Keating faces off against “Grand Insulters”

As former Prime Minister Paul Keating addressed the National Press Club, failed prime ministerial candidate Peter Dutton—who was rejected by his own parliamentary party room—took to Twitter labelling Keating “dear leader” and “Grand Appeaser Comrade Keating”. Of course, the Asia-ignorant mainstream media lined up to endorse Dutton.

Former Prime Ministers’ Department chief, under both Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, John Menadue argues Keating’s address held important lessons on the handling of Australia’s relationship with China.

12 November 2021 | Marcus Reubenstein

It is remarkable that Defence Minister Peter Dutton—currently suing a refugee advocate over a Tweet, whilst calling on Parliament to set up a fund for politicians to personally sue individuals for defamation—should so wantonly insult a former Prime Minister.

It’s unsurprising the “National Stenographers Association” which misrepresents its membership by going under the name of the “National Press Club” should pile in to endorse one of the most hard line right-wing politicians of his generation.

The AFR’s Phillip Coorey made Dutton’s insult, and not Keating’s insight, the story; The Age/SMH reporter Anthony Galloway began his question to the former prime minister with an out-and-out insult, others asked questions loaded with ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) talking points; and the ABC piled in, cutting short the NPC Address, to go to Stan Grant in the studio to subtly lambast Keating’s position.

Last night ABC’s QandA did its best to finish off the former PM with a panel stacked full of the anti-China brigade. As usual, zero disclosure from the national broadcaster that three of its participants are linked to ASPI.

Academic Lavina Lee sits on the ASPI board, Nine’s Chris Uhlmann is the partner of ASPI Board Member Gai Brodtmann and host Stan Grant was an ASPI Senior Fellow, who ‘apparently’ stepped aside from that role after an APAC News investigation revealed he had interviewed numerous ASPI analysts on the ABC without disclosing he was simultaneously working for the deeply anti-China think tank.

John Menadue’s comments are republished below from his public policy website Pearls and Irritations.

Keating’s speech is a teaching moment in a fraught relationship with China.

By John Menadue from Pearls and Irritations

There are many reasons why Australian policies are seriously off track.

There is a  deliberate wilfulness by the Morrison government to play to our insecurity in our own region. The promotion of fear has always been a successful Coalition tactic regardless of the national interest. We keep clinging to remote powers rather than coming to terms with our geographical situation in Asia. As Keating graphically put it, major defence policies relating to Australia are made in Cornwall between Scott Morrison, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson!

Political leaders in both major parties have, in effect, forfeited our national sovereignty to the US on important security matters. Having done so, we find that both the US Democrats and  Republicans are hostile to China. Neither major party in the US can shake itself free of the extensive power, economic, political and financial, of the military-industrial complex.

As a result, America is almost always at war. As the War on Terrorism fails, a new enemy must be found, and this time it’s China. The American political elite propagandises about Chinese alleged aggression and misbehaviour but what it resents most is that China is successful.

Meanwhile, Australian industry groups like the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia are too frightened to call out the Australian government for the damage it is causing to trade relations with China — they’re reluctant to upset their ideological friends in the Liberal Party.

In his speech, Keating correctly described our media’s coverage of China as “appalling”. Our White Man’s Media reflects the interests and views of Washington, New York and London — its derivative China coverage reveals ignorance, prejudice and racism.

Chinese diplomacy has been clumsy and unhelpful.

Our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has failed as the principal adviser to the government on relations with China. Instead policy advice on China has been ceded to our security agencies that Paul Keating calls “nutters”. While these agencies have a lot of information, from my experience they have very poor judgement.  They are driving the anti China frenzy. Their modus operandi is to doll out untested information to gullible politicians and journalists.

Keating has given us a teaching opportunity in our relations with China.

Will we seize that opportunity to repair the largely self-inflicted damage?

John Menadue AO was head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1974 to 1976 and closely involved in the dismissal events of November 11, 1975 He worked for Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. From 1977-1980 he was Australian Ambassador to Japan. Subsequently her served as Secretary of both the Australian Immigration and Trade Departments. He launched his influential public policy journal Pearls and Irritations at in January 2013.