Those unfamiliar with the Slavic languages will need to have the phrase; “Kto Kogo?” translated and explained.
It means, “Who-whom?” These words were made famous by Vladimir Lenin, who helped establish what former US president Ronald Reagan called ‘the evil empire’ – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its unwilling Warsaw Pact allies.
When Lenin uttered “kto-kogo?” he did so to help determine who may be doing what for whom and for what reason, including who benefited, why, and who was paying or otherwise remunerating to obtain what it was that was sought.
It’s tricky, intricate and complicated stuff, but generally involving very high stakes, including the fate of empires.
One reason Lenin posed this question was that he’d spent a good part of his conspiratorial life encountering agents, spies, doubledealers, advisers and practitioners of various forms of treachery, for money and power.
All stops seem covered by Lenin’s inquiring phrase in his ongoing bids to fathom just whom someone may really be working for.
But this type of precautionary calculation is crucial for national security considerations, since certain powers seek to gain strategic advantages as part of their foreign policy.
State Scene raises these linguistic and historic considerations because the more one looks at Canberra the more complex things become.
So much so that it’s increasingly difficult to know who’s working for whom, something that should be clear-cut and beyond doubt.
Early this month, Canberra’s press gallery had fun condemning not only former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer for not attending a parliamentary session, but also onetime Nationals leader, Mark Vaile, who was visiting Dubai as consultant for Sydney business interests.
The limelight then turned on WA firebrand Liberal Wilson Tuckey, who was fingered for lecturing on a Pacific cruise liner.
The Labor frontbencher who fired the opening salvo was Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke, who insinuated only Labor MPs were working in parliamentary roles.
“They’re [Opposition MPs] being paid to do a job and it’s not an unreasonable expectation that part of what they do in their daily life is what taxpayers are paying them to do,” he said.
“My concern is that we are seeing a pattern.
“This is the same bloke [Mr Vaile] who was skipping parliament to play golf with Alexander Downer in the same week that Alexander Downer was skipping parliament to have lunch.
“Out of touch, out of the country and out of control.’’ That’ll be Mr Burke’s epitaph, since we’ve now learned his leader, Kevin Rudd, kept his China trading consultancy operational after becoming the member for Griffith in 1998 and was regularly “out of the country”.
Mr Rudd topped up his parliamentary salary by $130,000 over three years.
To earn that he had four overseas trips between 2003 and 2007; one paid for by the superwealthy Guangzho-based property developer, Zhou Zerong.
Another trip to England, America, Sudan (of all places) and China was bankrolled by the Beijing-based AustChina Technology Ltd.
The $130,000 came after costs were met by Mr Zerong, AustChina Technology and others.
And according to comments made by Alexander Downer, at least one of Mr Rudd’s moonlighting trips was while parliament was in session, meaning he missed several question times.
And these were in addition to his three Perth trips to meet former premier Brian Burke to prepare to topple Kim Beazley.
Although all this has now been well aired, less well known is the fact that it’s only the tip of a larger iceberg involving Chinese interests employing influential in-the-know Australians.
To recount this story State Scene relies on research by one-time Office of National Assessments intelligence analyst, Andrew Campbell, who, in 2006, had an article carried in the Council for the National Interest’s journal, National Observer, titled – ‘Guanxi and Australian-China Consultants – The Risk of Dual Allegiance’.
(Autumn 2006, No.
68) State Scene refers to Dr Campbell’s findings because Mr Rudd’s links with China seem to have been far closer than voters realised before the election.
Dr Campbell reveals that China regularly employs retired Labor PMs, former Australian ambassadors and even retired top Australian spies.
Among those highlighted are Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, and Stephen FitzGerald, two former ASIO directors-general, and several senior ONA officers.
Dr Campbell’s article highlights that growing numbers of former Australian MPs, senior intelligence spooks, or ambassadors, worked as consultants for overseas clients, sometimes even foreign governments.
And now we learn Mr Rudd has consulted for Chinese interests.
“Australian consultants to China bring the benefit of language skills, experience in dealing with China and particularly the benefits of access to Australian and allied intelligence on China,” Dr Campbell writes.
“In Chinese this is known as guanxi, or ‘personal contacts networks’.
Guanxi…literally means ‘connections’.
“The Chinese leadership highly values relationships with friendly, retired foreign political leaders as they represent the highest level of guanxi.
“Australian consultants’ visits to China are intensively monitored by Chinese security authorities, and provide a benign operational environment for possible compromise and recruitment.” Dr Campbell asked whether something should be done to legislatively tighten requirements at Australia’s end, since many acting as consultants once had access at the highest level to intelligence and other information.
He concluded there is an urgent need for an Australian Foreign Agents Registration Act (AFARA) to help “prevent witting or unwitting disclosure of Australian and US classified information.” It would, among other things, “forbid former Australian intelligence officers, diplomats and analysts from being employed as consultants for a period of at least three years after the termination of their employment with the Australian government”.
Since his study appeared before Mr Rudd was shown to be working for Chinese interests, it’s likely Dr Campbell would now include sitting MPs.
Although ministerial codes on postseparation employment are common with other Western governments, Australia has resisted adopting them, he said.
There’s a danger that, when people like Dr Campbell pioneer such a proposal in out-of-the-way Australia, they may be condemned outright with claims that they’re seeing all sorts of things under beds.
He concludes his article with a section titled ‘The Dual Allegiance Dilemma’.
“The Chinese intelligence services are noted for their operational ruthlessness and could be driven to demand guidance and expertise from their Australian consultants or agents,” he says.
“Over the past decade, a wave of Chinese defectors to Australia, Canada, Belgium and the USA have revealed Beijing’s aggressive intelligence collection and counterintelligence operations.” Dr Campbell said this was likely to be a growing rather than diminishing practice, and footnoted an earlier National Observer (Spring 2005, No.
66) article by Richard Bullivant – ‘Chinese Defectors Reveal Chinese Strategy and Agents in Australia’.
“The risk of dual allegiance is a national and international security challenge which the Australian Government, in consultation with the US administration, must counter by a mandatory AFARA,” he concludes.
Which brings us back to Lenin’s “Kto kogo?” Surely when people are on the public payroll, such as Mr Rudd when consulting for foreign commercial clients, they should not be permitted to work for overseas interests An AFARA would help ensure that we wouldn’t need to ask the Lenin question.
In other words, a preventative step in an age that’s shaping up to being similar to the pre-Great War years of conspiracy and undercover activities that led to the emergence of Lenin’s Bolsheviks in what quickly became the murderous ‘evil empire’.
Who knows what coming years may hold for our little corner of the world.
Finally, it’s worth highlighting that China traditionally considered itself the middle kingdom and its neighbours were tributaries – unequals.
That generally meant China gave more, materially, than it received in tribute.
But the expectation was always that tributaries knew their place