit nor any contact with IRD.

Butler said his work in the Political and Social Research Section (PSR) of Foreign Affairs was usual public information work, focusing on explaining Australian government policy to the public. While he knew of Ross Smith, he says he was unaware of his precise role and hadn’t known about an IRD counterpart in Australia. 

While it seems the IRD and its Australian counterpart in the PSR are no more, the role of propaganda in persuading and massaging the public’s perceptions of foreign policy continues.

In Australia, the Defence Force’s psychological operations unit, and in the U.K. the army’s psychological warfare unit of the 77th Brigade, are just two of the propaganda outfits exposed in recent years running information operations on the domestic public. 

The newly released U.K. files help fill in the gaps in our understanding of the growth of propaganda and disinformation. Australian files on IRD and the PSR unit remain classified.



John McEvoy is an independent journalist who has written for International History ReviewThe CanaryTribune MagazineJacobin, Brasil Wire and Declassified UK.

Peter Cronau is co-founder of Declassified Australia, and is a multi-award winning investigative journalist, writer and film-maker. He is co-editor of the recent book A Secret Australia – Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés

This article is from Declassified Australia.








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