By Joe Montero
A group of about 70 former diplomats, politicians, historians, and experts have signed a letter calling out the Scott Morrison government’s war talk in relation. Though China is not mentioned by name, it is still clear that this is the subject.
Among the signatories, are former Liberal leader John Hewson, former Labor minister Melissa Parke and the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore.
Photo from Getty: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been stepping up the war talk
The letter is the idea of Dr Alison Broinowski AM, vice president of Australians for War Powers Reform. Her organisation has been fighting for outlawing the government’s ability to enters any international conflict without the consent of parliament.
It says, “A major war today would be very different from past wars. Today a single weapon can cause massive destruction of life and property and permanent contamination of the environment. No current threat to Australia justifies taking such a risk”.
Addressing the Prime Minister, the letter labels the Government’s war talk as irresponsible and increasing the risk of Australian involvement in armed conflict. Government representatives have been talking publicly about preparing for armed conflict with China.
“The stakes are too high for another ill-judged decision by the Prime Minister alone, as we saw with Iraq and Afghanistan,” the letter suggests.
Dr Broinowski cautions against simply following the lead of the United States. She says Australia is virtually alone by not having a requirement for parliament to vote on conflict engagement.
Scott Morrison is accused of stoking fear of China for domestic political reasons. Labor’s shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong called this a “catastrophic failure of leadership”. She has condemned Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo for his “drums of war” speech on Anzac Day, as well as Defence Minister Peter Dutton for talking up the likelihood of war over Taiwan.
Photo from Getty: Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong has called Morrison government war talk catastrophic failure of leadership
Political opportunism is part of what is driving this. The other is an unhealthy relationship with the United States. This is not a relationship between equals. It is one between a dominant power and a pawn, prepared to do whatever it is told, instead of having a voice of its own.
The escalation of tension is about fear of the rise of China and the maintenance of American dominance economically and in the global political regime.
This goal is unlikely to be realised. The reason is the internal problems within the United States are are poutting an end to its economic dominance. China’s internal dynamics are driving its economy upwards, and this is realigning the global economic and political landscape.
In these circumstances China’s increasing assertiveness is natural. This does not mean we should be afraid of it. Assertiveness does not necessarily mean seeking domination. But it does mean demanding a shift from a global framework dominated by one superpower.
Short of a dramatic economic and highly unlikely collapse of China, the only way to maintain the old order is to do it by military means.
An escalation to war would leave the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia isolated and facing China, Russia, and most of the rest of the world. This would be a devastating global conflict that cannot be won.
Short of this, the war stance is already harming Australia’s economy. The trade spat was begun after Australia blocked targeted Chinese imports and businesses on the one hand and used China as a dumping ground for Australia’s exports on the other On top of this, there has been a fanning of racist sentiment against Chinese as a people, participation in war games, and Australia playing a vocal role in tirades against China.
China has objected and is responding loosening its trading relationship with Australia. Business is being taken elsewhere. Can you really blame them? What would anyone else do?
Australian producers, including farmers, are paying the price with lost markets. So is the economy overall. Ultimately, this means fewer jobs and dropping living standards.
Even exports of iron ore to China are under threat, as supply is secured from other nations
Our economic interests are best served through a positive economic relationship with China. Having this involves showing some respect. Failure to do this will lock Australia out of the world’s biggest market and potentially out of Asia, South America, Africa, and even Europe. Is this what we want?
Instead of playing it smart, we have a government that prefers to pin its flag on a failing empire.
The world is changing and there is no longer one overwhelmingly dominant power. This is a good thing, and Australia has good reason to catch up with this reality.