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Abetz controversy: Fight every attack on democratic rights

Written by: Nick G. on 26 October 2020


The recent pressure placed on three Chinese-Australians to condemn China’s Communist Party and Government by Liberal Senator Eric Abetz must be unconditionally condemned.

The three were appearing before a Senate inquiry into the Morrison government’s Foreign Relations Bill, which would give Canberra a veto over state government and university deals with overseas powers. Senator Abetz is chairing the inquiry.

The Foreign Relations Bill is itself a product of the struggle by US imperialism to defend its “king of the castle” status against the “dirty rascals” of the emerging Chinese superpower.  The US wants to keep Australia firmly within its grip and prevent any entry into its loyal fiefdom by the increasingly assertive Chinese capitalism.

The Foreign Relations Bill is a weapon in that struggle and is aimed at Chinese influence in Australia whilst doing nothing about our domination by US imperialism and its agents of influence and interference, or by any other imperialism which is in league with the US.

So, Chinese-Australians are dragged before Abetz’s inquisition, but not the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) which leads the public opinion battle against China and is sponsored by major US weapons manufacturers and financed in part by the US State Department.

Abetz’s reactionary record

Abetz was born in Germany in1958 and came to Australia in 1961 with his parents. His father’s uncle Otto Abetz, an honorary SS-Standartenführer, was present in Adolf Hitler's entourage at the fall of the Polish capital, Warsaw.  He was appointed Nazi Ambassador to the Vichy French and was later convicted as a war criminal for his role in arranging the deportation of French Jews to the death camps.

Senator Abetz has argued, and we agree, that his great-uncle’s record should not be the basis for passing judgment on the Senator. However, his own reactionary record is another matter.

Elected to Parliament as a Tasmanian Senator in 1994, he was appointed Special Minister for State in the Howard Government from 2001 to2006. He was then appointed Minister for Fisheries, Forests and Conservation for a year, until Howard was voted out. He commenced that portfolio by attacking the Australian Greens and environmentalists in general as anti-Australian. He described the campaign against woodchipping as "akin to treason" and branded the Greens an "extreme left" party. His own reactionary extremism was on public display.

Following the defeat of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor government, Abetz was appointed Minister for Employment in the Abbott Government and oversaw the drafting of legislation to strengthen the coercive powers of the anti-worker Australian Building and Construction Commission. He also was responsible for the establishment of the anti-union Registered Organisations Commission, and the launching of the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption and the Fair Work Act Review. Abetz also designed and implemented the Government's Jobactive Employment Services Reforms with their punitive requirement for job seekers to complete 40 job applications a month.

In 2015, Abetz supported Hutchinson Ports’ use of emails in sacking 40 per cent of its workforce and in an exchange with Labor Senator Doug Cameron endorsed the use of balaclava-clad thugs in breaking the maritime strike in the 1998 Patrick dispute.

During Senate debates regarding the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (Facilitation) Bill, presented by Senator Cory Bernardi in November 2017, Abetz strongly endorsed the prospect of nuclear power in Australia. He described nuclear power as "the very best source of energy production that science has to offer the world" and claimed that it offered "affordable and reliable energy, with no emissions at all." 

Echoes of McCarthyism

The notorious anti-Communist US Senator Eugene McCarthy unleashed a wave of persecution against US citizens, demanding to know at public hearings, “Are now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?” The great harm done to people’s democratic rights gave rise to the term “McCarthyism” to denote unsubstantiated, demagogic attacks on a person’s character or political allegiance.

At the Senate inquiry, Abetz said “…can I ask each of the three witnesses to very briefly tell me whether they are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship?” 

He might just as well have phrased it in McCarthy’s terms: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a sympathiser with or supporter of the Chinese Government?”

To their credit, the three Chinese-Australians took offence at the implied slur and refused to answer the question.

There are 1.2 million Australians of Chinese descent. Their views spread across the spectrum. Some oppose China and support Taiwanese “independence”, Hong Kong “democracy” and other secessionist demands. Others are completely indifferent to international politics and issues involving China. A great many are justifiably proud of the victory, led by the Chinese Communist Party, of the War of Resistance Against Japan. Many acknowledge that with the victory of Liberation in 1949, after more than a century of humiliation by imperialist powers, Mao Zedong spoke directly to their sense of national self-respect when he declared “The Chinese people have stood up”.

Already, Chinese community organisations are responding to Abetz’s attack. The Victorian Chapter of the Chinese Community Council of Australia issued a statement on October 22 expressing opposition to “Senator Abetz’s insinuation of disloyalty of these three distinguished Chinese Australians. We regard this targeted questioning as unfair and racially prejudicial.”

“As ordinary citizens, we should not be forced to take a political position regarding a foreign government, nor should we be required to prove our loyalty. Treating people prejudicially based on their background is against Australian values of respect and equality,” the statement said.

Abetz has no right to demand of any of these Australian citizens whether they are “willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship”.

For our part, we do condemn the Chinese Communist Party for having departed from the socialist road and for having allowed the revival and restoration of capitalism. That is entirely different to Abetz’s equation of the current Chinese Government with Communism.

For our part, we oppose Chinese social-imperialism (socialism in appearance, but imperialist in practice), but promote friendship and understanding between the peoples of Australia and China.

For our part, we condemn the real dictatorship in Australia of the capitalist class, the decisive sections of which are US and other imperialisms, and we uphold and fight for the democratic rights of our people, for anti-imperialist independence and for socialism.


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