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1941 – its ghost may be heard….

Written by: (Contributed) on 13 November 2021


(Above: John Curtin, left, listens intently to US overlord General Douglas Mac Arthur in 1942)


This December will mark the 80th anniversary of Labor war-time Prime Minister John Curtin's New Year's message to the Australian people, published in the Melbourne Herald on 27 December 1941. Writing three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Curtin declared: 'Without any 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.'

What may have been a necessary foreign policy adjustment under conditions of war became, in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat, the replacement domestically of British imperialism’s hands on the control of the state by the tightening grip of the US imperialists.  

The control of our economy, the flooding of Australian cultural content with that from the US, Battle of Coral Sea commemorations to convince us that we had been “saved by America”, and the ANZUS Pact to convince us that we could only be protected by America. 

The mythology of that 1941 statement continues to have a certain use value in terms of the continued domination of Australia by US imperialism.

The recent proposal to establish a '1941 Club' has, nevertheless, carried all the hallmarks of pushing the traditional military-industrial complex into a far more influential arena for out-sourced defence and security operations in their chosen 'theatre of war' in the Indo-Pacific region.

The main planners of the '1941 Club', however, are not embarking upon a particularly new idea. Australia has some contemporary history with a related matter, which while not directly linked, should be considered as potentially highly relevant under the circumstances.

In early November former Australian right-wing Liberal-Coalition treasurer and ambassador to Washington, Joe Hockey, announced the establishment of a joint financial operation with his Bondi Partners business organisation and Ellison Capital, Ashok Jacob, amid a fanfare of trumpets in the business lobby. They launched their joint '1941 Club' as a symbolic strengthening of the US-Australia 'alliance' with a group of 'high-net-worth patriots from the US and Australia looking to put big licks of private capital behind dual-use technology in defence, intelligence, cyber and space, as well as commercial uses'. (1)

The name of the exclusive financial organisation had apparently been chosen to commemorate the significance of developments during the early part of the Second World War when the US entered the hostilities after Pearl Harbour; the announcement also included reference to 'the Pacific is again in focus' as a likely theatre of war between US-led forces and China. (2)

It was noted about thirty financial figures were involved in the operation and that 'the net worth of this club or the funds behind them runs probably to tens of billions'. (2) And they made little secret of their stated aim with the '1941 Club' being noted along lines, 'national security is a government-induced gale-force tailwind for the next decade and that is the space that we want to be in'. (3) Their chosen business is well known for being lucrative.
The Bondi Partners business organisation was also quick to add to official media releases they had recruited 'military and intelligence officials who have retired from the public service' and then named several high-ranking officials. (4)

Behind the scenes of the developments lie some disturbing considerations; the military-industrial complex is being systematically strengthened by those favouring a Cold War approach to international diplomacy.

The '1941 Club' tends to resemble a hedge-type fund where investors will also accrue enormous influence through their financial position; Australian governments are likely to be confronted by their lobbyists very soon. While official media releases emphasised the role of the financial organisation was to invest in Australian businesses, by doing so they will strengthen the US hold upon Canberra as a regional policeman for 'US interests'.

Nugan Hand Revisited

Secondly, and more importantly, Australia has had previous experience of US-led business fronts being established to serve other interests. In 1973, for example, the Nugan Hand Bank opened offices in Sydney and elsewhere around the world under suspicious circumstances. A likely motive for their choice of Australia for a US-led bank was that countries across the Asia-Pacific region together with those further afield were either gaining independence or had recently achieved self-government. The US sought to flood their armaments and influence into compliant hands, due to Cold War diplomatic positions.

The Nugan Hand Bank was noted as employing former US generals, admirals and CIA officials including former CIA director William Colby. Its role included channelling CIA money to political parties, including a payment of $2.4 million to the Australian Liberal Party before collapsing under equally suspicious circumstances in 1980. (5)

A subsequent investigation into the operations conducted by the bank concluded 'the weight of the available information points to Nugan Hand being caught up in something much more than a traditional banking swindle'. (6) Following a Royal Commission in the mid-1980s, the summing up of the inquiry noted 'the report identifies to law enforcement agencies people Mr Justice Stewart thinks committed crimes. The 205 paragraphs which identify these people have been deleted from the published report'. (7)

US presidential administrations and their intelligence services, it should be noted, have continued to deny their involvement with the Nugan Hand Bank to the present day. Their use of 'plausible denial' has a long history with operations of a covert nature.

While it would be inappropriate to directly link the '1941 Club' with the Nugan Hand Bank,
there is no evidence; there are, nevertheless, important problems to be considered. Political expedience is always problematic when used in the corridors of power and subject to higher levels of classification which restrict access and scrutiny of those welding class and state power by others.

Numerous studies of US foreign policy have usually concluded that they favour out-sourced operations through the corporate sector into the military-industrial complex; it has opened opportunities for both Washington and the Pentagon to distance themselves from controversy and unfavourable publicity. The problem which has continually arisen, however, is their lack of accountability and the opportunities for others to seize upon this to pursue their own agendas, usually of a financial nature. (8)  

Little, it would appear, has changed; the new US-led Cold War diplomatic positions have merely merged with those of their predecessors, we should be on our guard:
                                       We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Making big deals of defence; Hockey, Jacob join the 1941 club, Australian, 8 November 2021.  

2.     Ibid.

3.     Ibid.

4.     Ibid.

5.     A People's History of the CIA, Issue 43, December 2000, (Ottawa, Canada), page 30; and, Air America, Christopher Robbins, (London, 1979), pp. 319-332; and, Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party, Russ Bellant, (Boston, 1988), page 51; and,  Australia suspects bank link to CIA, The New York Times, 13 November 1982, where reference is given to 'the Australian government said it had uncovered evidence of a link between the CIA and Nugan Hand … the report … was ... heavily censored'.

6.     The Nugan Hand Swindle, The Book of Leaks, Brian Toohey and Marian Wilkinson, (NSW, 1987), page 220.

7.     Royal Commission report Nugan Hand, The Canberra Times, 28 November 1985.

8.     The Politics of Heroin, Alfred W. McCoy, (New York, 1991), page 465; and,         Wikipedia: The BCCI Scandal, (11 November 2021), which provides extensive evidence about a London-based international financial institution with involvement in money laundering, financial crimes and arms trafficking; and, People's History of the CIA, op.cit., page 37, which has provided information about three US-based banking institutions directly linked to outsourced foreign policy and involvement with covert operations.


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