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“Joined at the hip”, or “under the thumb”?

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Nick G.

Australian bourgeois parliamentary politics has left the people with an embarrassing legacy of expressions of subservience to imperialism.

They come from both “sides” of politics. Actually, the parties of the two-party system are on the same side: that of imperialist domination of Australia and of service to capitalism.

On 31 July 1914 in an election speech at Colac in Victoria, the Opposition Leader Andrew Fisher (ALP) famously declared that ‘should the worst happen, after everything has been done that honour will permit, Australians will stand beside the mother country to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling’.

This was in reference to the looming imperialist war of 1914-18 which saw over 60,000 Australians killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. 

Australia had no control over its foreign policy in 1914. That control lay with the British. It was one of the compromises that gave us an unreadable and convoluted Constitution.  The British conceded the formal right to an independent foreign policy for its Dominions in the Statute of Westminster in 1931. But Australian politicians, including Prime Ministers Scullin (ALP), Lyons (United Australia Party – forerunner of the Liberal Party), Menzies (UAP) and Fadden (Country Party – forerunner of the National Party) rejected our right to an independent foreign policy right up until 1942. Then, in the context of a war which saw the fall of the “impregnable” British fortress of Singapore on February 15, 1942, Labor PM Curtin introduced the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, which came into effect on October 9 of that year.

This acceptance of a right to have our own foreign policy, bestowed by the British, and rejected for 11 years by our “leaders”, could have marked the beginning of a new era for Australia.  To a certain extent, it did, namely the swapping of the era of subservience to Britain with the era of subservience to America.

This had been foretold by Curtin in an address to the nation on December 27, 1941: “Without inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”

Even the profoundly Anglophile Menzies, who described himself as “British to the bootstraps”, and who sycophantically said of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth, “I did but see her passing by, And I shall love her till I die”, supported the transition from one imperialist overlord to the other.  Interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor on September 24, 1952, Menzies said “I become very resentful when I hear people affecting to sneer at American imperialism.  The benevolent commands of a great nation should be good for mankind. If that is American imperialism, let us have more of it.”

And the context?  From 1950 to1953, Menzies sent 17,000 Australian soldiers, of whom 339 died, and 1200 were wounded, to support the murderous war waged by US imperialism against the Korean people.

When we were embroiled in the US war of aggression against Vietnam, Prime Minister Harold Holt made a pilgrimage to Washington where he humiliated himself and all Australians by declaring that we were going “All the way with LBJ”, a reference to US President Lyndon Baines Johnson. 

Although probably the least subservient conservative Australian PM, John Gorton nevertheless spoke his way into infamy with a pledge to Richard Nixon, in May 1969, that “We will go a-Waltzing Matilda with you”.

A September 1999 characterisation of Australia as the deputy sheriff of the US in the Asia-Pacific region by Prime Minister John Howard in The Bulletin magazine was picked up again by President Bush in 2003, saying that Australia was really a sheriff in its own right in this region.

And now Malcolm Turnbull has tried to ingratiate himself with US imperialism by describing our two countries as “joined at the hip”. This followed US President Trump’s fascist threat to immolate North Korea with “fire and fury”.

This description arises from the circumstance of conjoined, or “Siamese”, twins. Chang and Eng Bunker, born with a fused torso in Siam (Thailand) in 1811, became American circus oddities. In more recent times, surgical separation, although risky, has allowed some conjoined twins to achieve independence from each other.

By describing us as “joined at the hip” with US imperialism, Turnbull could not make a plainer case for the rejection of Australia independence.

More to the point would be to describe us as “under the thumb” of the US, since our two countries are hardly “twins” with equal weight and influence on each other.

And in so far as Turnbull is saying that any act of aggression by the US would automatically see us falling in behind our overlords without any reference to the people or parliament, without any consideration of our own independent interests, he has made himself eminently qualified for immediate disqualification from parliament under the first part of that section of the Constitution that is being quoted in relation to politicians discovered to have dual citizenship, namely:

44. Disqualification Any person who: (i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power…


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