The Rudd government hasn’t exactly gotten off to flash start in the foreign relations area.
Strangely, Australians have been helped to realise this by a Japanese reporter who attended a press confer-ence Kevin Rudd held in the US.
The reporter asked why Mr Rudd hadn’t yet made a telephone call to Japan’s prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda.
We’ve since learned Mr Rudd has met or telephoned leaders of the US, Britain, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Netherlands, the European Union, Spain, the UN, Papua New Guinea, and even the Solomons.
Quite a sizeable list.
But why did Mr Rudd seemingly have to be pushed into announcing a visit to Japan later this year, considering Japan is a major long-term investor in Australia and importer of so much we produce, as well as a nation that’s been well-disposed towards the democratic US and Australia?
To date we’ve heard several explanations, with the one most heavily promoted alleging that the Rudd team is still very new to the task and so lacks the experience of the Howard government.
That’s hard to swallow, not least because Mr Rudd promptly ordered an Australian vessel to shadow Japanese whalers on the high seas, in what some saw as a bid to secure Greens votes against further encroachment in marginal Labor seats.
Japan was, therefore, certainly at the forefront of Labor’s thinking before Christmas.
All this suggests Mr Rudd has deliberately delayed fronting Mr Fukuda, head of a parliamentary democracy that recently entered into a security arrangement with Australia that includes intelligence sharing, and which has been an Australian ally for more than 50 years.
Let’s also not forget that, without Japan’s economy, neither the Pilbara, opened in the 1960s, nor the North West Shelf, which came on stream in the 1980s, would have been developed to the degree they have.
Put bluntly, Japan has been crucial to Western Australia’s prosperity and rapid and ongoing economic growth for well over a third of a century. The same applies to Queensland, yet Brisbane boy Kevin Rudd somehow overlooked this.
But the really worrying aspect of all this is that the government may have decided to place all its eggs in one basket when it comes to East Asia.
And the basket is the Johnnie-come-lately Chinese economy, whose political masters are notorious for their quite unpredictable behaviour, including relentless persecution of targeted minorities such as the meditation movement, Falun Gong, and all who want to see China’s rigid and authoritarian system democratised.
Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted since 1999 in much the same way as Mr Rudd’s hero, Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was by the Nazis.
They’re hounded, harassed, jailed, and evidence has emerged indicating that in some cases their body parts – kidneys, livers and so on – have been sold-off after execution on the international surgery market, meaning to wealthy, terminally ill Westerners.
This contradiction in Mr Rudd’s emerging stance is becoming ever more evident, making one wonder what he’s ultimately driving at.
It’s important to remember that Mr Rudd, well before becoming PM, stressed he sought to “make a difference”, a desire that, on first inspection seems admirable, but which may eventually be otherwise
Beijing’s authoritarian hard-line communist leaders also show extreme intolerance towards Taiwan – another East Asian parliamentary democracy – by targeting that island state with 900 or so medium-ranged missiles standing on launchers based across China’s southern coastal provinces.
Such totally unnecessary and potentially murderous grand standing shows the type of individuals we’re confronted with.
Moreover, there have been quite paranoiac decisions made at the top of that leadership which, three years ago, initiated a series of violent nationwide demonstrations against Japanese companies based in China.
And that’s to say nothing of the more recent protests in Tibet and the downright insulting remarks constantly made about the Dalai Lama.
All this certainly suggests that Mr Rudd, who speaks Mandarin and has had overseas trips bankrolled by Chinese interests to out-of-the-way places like Sudan, seems to be guided by over-zealous Sinophilic feelings.
Although it’s probably too early to make hard-and-fast judgments about the direction of the Rudd government’s foreign policy, there’s a real danger that these early moves suggest he’s begun to steadily edge towards what State Scene has for years called ‘The Evatt Syndrome’, something left-of-centre academics and many Labor MPs have been promoting since the early 1950s.
For reasons that have never been adequately explained by historians and Evatt biographers, the one-time Labor leader and foreign minister, Herbert Evatt, envisaged Australia becoming a neutralist power that aligned itself with what subsequently became known as non-aligned nations.
It’s noteworthy that Dr Evatt, undoubtedly Labor’s strangest-ever leader, which is saying something, has been described by High Court judge, Michael Kirby, thus: “As a school boy I admired Evatt for the struggle against the Communist Party Dissolution Act. I knew nothing of his titanic temper, his outrageous suspicions, the flaws in his personality and the flaws in his judgment that are so well documented as to be incontestable. His temper would often lead to extreme unforgivable rudeness to those about him.”
If that’s the unpublicised agenda of the Rudd government, it’s a matter of grave concern, since it will mean steadily moving towards New Zealand’s neutralist path, and eventually breaking with the US whose army, navy and air force saved both south-west Pacific European outposts during 1942-43, the only time an East Asian power has sought to enslave Australians and Kiwis.
Most forget that the fighting at Guadalcanal, in the Solomons, by the Americans, against, ironically, the Japanese, was undertaken because Tokyo sought to firstly conquer New Zealand, after which Australia was to be permanently cut-off from the US west coast.
Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were the targets, just as Nanking, Hong Kong, Saigon and Singapore had been earlier.
Australia’s capitals, including Perth, and their hinterlands, would have followed.
State Scene wishes to be absolutely clear on this – neutralism isn’t being criticised just for the heck of it.
Several countries, Switzerland and Sweden for instance, have opted for neutralism.
But both, which are shielded by the American-backed NATO, are highly-armed societies tucked away within Europe.
If Australia wishes to tread down that path, then a combined army far larger than we and NZ presently have will be essential.
And our joint navies should be boosted by at least a factor of five with, especially a substantially beefed-up joint submarine service being crucial.
The same applies to both air forces.
It’s worth noting, however, that NZ is effectively without an air force.
Simply put, we’re talking of joint ANZAC defence outlays that go into the many more billions annually, something NZ’s leftist Clark government would never countenance.
And where are the signs of a coming major boost to defence spending by the razor gang of Treasurer Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner?
Neutralism without markedly boosted armed forces is fantasy, the type that Labor’s strangest-ever leader, Dr Evatt, harboured once American forces had literally saved distant Australians and New Zealanders from a fate on a par with death.
Japan today is an ally, one that’s as concerned as the US about China’s military expansion.
Putting democratic Japan way behind authoritarian China is, to say the least, a strange thing to do – accidentally or otherwise.
The Japanese will undoubtedly show understanding when Mr Rudd finally meets Mr Fukuda.
But the damage is done. Everyone can forgive. But will they forget?