Australia’s Imperialist Foreign Policy

By Nick D.

The following was presented on the panel, The Need for Anti-Imperialism in Australia, which took place on day one of Red Ant’s Peace and Liberation Conference in August 2022.

Politically, Australia, and all other exploiter nations will do anything necessary to keep the world divided between rich and poor nations. War, invasion, coups, IMF debt traps, trade wars, embargoes, and sanctions: these are all tools used by the imperialist countries.

Australian foreign policy has always been determined by its membership within a small club of imperialist powers that dominate the world economy, as well as by its ‘junior’ status within this club.

While putting the interests of Australian capital at the forefront, it has had to do so from a position of relative weakness vis-a-vis the largest powers, especially the United States.

Although Australia is indeed a ‘junior partner’ of the larger imperialist powers, it remains a powerful and constant source of imperialist oppression over non-imperialist nations in Asia and the Pacific.

The Australian ruling class supported the New Order dictatorship in Indonesia (1965-1998) and the invasion and brutal occupation of Timor Leste; has been involved in many acts of imperialist aggression such as the invasion of Vietnam as well as interventions in the Middle East (including two invasions of Iraq) and Afghanistan; and plays an ongoing policing role and interference in the affairs of Pacific Ocean neighbours including Australia’s former colony Papua New Guinea.

These are all measures aimed at securing the stability of the imperialist system and the ability of the Australian ruling class to systematically extract super-profits from the mass-exploitation and misery of workers inside Global South countries.

‘Great Power Conflict’

A complicated world situation has now developed where both socialist and left-wing governments – mostly in Latin America – as well as capitalist governments outside the imperialist core – such as China and Russia – are facing increased hostility from the rich countries.

This policy of escalating hostility towards ‘rogue’ countries, particularly China, was put bluntly in President Obama’s 2011 address to the Australian parliament,

“After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region.”

Under Trump, Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” gained greater weight as the ‘war on terror’ was replaced with ‘great power conflict’ as official US policy. The 2017 US National Security Strategy states, “…after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned…They [China and Russia] are contesting our geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor.”

After years of escalating hostility and war-mongering, anti-China hysteria is peaking. The Australian media and political class tell us day-after-day that China is the aggressor and our common enemy. The resulting cold war atmosphere is being used to justify massive military spending and silence dissent.

It is crucial to point out that while Australia has been involved in countless foreign invasions, China has not and cannot invade a rich country like Australia. Not once are we told that it is the rich, imperialist countries, who have completely surrounded China with military bases, who are the aggressors.

The AUKUS Deal

Most recently, the Morrison Government – supported and continued by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) – formed AUKUS, a military alliance with the US and the UK in a blatantly aggressive move aimed at China.

A hallmark of this deal is to build a fleet of nuclear-propelled submarines in Australia which will cost well over $150 billion. To put this ludicrous spending into perspective, one submarine will cost more than 560 schools, 40,000 houses or 33,750 new jobs. $150 billion also means that every taxpayer in Australia must contribute $10,000 each!

AUKUS will also undo decades of work to keep Australia nuclear-free (besides the reactor at Lucas Heights). It has the potential to expose whole communities to toxic radiation and will greatly increase the risk of nuclear proliferation across the region.

The Australian ruling class is trying to take us down a path that could easily lead to war. If a war were to break out, millions of ordinary people will suffer and there is a real chance it will escalate to nuclear war. The AUKUS deal needs to be stopped now and we must continue to oppose Australia’s aggression and war-mongering against China.

The Need for International Solidarity

To ensure the mass exploitation of Global South workers goes smoothly, the imperialist ruling class must prevent ordinary people here realising their comradeship with exploited people everywhere.

It is imperative that we start building links with progressive forces both inside and outside the imperialist core. This is the first step in building a deepening commitment to solidarity with all the oppressed and exploited people – and breaking the stranglehold of national chauvinism in Australia.

We need to also smash the idea that the interests of the Australian working class and the interests of the imperialist ruling class are one and the same.

The long-term interests of the Australian working class don’t lie in a few crumbs that might fall from the table of the imperialist bourgeois! They lie in overthrowing this rotten imperialist system that keeps billions of working and oppressed people in chains!

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